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Lesser Karloff with at least one good film
on January 7, 2007
Boris Karloff may have been one of the great horror actors, but that did not mean he was always in great movies. The Icons of Horror Collection for Boris Karloff features the actor in some of his lesser efforts, including some of his "mad scientist" roles for Columbia.
Actually, one movie in this four flick set is pretty good: The Black Room. In this film, Karloff gets to play two roles as twins: evil Gregor and good Anton. They live under the shadow of a prophecy that states that the slightly younger twin (Anton) will kill his brother in the so-called Black Room of the family mansion. Anton is exiled, but is called back by Gregor, who has a scheme to take Anton's place; it seems Gregor's homicidal tendencies are too much for the townspeople and he needs to make a hasty escape. Although not a perfect movie (most viewers will know the ending long in advance), it benefits by Karloff's wonderful portrayal of villainy.
The Man They Could Not Hang and Before I Hang are similar movies, both featuring Karloff as a scientist who winds up being sentenced to hang for deaths caused by his work. In the former, Karloff is resurrected by his assistant using an experimental technique; he subsequently seeks revenge on those responsible for his conviction by luring them to his house to be cleverly killed. In the latter movie, he eventually gets a pardon, but his experiments in restoring youth have made him a homicidal killer. Both movies are watchable but completely unexceptional.
The Boogie Man Will Get You also features Karloff as an elderly scientist, but this time the film is played strictly for comedy. He plays a professor doing typical mad scientist experiments in the basement of an inn. Peter Lorre plays the local coroner/justice of the peace/notary, etc. It is a decent enough movie that demonstrates Karloff can do comedy, although there are only a few chuckles in this piece.
This set has no extras and only rates three stars overall. The thing about Karloff is that he's at his best when he plays either monsters or truly evil figures, and only in the Black Room do we get such a role. In his more "kindly" roles, he is okay, but his potential is never realized. But while this set is hardly representative of Karloff at his best, none are really bad; nonetheless, this set is for Karloff completists only.