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Showing 1-10 of 38 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 56 reviews
on June 7, 2016
As far as "Karloff" DVD collections go, I would say that "Icons of Horror" slightly outdoes Universal's "Franchise Collection." All of the four films offered here I had never seen, so I'm not sure what--if any--expectations I had going in, but all four movies I would say were all solid.

Of course, the movie that intrigued me the most--and the one I ended up enjoying the most--was the Boris Karloff/Peter Lorre collaboration "The Boogie Man Will Get You." And judging by most of the reviews I've seen for "Boogie Man," opinions about it seem to range all over the map--from horrible to those who thinks it's comedic brilliance. Count me as one of the latter, as Boris seems to be having a lot of fun sending up his own "mad doctor" image & Lorre is a lot of fun as well, playing a multitude of titles as the town sheriff/coroner/justice of the peace/mayor, and probably a few other titles I'm forgetting.

"The Black Room" was the 2nd best feature of the collection, with Boris doing an excellent "double role" as twin brothers--one nefarious and the younger brother more altruistic. In between those films are what are commonly referred to as Boris' "Mad Doctor" vehicles--"The Man They Could Not Hang" and "Before I Hang." Two good programmers that are worth the hours spent watching them.

Overall, this ranks as a very solid set for one of the all-time greats of classic horror/suspense--Mr. Boris Karloff....
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on January 11, 2013
"The Black Room" is the best of the four films in this set. Playing twins, one good one evil, has been done by several excellent actors (Bette Davis, Olivia deHaviland, Jeremy Irons, etc). Boris Karloff shows his outstanding acting skills playing two totally different rolls in this film. The older twin Gregor and the benevolent younger twin Anton. After their father's death, Anton leaves the estate to disprove a family curse and to avoid conflict. Gregor becomes the land baron and is despised by the people. Years later Anton returns at his brother's request to help calm the people and ease their hatred for Gregor. At least that's what Anton thinks. Gregor has other diabolical plans.
In "The Man They Could Not Hang" and "Before I Hang" Karloff plays a similar character in both, a doctor who experiments with expanding life which lead to fatal results, and is then convicted of murder and is sentenced to death. Without revealing too much, in each film, Karloff manages to escape his punishment. That's when the films go in different directions, but both lead to a series of murders. Both are entertaining B movies with a modicum of suspense. Again Karloff's convincing performances help to make these films quite enjoyable.
"The Boogie Man Will Get You" is a total waste of time. Stupid, moronic, unfunny, boring. A shame that Karloff and the great Peter Lorre are caught in this mess. These two fine actors put their comedic skills to much better use about 20 years later in "The Raven" and "Comedy of Terrors". "Boogie Man" is sort of a cross between a poor man's "You Can't Take It With You" and "Arsenic and Old Lace", with a barrage of looney characters who merge together in one house. The storyline is so convoluted, it's not worth the time to try to explain it.
Why do multi-packs always seem to have one clunker in the batch? Instead of "The Boogie Man Wil Get You", Columbia could've included the much better Karloff film, "The Man With Nine Lives". Then this set woul've rated 5 stars instead of 4.
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on October 9, 2009
This set is a winner from the moment you lay eyes on it! The designers of the package did a very good job; there's a very nice moody look to the slipcase, as well as the art on the individual disc cases. They have a nice "retro" feel to them that is great to behold.

The movies are basically arranged in order of quality; "The Black Room" is easily the best film in the set, while "The Boogeyman Will Get You" is far and away the weakest. "The Black Room" features one of Boris Karloff's most celebrated performances, and with good reason. Without spoiling the plot for those who have yewt to see the movie, what begins as a dual role for the master actor becomes considerably more complex as the film really gets rolling. This performance ranks right up there with the like of Cabman Gray in "The Body Snatcher," Imhotep from "The Mummy," and the Frankenstein Monster as some of Karloff's very best work.

"The Man They Could Not Hang" kicks off the often overlooked, yet much-maligned "Mad Doctor" series. Each film in the series featured a very similar basic plot, with Karloff portraying a scientist who performs experiments for the betterment of mankind, is forced for some reason to cease them, only to resume his work at the earliest opportunity, with disastrous results. This is the best film in the series, with Karloff's Dr. Savaard returning to exact revenge on those who condemned him. He gives a marvelous performance, elevating a script that is merely decent to the level of riveting entertainment. If you only watch one film from the "Mad Doctor" series, make it this one!

"Before I Hang," the third film in that series, is not on the level of it's predecessor in this set. It still has plenty to offer the fan of films from this era, as a very atmospheric thriller with a few truly great scenes. Karloff's performance as the reluctant murderer is obviously the highlight, and his metamorphosis before each murder is wonderfully done. He repeats the same little ritual each time, allowing the tension to build in the viewer, until the actual murder is almost a sweet release. The feeling of impending doom mounts until the final act.

"The Boogeyman Will Get You" seems to be very much in the vein of "Arsenic and Old Lace," without the same level of quality. Karloff's absent-minded, accidental murdering scientist and Peter Lorre's jack-of-all-trades Sheriff are a great pair, however, and honestly make the whole affair worth watching. They display the kind of chemistry in this film that made their future teamings in films such as "The Raven"(the 1960s version, with Vincent Price and a very young Jack Nicholson) and "The Comedy of Terrors" (with Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone) so enjoyable.

For fans of classic horror movies, there is no shortage of DVD collections out there. It can be tough to decide which ones are worth adding to your collection. This release from Columbia is certainly a worthy purchase, and a bargain at this price. Devotees of Karloff, in particular, can't go wrong!
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VINE VOICEon August 16, 2006
This four-movie set contains one almost forgotten Karloff classic, two quite watchable B-thrillers and a comedic misfire noted only for the performances of Karloff and Peter Lorre.

THE BLACK ROOM (1935) - One of Boris's best. He plays twin aristocrats who grow up under a prophecy that says the younger will kill the older in order to fulfill a family curse. The curse apparently began in the "black room," hence the title. Karloff is at his best, playing the brutal older brother, Gregor, as well as his cosmopolitan younger twin, Anton. There are some nice twists and turns during the course of the film, and the pacing helps to hold our interest.

THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG (1939) - During his tenure at Columbia, Boris starred in a number of B-programmers playing a mad scientist. Here he plays Dr. Savaard, a med scientist obsessed with bringing the dead back to life, specifically by using a mechanical heart he has invented. Needing a suitable subject, he experiments on a medical student who is assisting him. This upsets the assistant's girlfriend, who tips off the police. Savaard is arrested for murder, tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang, vowing revenge on the judge, jury and prosecutor. His body is released to his right-hand man, who restores Savaard to life. Suddenly, it's noticed that six members of his jury have committed suicide by hanging and that the remaining jurors, along with the judge, prosecutor, police inspector and the girlfriend who blew the whistle have all been invited to Savaard's house.

BEFORE I HANG (1940) -- A fast paced B-movie using the old chestnut that blood has memory and that the tissues and bones of the criminally insane throb with a life that makes them who they are. Boris plays Dr. John Garth, a scientist who is seeking the cure for the ravages of old age. Being a mad scientist, of course, he performs a "mercy killing" on one of his subjects, which land him the death sentence. He is given a chance to redeem himself through medical research in prison, where he and a colleague (Edward Van Sloan) inoculate Garth with an experimental serum. Unfortunately, the serum was developed from an executed killer, and, while it works, it turns Garth into a homicidal maniac. He kills Van Sloan and a prison trustee while tricking the authorities into granting him a pardon for his medical efforts. Once he gets out, he really goes to town..

THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU (1942) - This psychotronic take-off on Arsenic and Old Lace finds Karloff , as nutty professor Nathaniel Billings, working on creating a race of supermen in the basement of his New England house along with his equally batty assistant, played by Peter Lorre. He sells the house to a naïve woman and her ex-boyfriend to run as a hotel. Karloff and Lorre then hit upon the idea of using the guests for their experiments.
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on April 3, 2017
Love this movie. Thank you 😊
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on February 25, 2008
Sets like "Icons of Horror Collection - Boris Karloff" are greatly appreciated for fans of underappreciated actors like Boris Karloff; however, certain films like "The Black Room" (1935) deserve its own release with extras, some extras, anything. This barren release is so meager in its extras that there are no trailers, no separate screens for chapters and the menus do not even have images (analogous to the "Yellowbeard" (1983) release). Thank goodness the films look good.

The Black Room (1935: ***½/****): When Boris Karloff was given an acting challenge, even in the confines of his stereotypical genre of horror, he could deliver quite well. In "The Black Room" he gets to display his talents in performing the role of two twins, one good (Anton the younger who is partially a cripple) and one evil (Gregor the older twin). As part of a prophecy, the younger brother was destined to kill the older brother in the Black Room - a room previously used for torture and disposing of the family's enemies in the past. The father of the twins decides to seal off the room to prevent any access to the room.

As time has passed, Anton moved away in fear of the prophecy and Baron Gregor has become a despised tyrant in his little fiefdom. Gregor decides to murder his brother and take over his identity to trick and pacify the peasants, marry a lovely lady who thinks he is his brother and to prevent his brother from killing him. He has fooled every person; however, something is amiss.

The direction of Roy William Neill (directed several of the Sherlock Holmes movies as well "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" (1943)) is quite fluid and helps the pace of the film quite much. However, his use of mise-en-scène is sometimes derivative (homage?) of James Whale's Frankenstein with his placement of graveyard crosses and village scenes. The camera movement is much more dynamic than much of the boilerplate horror of its time and especially the 40s horror cinema. The sets are just wonderful to behold.

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939: **½/****): The first of the four misunderstood "Mad Doctor" films Boris Karloff did for Columbia (the others are The Man With Nine Lives (1940), Before I Hang (1940) and The Devil Commands (1941). I have seen three of the four and the plot and premise vary little with the variance being the specific knowledge The Doctor has that no one else can duplicate and the commonality is almost everything else (in many aspects these films are almost carbon copies of each other). In this movie he plays Dr. Henryk Savaard, a scientific genius who has created a glass mechanical heart that can be used with surgery to eliminate the need for a heartbeat to help do complicated surgery. When he experiments on one of his workers, it goes awry and Savaard is considered responsible for the death and sentenced to be hanged. His death will not stop him from exacting revenge on the judge and jury that sought out his execution.

Boris is the consummate conflicted doctor who is not evil, just possessed by exterior forces to commit atrocities. Too much similarity between the other films makes it feel almost boilerplate, even though the film is fun.

Before I Hang (1939: **½/****): The third in the four of misconstrued "Mad Doctor" Boris Karloff movies by myopic misanthropes. In this film Boris plays Dr. John Garth a Kevorkian-type character who has been sentenced to hang for a mercy killing. The "system" is quite lenient in that he is allowed to continue his research to solve the ravages of age until his death date (a few weeks later, the death penalty sentencing must have been much faster then '). Since he is expecting his demise after the hanging, he injects a serum mixed with a serial killer's blood into his body and after the execution he is to be subject to further experimentation. However, at the last moment he is given reprieve. Mixing serial killer body parts (or blood) never mixes well for the recipient and the populace at large.

This is probably one of the least interesting of this series with even-less focus on secondary characters (especially the daughter and assistant characters which are much more prevalent in the other films) with the notable exception of Pedro de Cordoba (who played the "living skeleton" Bones in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942)) who plays an aristocrat quite well as well as he seems to be doing the actual piano playing for his scenes.

Boris Karloff is good, even if he is redoing the same role over and over. I like the aspect of the character who does evil, but is not. This movie has this semi-typical theme that has been done most effectively in "The Wolf Man" (1941) and "Hangover Square" (1945). Some scenes seemed to influence the later (superior) The Haunted Strangler (1958).

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942: ***/****): Here is an early comedic/horror spoof on the Mad Doctor genre with the consummate Mad Doctor himself Boris Karloff. He is trying to create a super-race of superman; unfortunately, the experimental subjects keep dropping dead. He has an additional problem of owing lots of money to the local lender/sheriff/coroner/many more jobs (Peter Lorre) who takes his Siamese kitten wherever he goes. Luckily for Karloff this is solved by a nutty young lady (Jean Marie Donnell) who offers to buy the decrepit house so she can create an inn though there is a caveat that the Doctor gets to keep working on his experiments until he finishes them along with keeping his elder companions: an elder lady who wants chickens and an elder man who is quite proud of his pigs.

Add a traveling dance choreographer, a jealous ex-husband of the nutty young lady and a couple of unexplained murders (besides the bodies in the basement) and then the plot starts to get interesting.

This film has the second pairing of Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff (the first is "You'll Find Out" which also has Bela Lugosi and the movie is not on DVD nor laserdisc and they would not be paired in a film until 1963's "The Raven") and the two act so well together that you wish everyone else was as devilishly delightful as this pair. If more time had been spent on making this film, fixing dropped plot points, better ending (except for a great line by Lorre) then this film could have been a brilliant parody. However, it is still a fun film that will please fans of Karloff and Lorre though might disappoint others. I enjoyed it -- well that is all that matters.

Now who is the Boogie Man?
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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.
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VINE VOICEon November 23, 2006
By that title, I mean this collection gets 5 stars because of its one star, Boris Karloff. Karloff was a fine actor when given fine projects. Like his "running mate," Bela Lugosi, he sincerely applied himself to whatever the material. But unlike "poor Bela," Boris frequently got QUALITY roles and films. This collection shows a nice range, from two mad doctor roles (of which he played several for Columbia) to comedy to a nice tour-de-force of a dual role as twin brothers.

Despite the title of the collection, these aren't "horror" films. They're dramas or melodramas (as TV Guide used to call them when they were shown on TV in the 50s). The sole comedy, THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU, is a welcome change of pace and a nice chance for Boris to be silly and get away with it. (Some of the other people in the cast don't fare as well, though Peter Lorre and Maxie Rosenbloom are delightful).

It's nice to see Karloff get the releases he deserves on DVD. I still have my wish list (like DEVIL'S ISLAND and a watchable print of THE APE). But this set is a nice chance to see a fine old actor parade his talents.
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on November 7, 2006
This one has four great Boris movies I've never seen before (3 I've never even heard of). THE BLACK ROOM gives Boris a dual role to sink his teeth into, resulting in a classic tale of good vs. eeevil, and the darkness lurking in the human heart. Karloff plays twin brothers, Gregor and Anton. He is so good at both roles that I came to think of them as two separate actors! THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG has Boris doing his mad scientist bit, being tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang for "murdering" a volunteer for his latest experiment. He comes back from the dead to pay back the rats that convicted him! In BEFORE I HANG, Boris turns into a crazed killer after his anti-aging serum goes awry! Edward Van Sloan (Dracula, Frankenstein) is along for the ensuing mayhem! THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU is strictly for laughs. Boris carries on strange experiments in the basement of an historic tavern. Peter Lorre is the coroner / sheriff / etc. who opts to help out w/ the scientific madness! I like this one. It reminds me of Roger Corman's Karloff / Lorre / Price "horror" comedies. This set belongs on every shriek shelf...
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on November 21, 2015
Good old Columbia flick and I was surprised that it was one I never saw before. Definately worth the price for good Karloff stuff even though Lugosi was my favorite.
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