The Boris Karloff Collection (Tower of London / The Black Castle / The Climax / The Strange Door / Night Key)
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These are the kind of movies that would show up with great promise on your local "Nightmare Theater" or "Creature Feature" late-show slot: Hey, Boris Karloff in something called Tower of London? Sounds scary! And you'd watch in bewilderment as the film would turn out to be a historical drama with a few grisly touches. Universal perpetuates this misunderstanding with this DVD release, which declares "The Master of Horror in His Most Frightening Roles!" Which is quite a stretch. (Some of Karloff's best horror stuff is on the Bela Lugosi Collection, a superior DVD package.)
Still, for fans, there's much to enjoy here. Tower of London is a thoroughly entertaining tale of Richard III's bloody rise to power, with Basil Rathbone as Richard and Karloff as his bald, beetle-browed executioner (definitely one of Boris's best looks). Two early-1950s films are great fun: The Strange Door has Charles Laughton doing one of his modern-Nero roles as a perverse nobleman with a really cool torture dungeon (Karloff is his servant), and The Black Castle lays on the wolf howls and creaking doors in a tale of revenge. Juicy performances by Richard Greene and Stephen McNally gives this oomph, even if Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr., are peripheral. McNally's castle is equipped with an excellent secret room with swarming alligators.
Night Key (1937) isn't horror, but a perfectly OK B-movie about inventor Karloff and his revenge on the businessman who stole his electrically charged idea. 1944's The Climax was made to capitalize on the lavish sets Universal made for The Phantom of the Opera, and director George Waggner (The Wolf Man) seems far too enamored of costumes and arias. Even when it's dull, which is frequently, the film has gorgeous Technicolor to look at, and Karloff is suitably obsessed as a doctor messing with a promising soprano. In short, the DVD set may disappoint the unwary, but Karloff devotees will enjoy the icon, and the occasional alligator pit. --Robert Horton
Top Customer Reviews
"Tower of London" features Karloff in top form with Vincent Price appearing in one of his earliest film roles. Using the sets for "Son of Frankenstein" director Roland V. Lee tells the infamous story of King Richard III. Karloff plays Mort his club footed assistant and the executioner who kills those in the line of succession so that Richard can reach the throne. This features one of Karloff's finest performances from the 30's as Mort the Executioner. Rathbone and Price are also both terrific in their performances as well. This film certainly deserved an audio commentary but doesn't get one.
"The Black Castle" features Karloff with Lon Chaney Jr. with the real heavy being played by Stephen McNally. Sir Richard Burton (Richard Greene) investigates the disappearence of two of his friends. He suspects that Count Von Bruno (McNally) has murdered them. Karloff plays the court physician with Chaney playing a giant mute named Gargon. Director Nathan Juran ("The 7th Voyage of Sinbad")gets the most atmosphere out of this b-movie minor classic. Writer Jerry Sackheim creates an appealing script with witty dialogue (as he did on "The Strange Door")borrowing liberally from other films.Read more ›
"Night Key" (Movie: **** _ DVD Transfer: ****), released in 1937, is the oldest film in the package, as well as the only one set in modern dress. Boris stars as one of his trademarked elderly inventors who falls victim to evil forces that thwart his original benevolent intent, in this case an unscrupulous rival (Samuel S. Hinds) and a hardened crime boss (Alan Baxter, in a performance that brings new meaning to the term "underplaying"). Jean Rogers makes an appealing enough heroine as Karloff's loving daughter, and at 67 minutes, the film fairly whizzes through to its predictable conclusion. It's hokey fun, and includes the theatrical trailer as a bonus feature.
"Tower of London" (Movie: **** _ DVD Transfer: ****), an historical thriller with Karloff in a meaty supporting role as Mord the Executioner, in service to the treacherous Richard III of England (top-billed Basil Rathbone), is definitely a mixed bag. Released in 1939, the film boasts an impressive supporting cast (including Ian Hunter, John Sutton, and Vincent Price), wonderful sets and costumes, and superb cinematography. Unfortunately, the film is ultimately done in by a wildly uneven script, some poor editorial choices, and a laughably poor performance from the usually reliable Barbara O'Neil who scored a triumph that same year as Scarlett O'Hara's mother in "Gone With the Wind".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Maybe the advertising on the case for this DVD is a bit misleading--I wouldn't refer to these films as Karloff's most "frightening" roles. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Paul Carruthers
Just the right amount of horror. Some of Karloff,s best. I enjoyd all of them very much. Thanks a lot-Cym FoggPublished 2 months ago by cymbrid fogg,sr.
Excellent picture transfer quality and superior sound without the hisses and pops usually associated with older film transfers. Good picture choices too. Love the Tower of London. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Captain Breed
I have always loved Boris Karloff and i wanted these films with him to add to my collectionPublished 9 months ago by I love film
The Boris Karloff Collection contains five of Boris' lesser known roles/films.The entire collection rates just three stars,as we see Boris go from leading actor to supporting role... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Robert Badgley
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