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Hollywood Movie Memories » boris karloff

Posts Tagged ‘boris karloff’

Charlie Chan At The Opera

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Charlie Chan At The Opera

Tagline – A fiendish killer lurks at the opera. The masterminds of crime match wits against each other!

Starring – Warner Oland (Charlie Chan), Boris Karloff (Gravelle), Keye Luke (Lee Chan), William Demarest (Sergeant Kelly), Guy Usher (Inspector Regan).

Released – December, 1936

Directed By – H. Bruce Humberstone

Produced By –  Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – Opera star Gravelle, an amnesia patient at Rockland State Sanatorium, reads a newspaper article that causes his memory to begin to return. And the memories are not pleasant.

Gravelle remembers that his wife Lilli and her lover tried to murder him by locking him inside a burning theater. Enraged with thoughts of revenge, Gravelle kills a guard and escapes from the sanatorium.

Charlie Chan is called in to help find the escaped killer, and is discussing the case with Inspector Regan, when Lilli and her fellow singer and lover Enrico Barelli enter to report a threat Lilli has received stating that she will die that night. Chan and Sergeant Kelly agree to attend the opera that evening to investigate.

That evening at the opera, Phil Childers and his girlfriend Kitty try, but are turned away, to see Lilli. Chan and the Inspector arrive and overhear Enrico and Lilli’s husband arguing over Lilli. Around the same time, Gravelle appears in the dressing room of Enrico’s wife Anita. Terrified having believed Gravelle dead, Anita, furious at her husband Enrico, agrees to keep Gravelle’s presence a secret.

It is Gravelle’s plan to sing Enrico’s role this evening with his wife Lilli. When it is time for the duet, Lilli, unable to see Gravelle’s face, recognizes his voice and collapses after leaving the stage. The others rush to Enrico’s room only to find that he has been stabbed. Phil Childers checks on Lilli in her room and finds that she too has been killed.

Phil is arrested for the crime, but when questioned by Chan it is revealed that Kitty is Lilli’s daughter from her previous marriage to Gravelle and that the couple had been there to ask permission to marry.

Their conversation is heard by Gravelle who is stunned to find out that Kitty is his daughter. Phil leaves to see Inspector Regan and Gravelle enters the room. Although Gravelle speaks very gently to Kitty and plays the piano for her she does not remember him and faints from fright just as Chan enters.

Gravelle tells Chan the story of Lilli and Enrico trying to kill him and says that he did not kill the couple. Chan believes him and puts into action a plan to catch the real murderer.

NOTABLE: Warner Oland was the first actor to portray Charlie Chan, as he is most familiar, and appeared in sixteen films as the famed detective.

Boris Karloff’s singing voice in the film was that of Tudor Williams.

Composer Oscar Levant wrote the entire opera used as the background of this story.

Personal Note: Charlie Chan at the Opera is considered to be the best of the Chan series starring Warner Oland. This is due, in no small part, to the strong performance of Boris Karloff.

The Body Snatcher

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

I Walked with a Zombie / The Body Snatcher (Horror Double Feature)

Tagline – Foul Fingers Crimson with Dead Men’s Blood!

Starring – Boris Karloff (Cabman John Gray), Bela Lugosi (Joseph), Henry Daniell (Dr. Wolfe ‘Toddy’ MacFarlane), Russell Wade (Donald Fettes), Edith Atwater (Meg Cameron).

Released – May, 1945

Directed By – Robert Wise

Produced By – RKO Radio Pictures

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – It is 1831 in Edinburgh, Scotland and one year prior to the passing of the Anatomy Act which sought to end illegal trade in corpses, where Dr. Wolfe MacFarland runs a successful medical school.

Dr. MacFarland’s assistant, Donald Fettes, is hopeful that the surgeons skill can be used to help a young girl who has lost the use of her legs. For some reason, unknown to Fettes, the doctor is reluctant.

All the doctor’s time is spent on anatomical research with, what seems to be, a continual supply of fresh cadavers. Working so closely with Dr. MacFarland leads Fettes to learn that the doctor is paying Cabman John Gray to supply him with dead bodies.

Just how, and from where, are all the bodies coming from? Also, what is the hold that John Gray seems to have over Dr. MacFarland? I’t clear that the two have a history, but what is it?

The answers begin to surface with the revealing of a famous trial that took place many years ago when Gray was arrested for grave-robbing and refused to identify the doctor that was buying the bodies from him.

It looks like John Gray is using his silence to force Dr. MacFarland into continuing with payment for bodies illegally stolen by Gray. Could the kindly Dr. MacFarland be the monstrous doctor whose identity was protected by Gray? And, is he still a monster?

NOTABLE: The robbing of graves for selling idea portrayed in The Body Snatcher, though based on a fictional short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, was also greatly influenced by the 1828 crimes known as The West Port Murders where the corpses of 17 victims were sold to provide material for dissection.

The Body Snatcher was the eighth and last on-screen teaming of legendary horror stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

Horror Films In The 1930’s

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Horror films of the 1930’s took the foundation of terror created during the twenties and evolved quite effortlessly. Many 1920’s horror films were a combination of mystery and comedy, where scary events were often filmed as much to amuse as to frighten.

The plots concerned themselves with perceived horror – ghostly visions, unexplained noises, and mysterious strangers lurking about. By the films end it would all be neatly explained as the workings of some evil-doer who was intent on concealing their activities.

However, there was one notable and historic exception to this innocent form of terror and his name was Lon Chaney. Evil was no longer a brief supernatural element easily explained away, and more often than not came in human form.

When it came to accomplishing this villainous task, no one was, or will ever be, better than Lon Chaney. Dubbed “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” Chaney was a man whose make-up artistry allowed him to create shocking and mutilated characters with only one goal in mind…to frighten the public out of its wits.

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The Black Room

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Boris Karloff Collection – 6 Movie Set: The Black Room, The Man They Could Not Hang, The Man With Nine Lives, Before I Hang, The Devil Commands, and The Boogie Man Will Get You

Tagline – He was a demon of death… whose mysterious chambers held gruesome secrets!

Starring – Boris Karloff (Baron Gregor de Berghman/Anton de Berghman), Marian Marsh (Thea Hassel), Robert Allen (Lt. Albert Lussan), Thurston Hall (Col. Paul Hassel).

Released – July, 1935

Directed By – Roy William Neill

Produced By – Columbia Pictures Corporation

Distributed By – Columbia Pictures Corporation

Description – Anton and Gregor de Berghman are twin brothers, and according to prophecy, Anton will kill his brother in the Black Room of the family castle. Threats to Gregor’s life are nothing new, as his subjects have made many attempts on his life due to his ruthless tyranny as their baron.

After being away for ten years, the good-natured Anton returns and easily earns the respect of his brothers subjects. He also earns the admiration of Col. Hassel, uncle of the beautiful Thea.

The evil Gregor goes too far when he murders young servant Mashka. The subjects have had enough, and storm the Berghman castle determined to remove Gregor from power. In an effort to save his own life, Gregor agrees to step down and turn his power over to his popular brother Anton.

However, there is no end to the diabolical plotting of Gregor as he kills his brother in order to assume his identity, return to power, and have the beautiful Thea’s hand in marriage with the mistaken blessings of her father Col. Hassel.

It doesn’t take too long for Col. Hassel to become suspicious of the new Anton and his suspicions result in his own murder.

Thea is in love with Lt. Albert Lussan, who has been framed for the murder of Col. Hassel, and finds herself now at the mercy of the baron. While it looks as though nothing can save her from having to marry the baron, and in spite of Anton’s murder, there is still a prophecy to be fulfilled!

Bride of Frankenstein

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

The Bride of Frankenstein [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Created in a weird scientist’s laboratory… from the skeletons of two women and the heart of a living girl!

Starring – Boris Karloff (The Monster), Colin Clive (Dr. Henry Frankenstein), Valerie Hobson (Elizabeth), Ernest Thesiger (Dr. Pretorius), Elsa Lanchester (Mary Shelley/The Monster’s Bride).

Released – April, 1935

Directed By – James Whale

Produced By – Universal Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – At the conclusion of 1931’s horror classic Frankenstein the villagers celebrated what appeared to be the death of The Monster and his creator, Dr. Henry Frankenstein.

The Monster survived the burning windmill sheltered from the flames by a pit beneath the windmill. Dr. Henry Frankenstein’s body, thought to be dead, was shipped to his fiancee Elizabeth’s home. After seeing movement in the body, Elizabeth realizes that Henry is still alive.

After Elizabeth nurses Henry back to health, he condemns his creation, but still feels that he is meant to unravel the secret to creating life.

A fearful premonition of death by Elizabeth is followed by the arrival of Henry’s former mentor, Dr. Pretorius, who brings with him an unthinkable plan. Henry learns that The Monster still lives and Dr. Pretorius wants his help in creating a mate for The Monster. Pretorius has some work to complete first and will return for Henry when all is ready.

Henry and Elizabeth are now married when Pretorius returns to get Henry’s assistance in this “grand collaboration.” Henry refuses, and Pretorius has The Monster kidnap Elizabeth in an effort to force Henry to help.

Pretorius guarantees the safe return of Elizabeth after Henry’s participation. Henry has no choice. Returning to his lab, Henry begins working and again finds himself slowly becoming intoxicated with the potential power to create life.

NOTABLE: The Bride of Frankenstein received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound, Recording.

In 1998, The Bride of Frankenstein was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The films popularity has increased over the years, and The Bride of Frankenstein is considered to be a masterpiece for director James Whale.

The motion picture had some difficulty with censorship issues. The Hays office objected to some lines of dialogue that compared the work of Dr. Henry Frankenstein with that of God, as well as the number of murders (21 cut to 10) both committed and implied, and a scene where they felt too much of actress Elsa Lanchester’s breasts were visible. Strangely, they had little problem with numerous scenes portraying crucifixion imagery.

Elsa Lanchester stood 5’4″ in reality and stilts were necessary to bring her to 7 feet for the role. She also had to be wrapped in bandages that were so tight she was carried on and off the set, having to eat through a straw. Her “unusual” hairstyle was held in place by a wired horsehair cage.

Personal Note: Film sequel’s seldom live up the the original story. However, The Bride of Frankenstein is an exception. It is one of the best movie sequel’s ever, and is thought by many to be even better than the original Frankenstein.

A truly classic Universal horror film with a great laboratory creation scene. “She’s Alive! Alive!”