Boris Karloff stars in this terrifying story, reminiscent of the unsolved Jack the Ripper case. Set against the sinister background of London in the gaslight days, a man is driven by an inner compulsion to kill, becoming a... more » human beast that strikes again and again, brutally murdering a number of young women.« less
"An exceptional American/English co-production (owing much to 1958's Jack the Ripper) featuring wonderfully B-grade production standards, exceptional British casting and two of the best can-can scenes of the decade. Boris Karloff gives a beautifully hammish performance as a mystery novelist and amateur criminologist operating out of London in the late 1880s. Attempting to clear the name of an innocent man mistakenly hung for a series of ripper-style murders committed in Soho twenty years before, Karloff and his young American assistant set out to track down the surviving witnesses and locate the original murder weapon; a surgical instrument reputedly buried with the body of the innocent man.The trail leads directly to the Judas Pit, a deliciously British house of ill-repute where the final murder occured two decades before. On entering the establishment, Karloff and his understudy are immediately confronted by a seven girl cancan troupe, the first great surprise of the movie.The cancan is a full production number, lasting a good five minutes (including several spliced-in shots of the usual suspects lambasting in the audience), and featuring all the best routines: high-kicks, cartwheels, handsprings, flip-overs, kicklines and a brief solo. Gratuitous close-ups of frilly white briefs and black suspender stockings are offered up to the spectator, while the dancers are obviously professionals (rather than the usual mediochre herd of extras shoved in front of the camera after five minutes¡¯ rehearsal). As with most Brit-flicks, the costumes are immaculate and the characterisation superb. Karloff watches bemused from the dress circle as the girls whirl through their number with wild cat-calls and flailing petticoats. The scene ends with a final flash of lace as the dancers disappear through the curtain. 'My girls are good', the poker-faced matron of the Judas Pit remarks with the all dignity of a British monarch conferring a knighthood. 'Oh, very', Karloff observes dryly.A minute later, we¡¯re treated to a shot of the dancers changeroom, where the girls are standing around chattering in their underwear. The head waiter enters to serve them a bottle of wine compliments of one of the customers, concluding the dance sequence with the cinematic equivalent of an after-dinner mint.As it turns out, Karloff was right; the wrong man was hung, and the real murderer is still alive. Inadvertantly ¡®reactivated¡¯ by Karloff¡¯s meddlings, the slasher sets out on another killing-spree, providing us with the SECOND big surprise of the film: he heads straight back to the Judas Pit, and ANOTHER round of the cancan. The choreography in this second number is utterly superb; as mentioned above, this is obviously a professional dancing troup, and the girls cannot be faulted in terms of energy, enthusiasm and the breathless, furious pace at which they perform. Although shot in moody black and white, this film is is an absolute MUST SEE for anyone who enjoys period horror, Karloff, or the cancan danced at full swing."
Why the bad rap?
Dr. Freeman | Perry, Iowa United States | 02/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I dont see why this movie gets such poor reviews. Boris does a great facial contortion with paralisis when possesed by a dead murderer. Great victorian costumes help set the stage for a pretty good mystery. I guess most of todays audience expect special effects to replace acting. No twisting heads or spewed pea soup here. While its not as good as Frankenstein, The Mummy or the afore mentioned Corridors of Blood, its still a pretty good Karloff movie."
A karloffian extravaganza
Dr. Freeman | 05/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's too bad Image didn't offer a double-bill platter of this and Corridor of Blood, as was done on laser; the films are short and were made at the same time by the same team--that would have made this an irresistible bargain, rather than a necessary luxury for Karloff lovers. The first five minutes are superb, as realistic a depiction of a Newgate hanging and all the attendant merriment (concluding with a neat window flirtation) as you will see. The picture grows routine with its Jekyll/Hyde slasher story; but there's nothing routine about Boris, who enters broadly smiling and devolves scene by scene into total madness. Does the plot have holes (like his ability not to get blood on his clothes)? Of course, and who cares. The scene where he goes bonkers in his cell beating on the walls is amazing--try to imagine another 70-year-old pulling it off. Then there's the transformation makeup: He doesn't wear any! Just squints and bites his lip and no one recognizes him, and you not only buy it, but spend the rest of the day squinting any biting your lip. This was his last great horror fest (he is relatively subdued in Black Sabbath and the overrated Targets) and he goes for broke. Also Anthony Dawson is a good guy but never looked more evil, and the much undervalued Elizabeth Allan, a veteran of '30s classics here making her last appearance, brings much feeling to a small role. Hard to believe this was the stuff of kiddie matinees back in 1958."
How Many Can-Can Girls Can A Killer Kill Until He's Caught?
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 05/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Filmed in '58, 'The Haunted Strangler' is a somewhat entertaining English horror/murder mystery from '58 starring the legendary Boris Karloff.
Plot: Set in London, England circa 1860, accomplished writer James Rankin (Boris Karloff) develops an obsessive interest in a twenty year old series of can-can girl killings. His investigation into the matter eventually unveils a harsh (and I might say totally expected) reality bringing dire and deadly circumstances when the truth is finally uncovered.
While Boris Karloff delivers a fine performance, the real interest in this now OOP DVD is the presence of the very sexy Vera Day in the role of the ill-fated Pearl, the first victim in a new series of killings. Vera was a very popular model in England in the mid-to-late fifties. Of the few films she appeared in, 'The Haunted Strangler' is the most successful at showing this incredible beauty to the appreciative audience."
The Best of Karloff
Clark Lerch | 04/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is absolutely the best picture Karloff ever did. Owing a lot to not only his acting talents, but a suburb script. Karloff plays an author in victorian Edinburgh, Scotland....who believes a man hanged 20 years before was innocent of the Hayside Stranglings. His search leads him to the doctor who had performed the autopsies on the strangling case, who was later committed to an insane asylm, and who had from there disappeared. Finally the search leads him inevitably to none other than himself! Amazingly interesting plot. Good suspense and all the rest."