Boris Karloff was to the Horror Movie what Fred Astaire was to the Musical: the epitome of class and style. No matter how grisly the circumstances, he'd rise above them with talent, poise and even charm. And here, for t... more »he first time on DVD, are four of his finest chillers from his peak years in the 1930s and 1940s, all demonstrating his amazing range. In The Black Room, he plays twin brothers -- one good, one evil, naturally -- in a small country where beautiful women seem to turn up missing. The Man They Could Not Hang and Before I Hang present him in his classic "Mad Doctor" persona as forward-thinking scientists who run afoul of the law and become crazed killers. And in The Boogie Man Will Get You, he sends up that image in a delightful farce that also stars Peter Lorre (M) and Larry Parks (The Jolson Story). It's a collection all fervent classic-horror fans have been eagerly waiting for!« less
Edward Garea | Branchville, New Jersey United States | 08/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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.
Ask And Ye Shall Receive.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 09/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"No sooner had I finished writing a review of THE BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION saying that someone should release THE BLACK ROOM on DVD when lo and behold here it is. The fact that it's being issued by Sony means that it will use the best prints available which is great considering how often Boris is badly served by substandard prints of his non-Universal films. Sony has already issued a couple of the Columbia Karloff "Mad Doctor" films on DVD (THE DEVIL COMMANDS, THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES) and while they were devoid of any real extras, the visual quality of the films was an improvement over the old VHS copies. This will complete the set and give us THE BLACK ROOM in the bargain which is the finest of the films he did for Columbia. Directed by Roy William Neill (known for the modern day Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce) THE BLACK ROOM gives Boris one of his best acting opportunities in a double role as twin brothers one good the other evil (a triple role when you consider he also plays one brother impersonating the other).
The other films are THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG, BEFORE I HANG, and a comedy THE BOOGIE MEN WILL GET YOU. Although I haven't viewed the set yet I assume that Sony will do the same for these titles as they did for the others with hopefully a few extras thrown in although it's a shame that they didn't include the previous two on a third DVD to have all the films in one package. So Karloff fans rejoice even more so than for THE BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION as overall the quality of these films are better. Thanks to these, THE VAL LEWTON COLLECTION, and the British films THE GHOUL and THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND, virtually all of Karloff's 30s and 40s films are now on DVD. That just leaves THE WALKING DEAD which Warners should have issued in their upcoming HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS OF HORROR COLLECTION.... ADDENDUM: I have now seen the set and the picture quality is excellent. Unfortunately there are no extras whatsoever not even chapters for the various films."
An assortment of Karloff's Columbia output
pestcomics | Long Island, New York USA | 10/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sony's new Icons of "Horror - Boris Karloff Collection" consists of four films Karloff made at Columbia between 1935 and 1942. Quality varies from film to film but with Karloff on board these films are all worth watching.
Perhaps the very best and most interesting film included is 1935's "The Black Room" a first-rate costume drama in which Karloff delivers a tour-de-force performance as twin brothers. This film is reminiscent of the fine historical spectacles one might expect from a studio like MGM. It also offered Karloff an opportunity to play a more mainstream dramatic role (or roles to be precise) before he got completely pigeonholed into the roles of monsters and mad scientists by the mid-40s. "The Black Room" is considered one of his all-time best films and should be a pleasure to all Karloff fans.
As for the other three films, well, they're not his best but they do offer some fun and entertainment. My favorite of these three is 1939's "The Man They Could Not Hang." In this one Karloff is a mad scientist sentenced to death who is brought back to life and seeks revenge against those who sentenced him (including the judge, DA, witnesses and jurors). He sets up a dinner party inviting his enemies in order to imprison them and kill them one by one every 15 minutes. This is Karloff at his most maniacal best.
"Before I Hang" (1940) recycles some plot points from "The Man They Could Not Hang," including the concept of the scientist being brought back to life after a death sentence, but isn't quite as entertaining as its predecessor. In this one Karloff is a kinder more gentle scientist who turns evil through the blood of a killer. It's also nice to see Karloff and his "Frankenstein" co-star, Edward Van Sloan, together again. Karloff even gets to kill Van Sloan's character one more time.
"The Boogie Man Will Get You" (1942) is a B comedy which doesn't have too much to offer although it is interesting to see Karloff on screen with Peter Lorre in comedy shenanigans. It makes me wonder how the two might have interacted had Karloff been cast as Jonathan Brewster instead of Raymond Massey in Warner's film adaptation of "Arsenic and Old Lace." Karloff did not get the film role, which he had originated on stage, because he was playing it on Broadway at the time. He would have made a great Jonathan Brewster on film.
Sony doesn't offer anything else other than the four films in this collection. Unlike Warner Brother's releases of classic films there are no trailers, no scene selections, no commentaries and no featurettes. This is a shame as a nice little documentary about Karloff's films at Columbia would have been interesting. The DVD menus are pretty basic (almost amateurish) and the packaging is nice and compact with two slimcases tucked into a cardboard sleeve. The packaging graphics try to simulate a movie poster look with Photoshopped images of Karloff. It would have been more attractive had they used real movie poster images instead.
If you want to complete your Karloff collection of Columbia horror films I'd suggest acquiring "The Devil Commands" (1941) and "The Man With Nine Lives" (1940). These two had been previously released as single DVDs.
All in all, Sony's "Icons of Horror - Boris Karloff Collection" will surely appeal to Karloff fans, like myself, and allows us to own some rarely seen performances from a truly gifted and underrated screen star. It also makes a nice companion piece to his more famous monster roles and Universal's own recent "Boris Karloff Collection.""
Karloff Gets To Act!
Chris Aitken | Manakin Sabot, Virginia United States | 03/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The "Black Room" enables the viewer to enjoy great acting (Karloff) and an entertaining story. Karloff portrays twin brothers. One kind and innocent beyond belief (Think of an intelligent Gomer Pyle). The other (brother) pure evil (Think of J.R. Ewing as a serial killer). The brothers are both doomed by a family curse, and bound by a beautiful maiden. If this story isn't interesting enough, just tune in to Karloffs' one man acting clinic. Karloff made me think. Why was I rooting for both the "good" and "evil" brother? I was probably just rooting for Karloff. However this film proved to me, someone of Karloffs' ability does not need a cheering section. Buy (or rent) this film. You won't be disappointed!"
Karloff pulls it off!
Kelly Dillman | Pittsburgh, PA | 12/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The two main characters in this movie are twin brothers, both played by Boris Karloff. One is pure evil, the other is unbelievably kind. Only an actor of high talent could give credibility to either of these two extremes - Karloff plays both of them perfectly! I would've never thought Karloff had such range, having only seen him in "monster" movies like THE MUMMY and FRANKENSTEIN. He does it with what appears to be no effort at all. It's an interesting tale - though it does get a little bogged down in some spots. The special effects are also first-rate, considering the year in which it was filmed. Sit back and enjoy a real master at work!"