Archive for Boris Karloff

Comedy of Terrors (1964) Review

Posted in Comedy of Terrors with tags , , , , on November 20, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Your Favorite Creeps Are Together Again!

Release Date- January 22nd, 1964

Running Time- 84-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Richard Matheson

Director- Jacques Tourneur

Starring- Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Joyce Jameson and Basil Rathbone

The Comedy of Terrors apparently had a showing in 1963 before getting a theatrical release in 1964. The Comedy of Terrors mixes horror and comedy and features quite a legendary cast with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. I really can’t think of a horror film with a better cast as all these actors are icons and it doesn’t end there as the script was by Richard Matheson and directed by Jacques Tourneur. Comedy of Terrors has amazing talent involved and it doesn’t really disappoint either, but with such talent involved the stakes are raised. While I enjoy horror and comedy there aren’t many though that would make my top list and slapstick, which this film often goes for can be hit or miss even within the same film for me.

With his business failing Waldo Trumbull (Price) does what any good owner of a funeral parlor would do and that’s murder people to drum up business.

Richard Matheson is perhaps best known for his novel I Am Legend and a year after this movie he’d co-write an adaption of it titled the Last Man on Earth, which starred Vincent Price. As a screenwriter Matheson’s most notable films are probably the Edgar Alan Poe adaptions directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price with such films as House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum and Tales of Terror. Richard Matheson also wrote a number of episodes of the Twilight Zone, while continuing to be a critically acclaimed author. The script for Comedy of Terrors has a simple plot, but the writing is quite sharp and often funny. Characters are terrific, which is a mixture of the writing and the actors involved. Comedy of Terrors is a well written spoof and while it can get a little too silly in spots it always remains funny.

Director Jacques Tourneur is quite an iconic horror filmmaker and its s shame he isn’t talked about more. Curse of the Demon is seen as a classic of the genre and his work with Val Lewton with Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and the Leopard Man are some of the most influential genre films of their time. Jacques Tourneur delivers a well made and well paced film and stages some terrific comedy. The film high on camp is a joy from opening to start and for me the best moments are the ones that border slapstick, but are held back just a notch. The more over the top gags are also quite funny, but for me after a bit slapstick can get a little tiresome and while here I always found it funny I did prefer the scenes where Tourneur held back just a bit.

As mention the cast is legendary are is hands down one of my favorite casts of any genre. Vincent Price is hysterical as Waldo Trumbull and it was clear he enjoyed playing the role. Price was one of those actors that was so gifted he could even make a subpar film just a little better. My personal favorite Vincent Price film and performance was the Witchfinder General. Price’s performance with Comedy of Terrors is no doubt one of my very favorites as well. He’s simply a joy to watch here and his work with Peter Lorre is a riot. Boris Karloff is one of my all time favorite actors and his performance in the 1931 version of Frankenstein despite having no dialogue is in my opinion amongst the greatest performances ever. At this stage in his career, Karloff was making a bit of a comeback thanks to Roger Corman, but his health was starting to decline and originally Karloff was cast as Mr. Black, but due to his arthritis he wasn’t able to play the demanding role and Basil Rathbone took over the part and Karloff took the role of Amos Hinchley. Karloff’s comedic timing is excellent and I’ve seen many Karloff films and this could very well make my top 5 Karloff performances. Basil Rathbone is best known for his performances as Sherlock Holmes, but he’s no stranger to the horror genre and one of his most notable horror roles came in Son of Frankenstein, which also happened to be the last time Boris Karloff played the Monster. Rathbone is simply outstanding in a wild performance as John Black. Like a true pro Rathbone and the rest of the cast aren’t afraid to ham it up.

Overall the Comedy of Terrors is a terrific film that’s quite funny throughout and while the comedy can be a little too over the top for me at times I never lost interest. As mentioned when you have the talent of the highest level involved the stakes are raised so I can see how some might be letdown, but with strong writing and directing a cast that is clearly having fun working with each other the Comedy of Terrors delivers the goods.


Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Review

Posted in Bride of Frankenstein with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


***** Out of 5

Tagline- The Monster Demands a Mate

Release Date- April 22nd, 1935

Running Time- 75-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- William Hurlbut

Director- James Whale

Starring- Boris Karloff, Colin Clive. Valerie Hobson with Elsa Lanchester as Mary Shelly/The Bride and Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius

Released in 1935 Bride of Frankenstein is not just a classic horror film, but a classic film and its also considered one of the greatest sequels and within the horror genre the only sequel that might be better is George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. To say I love Bride of Frankenstein would be a major understatement. It’s almost difficult to put into words how much I adore this film. By today’s standards Bride of Frankenstein isn’t very scary, but I’m not sure it was really meant to be. One can even see this film as a tragic drama. For me, Bride of Frankenstein touched something deep inside of me. I never felt so many emotions watching a horror movie like I did with Bride of Frankenstein. Without a doubt this movie is in my top 5 favorite horror movies of all time.

The Frankenstein Monster really isn’t a villain at least in the first 2 of the series. He’s more sympathetic than anything else. Sure the Monster can be dangerous. When he’s attacked he will lash out and when he is agitated he can be dangerous, but all he wants is to be accepted and sadly nobody wants to give him a chance. All he really does is try and reach out and gets spit on in return and that is when he is dangerous or when he is being manipulated. What makes Bride of Frankenstein so brilliant is none of us are asked to be brought into this world, the Frankenstein Monster was never asked to be created. He was made by Dr. Frankenstein (Clive) and he doesn’t fit in. I think at some point in our lives we all have that feeling of being an outsider and not fitting in with people. And that is why James Whale was the perfect person to direct. I’m not an expert on James Whale, but I did read up on him a bit and he was actually gay; nowadays it may not be that big of a deal, but back in the 1930s it was a huge deal, while I cannot relate to James Whale on that I can relate to the not fitting in and not being accepted. James Whale used the Monster in that regard. The Monster was an outsider who everyone just kicked to the side and nobody wanted to give him a chance. I actually can very much relate to the Frankenstein Monster and maybe that’s why this movie touched something so deep inside of me.

When you really break it down most people see the Frankenstein Monster as a villain, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s misunderstood and a victim of society. All the Monster wants is a friend to be accepted and isn’t that all any of us really want? We wanna be loved we want to be accepted and that is all the Monster wants. Boris Karloff is just simply brilliant in the role of the Monster; words cannot fairly do justice to his performance. Unlike the first one where Karloff had to show emotion through facial expressions and movements, this time around he actually talks. Karloff was 100% against that move, but I think it was the right move on the part of the makers. It does add a lot more depth to the Monster even if some of his mystery is lost. Karloff was without a doubt the perfect actor. He can be scary and sympathetic. That isn’t easy to do, but Karloff being the great actor he is pulls it off and makes it look easy.

Director James Whale crafts one of the all time masterpieces. The pacing of the movie is excellent and Bride actually picks up right where the original left off, after that the story continues at a slow, but strong pace. The plot is set up and during this time we don’t see the Monster all that much. While yes, Bride of Frankenstein is a bit campy that was the whole point, but Whale is also able to create such deep and powerful scenes that to this day still stand out.

One of the greatest scenes in the movie and dare I say in the horror genre is when the Monster meets the Blind Man played by O.P. Heggie. The scenes were so funny and sad and very deeply touching. The Monster finally meets someone who accepts him and doesn’t run off in fear or try to kill him. The blind Man, like the Monster is also lonely and is looking for a friend. Two lost souls meet each other and become great friends. The scene when the Monster sheds a tear was brilliant. It was sad, but also happy. He finally found someone who fully accepts him. When the Monster and The Blind Man are taken away from each other it’s such a sad scene. The Monster runs off saying “friend” you don’t see many scenes that deep in a horror movie; while it can be campy and over the top, with James Whale’s brilliant directing and Karloff and Heggie’s acting the scenes are very powerful.

The Monster in these scenes with the blind man talks a lot and it’s really funny. My favorite scene is when he smokes a cigar while sitting down and shaking his body to the violin the blind man is playing. I just l loved the direction James Whale took the series. The first one had a really dark and eerie feel, but Whales crafts a black comedy, but not without some deeply touching scenes.

The final act is just quite simply put brilliant. A bride is being created for the Frankenstein Monster. But even she rejects him, which is one of the saddest moments in horror film history, when the Monster says “even she hate me like the others” is heart-breaking.

The cast is top notch; Colin Clive returns as Dr. Frankenstein and again does a solid job and returning is Dwight Frye, but as a new character named Karl. Una O’Connor is really great here, but she can get annoying. Valerie Hobson takes over the role of Elizabeth and I preferred her in the role. Elsa Lanchester plays 2 roles she plays Mary Shelley in the opening and than plays the Bride at the end, while her role as the Bride was brief it’s a moment fans of this will never forget. Ernest Thesiger plays the evil Dr. Pretorius and you can see the guy was clearly having fun in the role. The character is a bit out there, but Thesiger, while flamboyant plays the role straight for the most part and it works very well. And look for John Carradine in an un-credited role as a hunter.

This was the perfect ending for the series, but even in the old days of Hollywood money talks. James Whale though wouldn’t return, but Karloff would return only once more and as great as he was the Monster was under-used. Simply put, it lacked the James Whale touch even if Son of Frankenstein in its own right was a terrific film. I really can’t put fully into words how much I love this film. Bride of Frankenstein is a masterpiece and this film is very personal to me.

The Blu-ray release is 77-years after the original release and Universal delivers a stunning HD transfer. At first the video looks ok its not bad, but nothing special, but as the film goes on the HD quality is simply amazing. The DVD release was from 1999 and a lot has changed since than. It took a few years for DVDs to reach their fullest potential and Bride of Frankenstein was in major need of a new transfer as its overly grainy filled with dirt and specs and very murky looking and with the BD Universal truly delivers an amazing HD transfer that makes the DVD look like an old beat up VHS. The audio is also very good as well and Universal deserves much praise for their HD restoration of Bride of Frankenstein.


















Son of Frankenstein (1939) Review

Posted in Son of Frankenstein with tags , , , on October 4, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Black Shadows of the Past Bred This Half Man, Half Demon, Creating a New and Terrible Juggernaut of Destruction!

Release Date- January 13th, 1939

Running Time- 99-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Willis Cooper

Director- Rowland V. Lee

Starring- Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Josephine Hutchinson

Released in 1939 Son of Frankenstein along with the Wolf Man in 1941 were the last two Universal Monster movies that in my opinion were Hollywood releases since most of the Monster Movies by Universal after those two had much more of a B-Movie feel and if not for better production values they slightly feel like they could be made by Poverty Row. Son of Frankenstein from a technical side is better than the first two in the series. The production values are excellent and the film is more polished from the visual side to the editing. In terms of the films go Bride of Frankenstein trumps this not by a lot though, but I would say this was on part with the original. I favor the original, but its close and even though I think Bride of Frankenstein is better I really don’t think Son of Frankenstein is far behind and I find this one very underrated and should be held in the same regard as the first two even if they are a little better. As great as this film is it does lack the James Whale touch who would leave the series after Bride of Frankenstein. When it comes to Universal Studios you’ll be hard pressed to find another studio with a greater legacy in the horror genre. Who knows where the horror genre would be without the Monster Movies from Universal Studios as these films inspired generations of filmmakers and back in the 30s Universal set the bar for the horror genre. As I stated to me Son of Frankenstein was one of the last of the Golden era and I truly believe should be held in higher regard.

After meeting Ygor (Lugosi), Dr. Wolf Von Frankenstein (Rathbone) plans to bring the Monster back to life in hopes of changing him and restoring the Frankenstein family name, however Ygor has other intentions for the Monster.

The script by Willis Cooper is fantastic; from a writing standpoint, Cooper might deliver the best written film in the series. The characters are excellent and the film is well plotted. If anything the main problem was how the Monster was used, which I’ll get into in better detail in just a bit. If anything Willis Cooper takes certain elements from the first two, but yet has enough originality that this doesn’t feel like a rehash, but instead it feels fresh.

Director Rowland V. Lee takes over as director and crafts a truly terrific film. Like I said earlier from a filmmaking side of things, Lee delivers the best film in the series from a technical side. James Whale was a great filmmaker, but some of his films were a little rough around the edges, which may have to do more with how films were made at the time. Now that’s not a knock at all on Whale since with the first two Frankenstein films he crafted two of the all time greats. And while Son of Frankenstein might be the best made it does lack the James Whale touch. Son of Frankenstein gets off to a quick start and Rowland Lee does a great job at setting up the story, but around the middle things do slightly slow down however with an excellent script and an excellent director, Lee is always able to keep the film moving at a steady pace even if a little slow as Rowland Lee manages to get the most out of every scene. Son of Frankenstein does lack the eerie feel of the original and the fun campy tone of Bride of Frankenstein, though this down have some light moments, but never plays up to camp factor. While Son of Frankenstein might lack overall in terms of suspense it’s made up for in just being a great film, but the film act is great and drivers some truly great scenes of suspense.

About the only complaint I have is the way the Frankenstein Monster was used. Unlike the first two the Monster really doesn’t have the same impact as he wasn’t as crucial to the story. The Monster doesn’t enter the film until about 30-minutes in and doesn’t really do much until the hour mark. Boris Karloff plays the Monster for the 3rd and final time and I find his performance here very underrated. While Karloff was better in the first two, but James Whale also was a big reason for that, but here the Monster wasn’t as sympathetic and in some ways more of the villain. A lot of people label the Monster a villain, but that wasn’t true. The only time he killed anyone was either an accident, he was scared of provoked. All he really wanted was to be accepted, but here he is a little more villain like. The one thing we know is the Monster can be manipulated and Ygor very much manipulates the Monster for his personal revenge.

Boris Karloff still shines though when given the chance such as when he sees his own reflection in the mirror and these scenes were truly brilliant and nobody except Karloff could have pulled this off. While the Monster may not be as sympathetic, but this was the scariest he’s ever been. In the final act when the Monster finds Ygor dead (though some how is alive in Ghost of Frankenstein), but when he finds Ygor, the Monster lets out this scream and goes on a rampage. The rage and anger Karloff showed was quite creepy. In the film the Monster often visits Wolf Von Frankenstein’s son. All of this is off camera, but the child tells how he gave the Monster a fairy tale book. In the final act, the Monster looks at the book and he gets this even grin and takes off for the kid to get his revenge. This was truly brilliant and Karloff was nothing short of amazing, which is why I said his performance was greatly underrated. The Monster wasn’t as crucial to the story this time around, but Karloff still pulls it off. Many actors have replaced other actors in roles and while some were better others inferior and some ok, but nobody ever came anywhere near the level of Karloff as the Monster. Karloff’s Monster isn’t mindless and doesn’t lumber around. Lon Chaney would take the role over in the next film Ghost of Frankenstein and Chaney would be my 2nd favorite, but he’s a very, very distant 2nd to Karloff.

Basil Rathbone as Wolf Von Frankenstein is excellent and while some thought he was a bit over the top I for the most part disagree. There are times he might ham it up a bit, but for the most part I didn’t think so. As great as Colin Clive was in the first two he was over the top. Rathbone delivers a wonderful performance. Bela Lugosi as Ygor was great and there are some that consider this his best performance and while I would go with Dracula a case however can be made for Ygor being his best performance. However Lionel Atwill steals the show. Atwill starred in a number of Monster films and like Edward Van Sloan he’s sort of the forgotten made, which is unfortunate since Lionel Atwill was an excellent actor and steals the show here.

Son of Frankenstein was a great film and once again should be held in higher regard than it is. Despite its classic status it doesn’t get as much attention as it should. The first two Frankenstein films may be better, but this can stand proudly with them. At 99-minutes this was the longest of the series since most ran between 67-75 minutes. And while it could have perhaps lost a few minutes Son of Frankenstein is a great film nonetheless.



























House of Frankenstein (1944) Review

Posted in House of Frankenstein, Universal Monsters with tags , , , , on June 24, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


*** Out of 5

Tagline- Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolf Man, Dracula, Hunchback, Mad Doctor

Release Date- December 1st, 1944

Running Time- 71-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Edward T. Lowe (story Curt Siodmak)

Director- Erle C. Kenton

Starring- Boris Karloff, J. Carrol Naish, John Carradine, Elena Verdugo, Glenn Strange and Lon Chaney

As I’ve stated in other reviews for the Universal Monster films by this point despite being Universal films they were B-Movies and House of Frankenstein released in 1944 is no different. By this time in the series we were far removed from the first 3 Frankenstein films and the original Dracula and Wolf Man. House of Frankenstein came 5-years after Son of Frankenstein and and 3-years after the Wolf Man, but it might as well been a 100-years since quality was so drastically different. House of Frankenstein is the 2nd of 4 crossover films with the first being Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and the last 2 being House of Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I suppose it was only a matter of time before Universal took advantage of having these characters and put them in a film together. This time around Dracula (Carradine) is added to the mix and we have the B-Movie staple of Monsters, mad scientists and a hunchback.

If anything House of Frankenstein sort of feels like an anthology; first Dr. Niemann (Karloff) and his story is set up. Than Dracula comes into the story, than after that enter Larry Talbot (Chaney) and finally the Frankenstein Monster (Strange). Perhaps it was the times or just the writing, but it always seemed as if there were problems linking all these Monsters together. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man more or less seemed to be the most successful in doing so, but even that film got a little sluggish when the Monster entered as the movie worked best in the first half when it was a Wolf Man sequel. Here in House of Frankenstein Dracula seems to be just a throw in since his story is unconnected to the rest of the film, well sort of.

After escaping from prison Dr. Niemann looks to get revenge on the people who sent him to prison and with the help of his hunchback assistant Daniel (Naish) he uses the Monsters to carry out that revenge.

The screenplay was written by Edward T. Lowe based off a story by Curt Siodmak who wrote the original Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The story while interesting might have been better suited as its own film and not a Monster movie as the Monsters are just simply there because Universal has the rights to them all. As I stated the script very much feels like an anthology since Dracula never shares any screen time with the Wolf Man or Frankenstein Monster and it seems he was just put in for the sake of it. The script by Lowe is fairly decent, but adds nothing new to the legacy of either of the 3 franchises. Larry Talbot for the most part just rehashes dialogue from the previous film and its quite clear there wasn’t anything left for the character to do. The biggest letdown is the Monster doesn’t come alive until the final 10-minutes and when he does come alive he’s strapped down and it isn’t until the final 4-minutes he breaks out of the straps. Overall the script isn’t bad, but its brought down by not really being able to work the Monsters in together and it feels like 4 different scripts were written than edited together. I think the film would have played a lot better had it just been about Niemann wanting revenge and not mixing in the Monsters. In Ghost of Frankenstein the Monster had his brain switched with someone else thus creating a new Frankenstein Monster, but in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man that’s ignored and ruined Lugosi’s performance as the Monster (which wasn’t very good to begin with) and that’s continued here in House of Frankenstein as the Monster is back to being the original creation and the fact he actually isn’t is ignored.

House of Frankenstein was directed by Erle C. Kenton who previously helmed Ghost of Frankenstein and the year after this film he would direct House of Dracula. Seeing as Kenton directed Ghost of Frankenstein it is a bit annoying that the fact the Monster isn’t the original creation anymore is still ignored, but I suppose not writing the film there isn’t much he can do. The pace of the film can at times be a bit sluggish, but that’s more with the script than the directing. Gone is the eerie atmosphere the Monster movies were based on in their early days. Of all the Monster films I think Dracula and the Wolf Man hold up the best in filmmaking techniques for the most part and too bad Kenton doesn’t use any of those. Suspense is light and there really isn’t an eerie atmosphere either. To his credit though Kenton does deliver a fun film and while this isn’t exactly high quality filmmaking, Kenton is a competent director and makes a fun film with the flaws being more to do with the script than anything else.

John Carradine is sort of the forgotten Dracula and this marked his debut as Count Dracula and he would reprise the role the following year in House of Dracula. Carradine doesn’t have the charisma of Lugosi nor is he as eerie, but with that said I do like Carradine’s take on the role and while sure he’s nothing like Lugosi despite playing the same character I find him entertaining, but he really isn’t given much to do. Glenn Strange plays the Monster for the first time here and he’d play the tole twice more (House of Dracula & Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein). It’s really difficult to rate his performance seeing as he only has a few minutes of screw time and most of that he’s strapped down. It’s impossible not to compare anybody that plays the Monster to Karloff and nobody has or ever will match or top Karloff in the role, but Strange wasn’t bad. It’s just unfortunate he isn’t given a whole lot to do. Lon Chaney again is excellent as the cursed Larry Talbot, but he just rehashes past dialogue and while Chaney by this point does seem to be going through the motions he’s still a joy to watch.

House of Frankenstein was Karloff’s return to the series as he last appeared in the franchise in Son of Frankenstein his last outing as the Frankenstein Monster. Karloff is one of my all time favorite actors and my favorite horror actor and Karloff is excellent here, but only hindered by his screenwriter.

My review for House of Frankenstein may not be overly glowing, but despite the many flaws it is an entertaining film only brought down by the fact the film seemed to be unable to mix these iconic Monsters together and again I think the film would have turned out better without them. However House of Frankenstein is a fun film to watch and flaws and all should please fans of the series.














Universal Monster Movie Photo Gallery

Posted in Universal Monsters with tags , , , , , , , on June 20, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

Well I figure to make my return here might as well get a theme going and I’m gonna focus on the Universal Monster movies. I’ll probably break it down in 2 volumes with another batch of reviews and photo galleries at a later time.

I haven’t been around here nearly as much I try and keep up with reviews from everyone else, but sometimes that goes out the window. So to kick things off here’s some awesome photos from various Monster movies from Universal

(Note all photos of the Frankenstein Monster are Boris Karloff unless otherwise noted).













Lon Chaney as the Monster with Bela Lugosi


Another of Chaney as the Monster


Bela Lugosi as the Monster


Glenn Strange as the Monster


Glenn Strange as the Monster with Boris Karloff





Bride of Frankenstein Photo Gallery

Posted in Bride of Frankenstein Poster and Photo Gallery with tags , , , , on March 3, 2013 by Last Road Reviews



































10 Movies to watch for Halloween Night

Posted in 10 Movies to Watch for Halloween Night with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

This isn’t a top 10 all-time favorite list. It’s only a list for films I feel would make great Halloween night viewing. Also this isn’t in order either.