The Man They Could Not Hang starring Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray, Robert Wilcox, Roger Pryor
Before I Hang starring Boris Karloff, Evelyn Keyes, Bruce Bennett, Edward Van Sloan
The Boogie Man Will Get You starring Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Max ‘Slapsie Maxie’ Rosenbloom, Larry Parks
Directed by Roy William Neill, Nick Grinde, Lew Landers
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Legend is a strong word. It applies to those few who have achieved milestones in order to obtain that distinction. Whether you’re old, young, or somewhere in-between, if you’re a horror fan, chances are very good that you are familiar with the name Boris Karloff. While he may indeed be best known for playing the infamous Frankenstein Monster, he has a myriad of other films out there that some may argue are even better than that iconic role. After all, the man’s career spanned more than five decades, in which he accumulated over two hundred films under his belt. Finally four of his lesser-known gems have found their way home as part of Sony’s Icons of Horror Collection.
Things kick off with 1935’s The Black Room. Let me ask you, what could be better than one Karloff? Why two Karloffs of course! Yep, Boris pulls double duty in this flick playing twin brothers, one evil and one, well, not-so-evil. Legend has it that the older twin will die at the hands of his younger sibling inside the mysterious black room. *cue dramatic musical stinger* What sets The Black Room apart from some of Boris’ other works is the fact that he really gets to show off his range by playing two distinctly different roles in one film. Clocking in at about seventy minutes, The Black Room is a ghoulishly perfect way to start off this collection.
Next we find Boris playing a mad scientist (Surprised? I didn’t think so) by the name of Dr. Henryk Savaard in 1939’s The Man They Could Not Hang. Savaard, loony or not, has a vision. A vision of a world in which death can be conquered by way of science and a mechanical heart! In order to make an omelet, one has to break a few eggs. Savaard ends up killing a medical student so that he may try out his new technique of raising the dead. Of course, he’s caught and sentenced to hang, and hang he does. But that’s not the end for the good doctor. His assistant ends up re-animating his corpse using the doctor’s own methods. Guess it worked. Too bad for the folks who sentenced him to death, as one by one they end up hanging themselves. Ah, Boris! So deliciously evil! Of the four films included in this collection, The Man They Could Not Hang is the most interesting to look at. Director Nick Grinde makes great use of light and shadow that for the most part echo early German Expressionism. Good stuff.
The third time’s the harm, as Karloff and Grinde once again get a little noose-happy in 1940’s Before I Hang. After being injected with a serum … Wait. Who am I kiddin’? This was no serum! *Ahem* After being injected with the blood of an executed killer, Karloff continues the dead man’s rampage. Or is he merely mercy killing? You be the judge. While I am a huge fan of this man’s work, I have to say that Before I Hang is the weakest of this DVD set. Don’t get me wrong, Boris is as good as ever, bringing a truly sympathetic element to this crazed role, but the movie is just too slow for its own good. And what the hell was with that endless piano playing scene? The movie’s only just over an hour for Cthulhu’s sake! *shakes head*
Things finally get wrapped up with an old favorite of mine — 1942’s The Boogie Man Will Get You. Man, is this one timely! Here we find Karloff and genre great Peter Lorre teaming up to create undead super soldiers to go and fight in the war overseas. It’s funny how life can almost perfectly imitate art. The creators of this one just got the formula a bit backwards. Instead of fighting the war, today we now have a mindless zombie spearheading one! Lucky us. These next couple of years cannot go fast enough. Let me be clear, The Boogie Man Will Get You is not only a horror-comedy, it’s a dumb movie. But damn if it isn’t charming. Sure the plot’s paper-thin and most of the jokes are far too dated to be funny, but who cares? We get Lorre and Karloff hamming it up to no end years before Corman’s The Raven brought them back together for some fun. For this classic horror fan, that’s worth the price of the DVD alone.
There are no supplemental materials to speak of included in this package, but hey, you get four classic flicks for barely the price of one. Who could resist?
Here’s hoping for Volumes Two, Three, and Four of this collection. Should they ever come out, I am sooooooo there. Be sure to join me, and bring the popcorn, ya dirty freeloader!
Isn’t Karloff special enough?
4 out of 5