Showing posts with label Boris Karloff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boris Karloff. Show all posts

Friday, 11 April 2014


Based on a 1929 novel and inspired by real events, 1932’s Scarface was one of a series of pre-code gangster pictures which shocked and enthralled its viewers. Opening with a written disclaimer, damming the government for their lack of action regarding the threat that modern gangsters pose, the film nonetheless glamorises the life of crime while shaking a stick in its vague direction. It follows the ascent of young arrogant Italian immigrant Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) as he rises through the Chicago underworld by bumping off bosses and rivals who stand in his way and intimidating speakeasy proprietors into taking his booze. Aided by his right hand man, the quiet coin flicking Guino Rinaldo (George Raft), Tony reaches the heights of underworld overlord but finds that being at the top is even more dangerous than the climb to the summit.

Arriving two years before the Hays Office began imposing much stricter censorship on Hollywood; Scarface was able to get away with a lot more than many films which followed it. Inside its ninety minutes you’ll find brutal murders, gunplay and revealing costumes worn by the female characters, things which just wouldn’t be permissible from 1934 onwards. Even still, the film troubled the censors and the ending was changed to suit their tastes. Overall the movie contains a ‘crime doesn’t pay’ theme, something which you expect from the opening credits disclaimer but it’s slow in coming. For the most part, the theme appears to be ‘crime gets you everything you want’ and it’s this which the censors must have taken issue with. The glorification of the central character is also something which the Hays Office was unhappy with. This is something which film makers and censors would lock horns over for the next forty years.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Black Sabbath

Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (titled I tre volti della paura in his native Italian) is a trilogy of short horror films, presented as a single feature. There is nothing to tie the three films together aside from being bookended by a rather funny and tongue in cheek Boris Karloff who also appears in the middle film. Like much of Bava’s work the film’s original Italian version differs greatly from the more widely seen American release and there’s a fantastic comparison feature on DVD releases which highlights the differences in score, props, dialogue and even ordering of the film. Personally I chose the Italian version to watch.

The Italian version is a little gorier and features a lesbian subplot which is absent from the American release. Bava’s choice to package the films in one feature at first feels strange but to be honest, I don’t think any of the stories could have been successfully stretched to make a feature in their own right and it gives a chance for some terrific tales to get a release.  

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Bride of Frankenstein

Bride of Frankenstein is the 1935 sequel to the definitive Frankenstein movie released four years earlier. The story is taken from a subplot of Mary Shelley’s novel though bares only a passing resemblance to the author’s work. The film picks up in the moments after the climax of the first movie in which the monster was seemingly killed in a raging fire. Spoiler alert – he wasn’t. In this movie the monster’s personality grows, he makes friends and becomes restless. As with any man, he wants female companionship and with the help of scientist Doctor Pretorius, he kidnaps his creator’s fiancĂ©, forcing Doctor, now Baron Frankenstein to create for him a Bride.

I thought that 1931’s Frankenstein was a masterful piece of cinema and rightly held a place in the minds of horror cinema fans over eighty years on from its release. Bride of Frankenstein holds a similar place in cinema history but overall I was disappointed by it. I felt that the plot was slow and clunky and the dialogue and acting was much worse than that of the original film. For fifty minutes I was teetering on the edge of boredom but a final twenty minute flourish, reminiscent of the first movie, helped to save the day.

Thursday, 2 May 2013


1931’s Frankenstein remains after more than eighty years, one of the most recognisable, influential and respected horror movies of all time. While it may do little for the gore hungry Saw generation, to those of us who appreciate the art of film, it stands up against the test of time and despite numerous subsequent attempts at the iconic story, this version will undoubtedly be the one you have in your head. From the imposing gothic architecture and magnificent use of shadow to the distinctive and now ‘go to’ flat head, Frankenstein is a movie which many of us will know before even seeing it in full.

The plot is taken from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel of the same name and should be known by anyone with at least one functioning sense. The story and its characters are some of the most iconic and recognisable not only in horror history but also literary history and the tale has been repeated and twisted in everything from Mel Brook’s spoof Young Frankenstein to TV classic The Munsters to the recent animated film Frankenweenie and has influenced countless books, TV shows and movies. This adaptation is relatively faithful version of the timeless original text.