Boris Karloff



In the world of horror, especially in its early years, there are names synonymous with the genre – Lon Chaney, Vincent Price, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Carpenter – their performances and films are classic examples of the talent and achievement of film. And while many find themselves memorable within a decade or a moment, others become legends for a lifetime. Enter Boris Karloff.

Thomas Hamilton’s ‘Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster’ (2021) – Documentary Review

Boris Karloff is perhaps one of the foremost faces of the golden age of terror. Starring as the monster character in both Frankenstein and The Mummy (1932 – our retro review), Karloff was synonymous with some of the most important and influential horror villains of all time (read our deep dive into Universal Monsters here). Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster is a documentary that examines Karloff’s impact, not just in the world of terror, but in the lives his humble and jovial personality touched. As there may be no figure more fitting for documentary treatment, I couldn’t wait to look underneath the makeup into why he worked so well.

Your Weekly Roundup of New Movies: “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster” Is a Disappointing Documentary

** Of all Boris Karloff’s beloved acting roles—from Frankenstein (1931) to Targets (1968)—this documentary fixates rather strangely on an episode of This Is Your Life. Remember that ‘50s reality show where unsuspecting guests became the subjects of biographical walk-throughs? Well, Karloff seemed to despise his appearance on the show. Though Thomas Hamilton’s doc can’t pinpoint why, it returns knowingly but fruitlessly to that TV episode as an implied key to Karloff’s private humanity, which his doleful eyes and transcendent stillness often communicated on film. Maybe his reticence owed to childhood trauma; the horror icon suffered a cruel mother and ostracization for his Anglo-Indian heritage, but the film fails to show how those wounds shaped him. What’s left is an extremely conventional tribute to a Hollywood legend, a career survey that easily could’ve aired on Turner Classic Movies 30 years ago without a single change (save Guillermo del Toro’s many compliments). There’s nothing terribly wrong with that—the film is loving, comprehensive and a totally adequate chronicle of Karloff’s 50-year career across silent films, Universal monsters, Val Lewton horror, Broadway and TV. He was relentless in his creativity; perhaps his biographies don’t have to be. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Streams on Shudder.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

'Boris Karloff,' 'Confession' and more films to stream

Just in time to commemorate the Feb. 2, 1969, death of actor Boris Karloff — best known for his nuanced rendering of Frankenstein’s monster in “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and “Son of Frankenstein” (1939) — the horror streaming platform Shudder debuts the documentary “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster.”
Houston Chronicle

New movies to stream this week: 'Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster,' 'Confession' and more

Just in time to commemorate the Feb. 2, 1969, death of actor Boris Karloff - best known for his nuanced rendering of Frankenstein's monster in "Frankenstein" (1931), "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) and "Son of Frankenstein" (1939) - the horror streaming platform Shudder debuts the documentary "Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster." It's an affectionate, informative and entertaining look at the performer, born William "Billy" Pratt to Anglo-Indian parents (before adopting his stage name upon breaking into Canadian theater, with no training). Along with the many great clips of Karloff from his prolific stage, film and television career (clips that will make you glad Shudder has plans to also stream some of Karloff's classics), this documentary portrait includes interviews with such fans and aficionados as filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who calls Karloff his "messiah." Appearances by Karloff's daughter Sara, John Landis (co-director of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video) and such film historians as Leonard Maltin add context and color to the documentary, which despite being heavy on black-and-white archival footage makes for a lively and vibrant appreciation of an artist. Looking back at Karloff from today, in an era in which the horror genre all too often means movies that evoke disgust, Karloff's work in such classic monster movies as "The Mummy" and the noirish "Bedlam" are a refreshing reminder of the actor's greatest strength, which was - ironically, considering the extreme nature of some of his roles - his subtlety. Unrated. Available on Shudder. Contains some clips from scary movies. 99 minutes.

Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster on Shudder

A documentary about that rare kind of actor – a character actor who becomes a star. By nature, character actors melt into their characters and usually into the background of films. Necessary parts, but not the ones that draw viewers’ attention or big paychecks. Early in film history, Boris Karloff became the exception that proved the rule. During his career, Karloff played some of the biggest monster parts or scary characters in the history of film. Here in Thomas Hamilton’s in-depth documentary on the actor, we learn about the man behind the monster.

Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster review – a rich survey

This assiduous survey of the life and career of the actor Boris Karloff gracefully acknowledges that he will always be welded in the public imagination to his role as the monster in the classic 1931 adaptation of Frankenstein. However, this documentary has a lot more to say about his long and quite fascinating acting career, which he began in the silent era as a handsome action man (“a French-Canadian trapper type,” the voiceover calls him, like that’s a thing) and saw him become a considerable box-office draw for the many horror films he made in the 1930s and 40s. By the end, he was a sweetly self-spoofing TV host and icon happy to do cameo roles in cheerful horror schlock despite his increasing physical frailty, and made an indelible impression on many generations with his deep, velvety voice as the title character of the 1966 animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Black Hills Pioneer

Senior Year on ‘grown-ish,’ Real and Fictional Gangsters, Remembering Boris Karloff, ‘Kat’ Turns 40

Freeform’s grown-ish resumes its fourth season, with Zoey’s senior year in college well underway. While ABC’s Truth and Lies docuseries takes a deep dive into the notorious Gambino mob family, HBO Max drops the fifth and final season of Italy’s hit mobster drama Gomorrah. Shudder offers a profile of horror-movie icon Boris Karloff. Kat (Mayim Bialik) is turning 40 on Fox’s Call Me Kat.