2021 / documentary / 1h 39min /
written by Thomas Hamilton, Ron MacCloskey / directed by Thomas Hamilton /
country: UK / language: English /
“When he played “the creature” in 1931’s Frankenstein, neither Boris Karloff nor the studio knew what to expect. Universal were banking on a similar success to their “Dracula”, while the former William Henry Pratt just hoped it would lead to more work.
After 20 years of acting he was finally attracting notice in films like The Criminal Code & Five Star Final. But Karloff had experienced moments of hope like this before and if Frankenstein failed, he had much to lose.
But the film exceeded everyone’s expectations and Karloff became the new king of horror in The Old Dark House, The Mummy, The Black Cat and many more. Despite changing tastes Karloff remained at or near the top for the next 38 years. Even half a century after his death, Karloff’s legacy continues with Guillermo Del Toro citing him as a key inspiration.
He was totally unlike his onscreen persona. Colleagues recall his professionalism, kindness and self-depreciating sense of humour.
But, while chronicling his career “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster” also examines the secretive side of Boris, areas he wouldn’t discuss even with close friends. And his deepest fear of all, the fear he would become obsolete.
It drove him to work incessantly, allowing little personal time. When horror declined, he reinvented himself on Broadway, radio and later TV. He became a familiar presence in every American household, except his own. Lengthy absences helped end his 4th marriage and made virtual strangers of father and daughter.
Yet he was willing to risk all for Screen Actors Guild, recruiting members at a time when mere association could lead to his dismissal by Universal. He remained a dedicated supporter of actors rights through the McCarthy era.
Drawing from many interviews including Guillermo Del Toro, John Landis, Roger Corman, Sara Karloff, Peter Bogdanovich, Christopher Plummer, Stefanie Powers, Lee Grant, Sir Christopher Frayling, Kevin Brownlow and never released audio of Karloff himself, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster” takes us to the heart of the man, with a gripping, intimate portrait of Karloff and the genre he helped define.”