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BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI,2 discs, DVD) Released September 2018. Color.  $14.99


Many years ago, when the late great Boris Karloff passed away in February 2,1969, Jim Warren’s and Forrest J Ackerman’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND provided two fitting tributes.

One, was issue #56 of FMOF with a beautiful  Basil Gogos cover of Karloff as his most famous role.


The other was a paperback by FJA called THE FRANKENSCIENCE MONSTER (Ace,1969, a cover not by Gogos but paperback cover artist Verne Tossey.). At the time,before the ability to google, this was the source for any monster news. Many of us though that Karloff’s final film was a classic of modern cinema, Peter Bogdanovich’s   TARGETS  (August 1968,Paramount).


However, thanks to Uncle Forry , we found out that 80 plus year old Karloff had signed with producer Luis Enrique Vergara and Azteca Films of Mexico (who in turn had a distribution agreement with Columbia Pictures) for a four-picture deal at a salary of $400,000. The actor could have said no to the projects and easily retired, having a comfortable sum saved up over the years. No one could have blamed him, either, as his lungs were barely functional (due to years of smoking as well as damage from pneumonia he contracted in Italy filming BLACK SABBATH,1963,AIP , leaving him dependent on oxygen tanks to aid his breathing) as well as crippling arthritis that made walking difficult.


Still, as he often said, he wanted to die with his boots on, doing the job he loved if audiences wanted to see him. An example was when he filmed an episode of THE RED SKELTON SHOW (“He Who Steals My Robot Steals Trash” aired September 24,1968, CBS), rather than do the show before the live audience in a wheel chair as rehearsed, he willed himself to walk with the aid of a cane rather than have the people see him so confined.

Thus, the quartet of Mexican horror films were jobs that he readily accepted, feeling fortunate that audiences still wished to see him.


Difficulties for the productions arose when it was discovered that Karloff’s health would not permit him to film in Mexico, and his sequences were shot in a small studio in Santa Monica, California in April/May 1968, while the rest of the films were completed in Mexico, often with a double for the star.


The four films were to be made over a 5-week period, so this extra expense of two crews, duplicating sets, and flying up some of the Mexican cast to work with Karloff must have frayed the already low budgets.  Juan Ibáñez directed the Mexican main unit, while cult director Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY,1967, American General) handled the American Karloff unit, as well as contributing to the screenplays.


Hill it seems was hampered because the producer wanted to use an early form of video playback by tying a primitive video camera to the top of the 35mm Mitchells used to film the movie. Jerry Lewis had pioneered the idea and it is now the common practice, but Hill felt that it slowed down his process.



With all these problems somehow the four films were filmed and completed. Karloff did not live to see the release of these films, which seemed to have been held back until 1971 for their limited distributions (Cannon also got around to distribute Karloff’s 1967 Spanish lensed CAULDRON OF BLOOD the same year, which got a wider release in the U.S. than the four Mexican thrillers).


Over the years, the films have been released on various video labels, including MPI and United American budget label, as well as several of the titles getting a DVD release by Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia label.


VCI has now for the first time put all four films together in an affordable (less than the cost of some single DVD releases) two-disc collection.


The four titles in the collection are


(Disc One)


TORTURE ZONE (edited version of FEAR CHAMBER)


(Disc Two)

ALIEN TERROR (filmed as THE INCREDIBLE INVASION, Invasión siniestra)

CULT OF THE DEAD (edited version of ISLE OF THE SNAKE PEOPLE, La muerte vivente)


The discs seem to be sourced from the old MPI videos, with the same video generated titles (©1987 by the Parasol Group). The prints of the four movies are a bit dark and sometimes the color is a bit off.  The copy  of TORTURE ZONE seemed in the worst condition, with several visible splices.



It is a shame that they did not seek out the Retromedia or Elite release of FEAR CHAMBER, as both of those are in the original aspect ratio with sharp picture and color quality, as well as extras such as an audio commentary by Jack Hill and a deleted scene.MPI’s TORTURE ZONE is an edited version of this film ,so all of the nudity Is eliminated .

Fear Chamber 14

Only TORTURE ZONE was set in present day, with the rest set at around the turn of the 20th Century. ALIEN TERROR was supposedly the last one filmed, and the only one NOT starring Julissa, giving actress German actress Christa Linder a chance.

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The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound for the films is clear with no noticeable loss in quality of dialogue or the sound effects.

There are no extras to the discs, but again, to get these four films together at such a low price, one should not expect any special edition treatment.

While we would all like to get the best possible and most complete versions, certain films have limited audiences and the profitability is to say the least, narrow.


One wonders, for example, if VCI had gone out of their way to get new prints, cleaned up and loaded with extras, would fans shell out $29.95 for each of these films?


DANCE OF DEATH -this film is perhaps the most traditional horror film, with obvious influences of the Roger Corman Poe films. The film even claims to be based upon a Poe story, though none that I am familiar with.hoise of evil                                                  original Spanish language credit


Wealthy toymaker Matthais Morteval (Karloff) summons his family to his mansion to discuss how his estate will be divided. Recent murders in the nearby hills has a macabre touch, wherein the victims have had their eyes removed makes Matthais suspect that a member of his family is the killer.


Karloff has an ancestral portrait that looks exactly like him (these old families have strong genes), and Karloff gets to play huge pipe organ. Matthais supposedly suffers a fatal heart attack half way into the film, and shortly thereafter, one by one his greedy relations die. Keeping with the Corman Poe- like feel, the film ends with a huge fire, as Matthais, obviously not dead, plays his final concerto as the walls burn around him. It is quite amazing that the octogenarian actor is working so close to such huge plumes of flames, controlled or not  .



Karloff perhaps passed away before being able to loop dialogue, or the final lines were an afterthought , but they are not his voice.

People who dismiss the Karloff Mexican quartet of films have obviously not seen them, as DANCE OF DEATH was quite entertaining.


TORTURE ZONE – (which in the original titles also claimed to be Poe inspired, though I would say more Lovecraft, like Karloff’s own DIE, MONSTER DIE! 1965 ,A.I.P. ). This one is a bit of a mess, no two ways about it. Psychedelic zooms & colors, and jump cut edits do not make this film any more interesting, and indeed, show how little sense the plot has.  A living rock is discovered within the depths of the earth. Scientist Karl Mantell (Karloff), who spends much of this film either sitting behind his office desk or behind a lab computer table, discovers that the creature feeds on the blood of young women, particularly those who are frightened. Naturally, our loveable scientist and his staff create a fear chamber to terrorize young women who come seeking employment. The rock (no, no that one) starts to grow tentacles, and only then does Mantell seek to stop it.


Mantell is supposed to be a kindly scientist, but his actions here are in opposition to that appearance. Still, at least, Karloff gets to survive to the end credits. The topless scenes that are edited out of this print were probably shot later, added to try and keep audience attention. Probably one of Karloff’s worst movies, though, as always, he is worth watching.                                                                              .firrreee

Karloff tries to blow up all prints of FEAR CHAMBER .


ALIEN TERROR– Another period piece, this one is another science fiction/horror hybrid. In an 1890s European country, Professor John Mayer (Karloff) is working on a new power source, when a lab accident sends a pulse off into space, attracting the attention of an alien spaceship passing by. The alien comes across a Jack the Ripper style killer and takes over his body. More killings continue as the alien tries to get to the professor’s invention and destroy it. Mayer uses his invention to defeat the killer, and later, when the alien hops into his niece, he uses the machine again to drive it from her. Mayer lets the machine destroy itself and, in the process, burns down his home.c3f80e4ebb33139abba0d67198ef960c


The final shot of the surviving cast members watching the house burn has an obvious Karloff stand in facing away from the camera with hair that looks like it was streaked with shoe polish.

A confusing picture, as if two different scripts were dropped into a blender, yet it held one’s interest and it tried to be original. As mentioned, this was Karloff’s last work in a motion picture.karloff_at_03_dvd

An alien Spaceship, lit and designed to look like a Dario Argento sequence !

snakepeopel mexi

CULT OF THE DEAD – On the island of Korbai, Carl Van Molder (Karloff) is a major plantation owner. A police captain comes to Korbai to try and bring order when it is discovered that voodoo is rampant. This is a much more entertaining film than Karloff’s earlier film VOODOO ISLAND (1957, U.A.), which was one of the only roles I felt the great actor seemed to walk through.


In this film, Karloff seems fully invested in the part and brings his great screen presence to each scene.  The voodoo scenes are well staged, though once again at the end of the film, a voice not Karloff’s is used for the line: “I’m dying! “followed by some sputtering coughs. The picture ends with a big explosion as the hero and heroine escape with their lives. This too was an entertaining piece of cinema fluff and does not deserve all the scorn heaped upon it.



To sum up, two of the films (DANCE OF DEATH and CULT OF THE DEAD) I would say are quite entertaining, a third (ALIEN TERROR) is just odd enough to hold your interest with a feeling of “WTF?” throughout and only one (TORTURE ZONE) is close to a complete disaster. Karloff is always giving his all in each work, and for that alone these are well worth seeing.



Are the prints the best? No.  However, unless some deep pocket cinema collector seeks out original negatives, gives them a 2 K scan and restores them, and licenses the Elite and Retromedia commentaries, this VCI set will be the best way of getting affordable copies of these final films by the Master of Horror, Boris Karloff.



Recommended for – Karloff completists. Fans of Mexican Horror. Cult films lovers.


-Kevin G Shinnick


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THE TERROR (1963) Blu Ray from Film Detective -review

THE TERROR (1963) Color. NTSC .79 min. $14.99 Blu Ray -Film Detective  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F5SXHSI/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_1/184-0196101-0815836?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_r=0Z1A4BV8BWV7VTMB1PEG&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_p=1944687762&pf_rd_i=B00NX19C2U

blu ray the terror
In 1959, Roger Corman and his brother Gene formed Filmgroup to make films that would give them a bigger cut of the profits of the films that they were making (Roger had formed Palo Alto Productions to produce his first films). They distributed a few of the films but decided they need Allied Artists and American International Pictures to get them a wider distribution in the long run. Finally, the Corman’s decided to fold Filmgroup. The Corman’s never bothered to copyright the films they made for and distributed by Filmgroup (they had bought some foreign adventure and fantasy films which they also distributed or represented under the banner), and so all of these titles have fallen into Public Domain status.
This is why films like QUEEN OF BLOOD (1966), THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960), and NIGHT TIDE (1961) have been widely distributed by many fly by night video distribution companies using prints of questionable sound and picture quality.


In this batch of P.D. films were also THE TERROR (1963). This one seemed to appear in a lot more of the bargain bins due to the fact that
a)-it had recognizable star names (Karloff, Nicholson)
b)- it was color.
The problem is a lot of these budget videos and later DVDs were from 16mm dupe prints, and were often splicy and muddy color and sound. Since it was so long available in this fashion, studios try and stay away from releasing better prints because they fear the average buyer is unaware of the differences in quality.

Therefore, it is a pleasure to say that FILM DETECTIVE has gone that extra step to find original 35mm elements to release a Blu Ray that makes the film look as if it was lensed recently.

Legend has it that as Corman was finishing his A.I.P. film THE RAVEN (1963) a few days ahead of schedule, the director realized he Still had Boris Karloff contractually signed for four more days to work, as well as having some impressive standing sets left over from previous films (kudos of the great Daniel Haller, Corman’s answer to Hammer’s brilliant set designer Bernard Robinson). He had writers Jack Hill and Leo Gordon cobble something together to utilize the star and the sets. Corman was known for shooting his films quickly, including THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) over two days and one night. He finished Karloff’s scenes in the required four days *

The film, (known during shooting as “Lady of The Shadows”) however, was not quite complete, and like a Frankenstein monster, it was patched together with new scenes over a 9-month period with various (uncredited) directors such as 26-year-old actor Jack Nicholson, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman and Francis Ford Coppola, and I am sure several others did pick up shots. **


The plot has Lt. Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson, who had played Peter Lorre’s nebbish son in THE RAVEN that same year) a soldier in Napoleon’s army who has been separated from his regiment (with Big Sur California substituting for undetermined Prussian territory.)



Exhausted and hungry, he is surprised to see a beautiful woman named Helene (Sandra Knight, Nicholson’s wife at the time). She shows him a source of fresh water then has him follow her. Suddenly she begins to walk as if in a trance into the ocean. Andre tries to rush in and save her when he is attacked by a falcon and sinks under the waves (Nicholson claimed that he nearly drowned filming this sequence).


He awakes in the home of Katrina (Dorothy Neumann) and her mute servant Gustav (Corman regular Jonathan Haze). When Andre inquires about the Helene, the old woman shows him her pet, the very bird that attacked him, also named Helene. Andre awakes at night and goes off looking for the girl, eventually finding her in the forest. Silently she leads him through the woods when suddenly Gustav appears, and says there is danger (a continuity error, as hadn’t we just been told he was mute?). Tossing a rock, he shows that the girl was leading him to a quicksand trap. Gustav, in a harsh whispery voice says that Helene is possessed but if the soldier wants to find her, to go to the castle of Baron Von Leppe and find Eric who knows the full story.

Andre confronts Katrina, who tries to stop him from going to the castle, then pleads that he not tell the Baron that he knows of her whereabouts.


He comes upon the castle (impressive matte paintings by Albert Whitlock, lifted from THE PIT & THE PENDULUM(A.I.P.,1961)) and he spies Helene in windows. Andre demands to be admitted “In The Name of the Government of France”. He is greeted by Baron Victor von Leppe (Boris Karloff) himself, who says that he was at his devotions and did not hear earlier.The Terror-Corman


Karloff is superb in his role, alternately haughty as well as subtly humorous. Considering that he didn’t have a full script makes his performance all the more impressive.


The Baron admits the soldier, noting that the name Duvalier was once of a noble house until the French Revolution. Andre admits his father was the Count Duvalier, until he lost his head (the film seems set in 1806, so his father was executed between 1793-94). He says that he saw the girl in one of the windows but the Baron says he is mistaken. He points out a painting of a young woman (by artist Bert Schoneberg) and the soldier says that it is a portrait of the woman whom he is seeking. The Baron asks him to observe the date of the painting, which is 1786. It is a portrait of the Baron’s late wife, Ilsa. The Baron says that the castle is unoccupied except for the Baron and his servant Stefan (the ever reliable Dick Miller, billed here as Richard and giving a subtler performance than usual) and that Andre is the first visitor to the castle since the turn of the century.

pitandpendulum04-Albert Whitlock

Duvalier wanders the castle grounds and cellars, finding the crypt of Ilsa, which has ominously had its cross removed from above the entrance. He is startled at one doorway by the appearance of Helene (or is it the spirit of Ilsa) who when he looks back has gone.


It seems Stefan followed Andre during his search and tells the Baron that the soldier may have heard things in the village. The Baron feels Andre must leave as soon as possible but under his own accord due to his rank and position. Stefan confronts Andre at the Baroness’ crypt, telling him that the Baron removed all religious articles when she died and that the crypt has been sealed for 20 years. He also tells him that the soldier’s horse has bolted and run away. Andre feels he is being lied to and asks who is Eric?

the-terror-mexican-lobby-card (1)

Dark secrets come out about who Eric is, and how the Baron’s wife died, plus a tale of revenge and the hidden tale of how  Katrina is involved. It all ends with gory murder (a character gets his eyes clawed out by the falcon in a for the time graphic fashion and falls to his death) and the castle falling into ruin (this time by flooding as a change of pace from the usual fire that ended Corman’s Poe films) and a character rotting away before our eyes (the putrefaction effect, uncredited seems similar to that of Vincent Price melting in the previous year’s TALES OF TERROR (A.I.P.,1962) makes me feel that it was by Lou LaCava).


The picture quality on this FILM DETECTIVE Blu Ray release is superb. The blues and reds in the Pathe color print are incredibly vibrant, shaming the current trend of shooting in drab metallic tones. This release truly shows off the superb cinematography of John M Nickolaus Jr and the uncredited Floyd Crosby. Wide shots and two are employed throughout, with close-ups used powerfully and sparingly. The clearer picture also clearly shows when stuntman Dennis Jakob, with dark hair, substituted for Karloff in the climatic flooding sequence. Still, the flooding sequence must have been a great strain on the 76-year-old star, who would later develop pneumonia filming in the cold sound stages of Italy for BLACK SABBATH(AIP,1964). Also, we can see near the end that Sandra Knight’s mid drift is blurred, due to the fact that she was pregnant during filming (giving birth to daughter Jennifer September 13,1963).


Harry Reif’s set decorations give the production a lot of value. The costumes by Marjorie Corso are simple but effective (especially nice is the uniform worn by Nicholson as well as the rich blue robe worn by Karloff). Kudos to editor Stuart O’Brien on assembling so many disparate scenes and making a somewhat cohesive whole. The mono sound is very good (though a bit low on certain dialogue sequences, easily corrected by adjusting the volume). The score by Ronald Stein (with some additional bits by Lex Baxter) is lush and effective. All of these technicians and artists make THE TERROR look a lot more lavish and expensive than it is. Subtitles for the dialogue are excellent.


The only quibble I have is that I wish that they had gotten someone like David J Skal or Tim Lucas to do an audio commentary for the film. One of the things that DVDs and Blu Rays offer that streaming does not allow are extras like that, and companies should use that for their advantage.


IMDB lists a running time of 81 minutes, though this disc runs 79 minutes 14 seconds. I see nothing that would be cut nor any time compression. During the film’s original U.K. release, the bloody eye scene was trimmed, but this print seems to be complete.

All in all, Film Detective is to be commended for the loving care with which they have restored this film.


-Kevin G Shinnick


*-Karloff’s salary included a $15,000 deferred payment that he would receive once the movie made over a certain amount. In May 1966, Corman told the Horror Icon that THE TERROR never hit the profit threshold, and so the star would not be getting any money. However, he said he WOULD pay the actor the $15,000 if he worked a few days on another project. The star agreed (today there would have been lawsuits galore) to the undetermined future film. Luckily, it turned out to be TARGETS (Paramount,1968), Peter Bogdanovich’s first full feature debut. The film made extensive use of clips from THE TERROR.

Other films have used clips from the film, including CAMPFIRE TALES (Sub Rosa,1991), AVENGED (Uncork’d ,2014), and TRANSYLVANIA TWIST (Concorde ,1989). In the latter film, a sort of AIRPLANE! (Paramount,1980) for horror fans, Dexter Ward (Steve Altman), enters a room and encounters Karloff courtesy of footage from THE TERROR. This is a doubly clever idea, considering the piecemeal way that the Corman film was made.

**- Corman tried to regain copyright on the film in 1990 for release through his New

Horizon -Concorde company. To do this, he rehired Dick Miller 27 years later to film new footage for the beginning and the end of the film as a framing device. Miller claimed that the payment for these scenes was the most he ever got from Roger Corman! Sadly,I have been unable to find this version on VHS or DVD. thehaunting 1963 corman

(In the U.K.,the film was also known as THE HAUNTING . Confusing to say the least ,as there was also the THE HAUNTING (MGM ,1963) .

1930S, book, british, Classic Hollywood, cult, dvd, fantasy, Horror, Karloff, obscure, rare, review, SCIENCE FICTION, SILENTS, t.v., tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, Western

Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2: The 30s

Front Cover only-1Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2: The 30s by Wayne Kinsey .
256 pages. Limited run 500 copies . ORDER NOW Only £32 + p&p

Following is one person’s take on The Good, The Bad and, uh, The Neutral of Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2: The 30s by Wayne Kinsey.

First comes a mainly here-nor-there random observation. Readers of Volume I will feel comfortable with the first portion of Volume II. The early 30s are full of films that redid characters and themes from the silent era. To wit, right off the bat we have Alraune (1930), The Bat Whispers (1930), The Cat Creeps (1930) and The Gorilla (1930) not to mention a couple of Fu Manchu movies, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Dracula (US and Spanish versions from 1931 and both essentially Nosferatu redone) and, of course, Frankenstein (1931).


Actually, rather than log that item as a neutral, maybe it should be entered slightly to the Credit Side of the Ledger insofar as the reader can pick out trends like this; these volumes are well organized.

That leads us to the rest of the “Good” of Volume II. A genre fan can certainly learn a lot from it. For instance, I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of the all-but-lost Gorilla film called Ingagi (1931 and one of the few early 30s pictures not redoing material) and read the full page write-up eagerly. A number of pages later is a fine ½ page bio of Gorilla impersonator extraordinaire Charles Gemora (yes, he played in Ingagi) which was equally illuminating. The author has definite a knack for giving appropriate coverage; the more key the topic or individual, the more words are spent. Boredom is minimized.

Some other items among many that rate as personal highlights: the coverage of production starts and stops of The Invisible Man (1933), The “Did you know?” tidbits of The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), the lowdown on changing censor ship guidelines in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 30s, the recycled props of the Flash Gordon serial and on and on.

Another aspect that I enjoyed is that if the film under discussion was an adaption of a book or play or was later done in film and other media, it’s noted.

Like the previous Volume, this one is generously illustrated with some fine color.



Now, on to the “not so good”. When I think of the term “fantastic” in regards to moving pictures, I think of three sub-genres: Horror, Sci Fi and Fantasy. Despite the fact that the 30s experienced a famed cycle of horror films, Volume II seems even more unbalanced in its coverage than Volume I when it comes to the non-horror entries.


As a glaring example, I – as a sci fi geek – was left wondering after reading Volume I whether the well-known futuristic 1929 film High Treason might be covered in Volume II (since it was both a sound and silent film). It was not and even director Maurice Elvey’s Volume II mini-biography compounded the oversight with “Despite his long CV, his genre films were few; The Lodger [1932] and The Clairvoyant (1934)”. It seems that if “Gold” is of the “Haunted” variety as in Haunted Gold (1932) coverage is warranted but the well-known dual-language science fiction based Gold (1934) with Genre Queen Brigitte Helm is neglected. A quick glance at a recent Sinister Cinema Catalog in the “Science Fiction and Fantasy” section indicates other obvious omissions: La Fin Du monde / The End of the World (1931), F.P. 1 Doesn’t Answer (1931 in French, German and English), Der Herr der Welt a.k.a. The Master of the World (1934) featuring an enormous electric robot, yet another Maurice Elvey (!) s.f. work called Transatlantic Tunnel (1935) and its earlier German parallel Der Tunnel (1933), Gibel Sensatsii a.k.a. The Robots of Ripley (1935) and Bílá nemoc a.k.a. The White Plague (1937 based on famed a work by S.F. author Karel Capek). That’s quite a lot of heavy hitters to be excluded. Perhaps if the basically superfluous 10 full pages devoted to News Headlines of the Year had been jettisoned, room for these items may have been available.

Section-7-6-640x480 (1)

When someone has a passion and possesses an affinity for a topic, it’s always refreshing. It seems clear that the author possesses same toward the horror genre but it seems equally clear that his interest in the other genres is only in passing. Whether this book is right for you depends on where your interests lie as well.

Fantastic Films of the Decades – Volume 2 is limited to only 500 copies and only available direct from http://www.peverilpublishing.co.uk

Front Cover only-1

Blu Ray, BOOK REVIEW, Classic Hollywood, dvd, fantasy, FILM NOIR, Hammer Films, Horror, Karloff, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, Western

Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion


CULT CINEMA: AN ARROW VIDEO COMPANION – (published by ARROW FILMS,www.arrowfilms.co.uk) 246 pgs. Limited Edition $69.95 Available U.K. at http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/cultcinemabook/ and  in the U.S.   http://mvdshop.com/products/cult-cinema-an-arrow-video-companion-limited-edition-hardback-book-book

An interesting book that has various well respected authors commenting on and
expounding on the virtues of many of the films that were released by UK
Video distributor ARROW VIDEO. As the intro tells us, ARROW FILMS has been the
Leading distributor of Blu Ray and DVD releases of cult movies.

With an introduction by filmmaker Ben Wheatley (the intriguing A FIELD IN ENGLAND (2013), who has also added some thoughtful commentaries on several Arrow Video releases) the book gathers 25 well respected authors covering various topics near and dear to their hearts.

ben wheatley

My personal favorite is David De Valles’s tribute to Vincent Price, Paul Corupe on Canuxploitation (Canadian horror), and Tim Lucas wonderful piece on the 1961 classic THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, though I eagerly devoured the other pieces throughout the book.

Original artwork by The Twins of Evil (artists Luke Insect and Kenn Goodall), Graham Humphreys, and others as well as superb posters and production stills make this a thoughtful collection for the cult cinema. While there is the most emphasis on horror, spaghetti westerns, Italian porn (a la Tinto Brass), Asian Cinema, and the Video Nasties controversy also are covered in an intelligent and interesting fashion.

Ligeia_packshot_599.jpg by the twins of evll

I had for years heard of the quality of Arrow Films, but had not had an opportunity to see any of their releases until their recent wonderful AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT Vol 1 (currently available in a limited edition from MVD in the U. S). That one release showed me that this was a company who went the extra mile and then some in their product. This book continues the high quality and attention to detail that the company gives to projects that major studios have little time for.

I recommend this book as indeed a companion for these films (all released by the studio in the U.K.) or just for some wonderful writing on the cult cinema.


Kevin G Shinnick
Scarlet The Film Mag

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Boris “Frankenstein” Karloff lives on in KARLOFF The Play!

1-KARLOFF The Play(click image to visit the KARLOFF The Play website)

By Randy Bowser – author of KARLOFF The Authorized Play

As a young “tween” I wasn’t allowed to go to scary movies, watch scary TV shows, or buy any but “funny animal” comic books. Curious and inventive kid that I was, I discovered that late at night, without rousing my slumbering parents, I could verrrrrry quietly sneak down to the living room, keep all the lights off, turn on the TV with the sound down to an almost inaudible level, and watch the well-worn, scratched and crackling 16mm prints of ancient and forbidden horror movies our local station played before signing off. The hypnotically humming cathode-ray tube of our bulky TV console would bathe me in magical, blue, spasmodically flickering light as I sat inches from the screen and drank in the awe and mystery of intense, scenery chewing actors such as Lugosi, Lorre, Chaney Jr. and – KARLOFF!



My lifelong admiration for Boris Karloff which began during my youthful adventures in surreptitious late-night TV viewing, inspired the most rewarding project of my life – the production of a “one-person-play” endorsed by the star’s only child, Sara Karloff, and simply titled, “KARLOFF.”

3-Poster for KARLOFF
(poster for the premiere of KARLOFF)


By the time I’d hit on the idea of writing a biographical play about Karloff, I had long been involved in theatre as an actor, director, musician and designer. Years earlier, my introverted teenage self had discovered a strong affinity for the stage, and for many years my involvement in play productions had provided most of my life’s highlights.

Like everyone who has ever acted, I’ve had acting heroes providing powerful inspiration – Olivier, Barrymore, Anthony Perkins– but Boris has always had a special niche in that pantheon of greats. I had always felt there was something deep and maybe even tragic in the persona of Karloff that always glimmered through the heavy layers of makeup. Karloff is an acting hero because he is one of those rare performers who consistently transcend their roles and reach audiences with an honest display of humanity that remains hidden in lesser performers. That’s the man I wanted to re-discover and explore in a stage play.

4-Boris by Yousuf Karsh
(One of the best portraits of Boris – by Yousuf Karsh)

Ideas are cheap. Following through on them is the tricky bit. But I was determined to make the idea of a Karloff play come to life, rather like Karloff himself who brought a certain monster to life back in Hollywood’s Golden Age. I was determined to learn more about him, and also hoped to get the blessing of Sara Karloff who runs Karloff Enterprises. I knew Sara controls the likeness rights to her father, but didn’t know if she also controls her father’s life story rights. If she did, there was a possibility I wouldn’t be able to afford to go ahead with the project.

Sara Karloff

Sara Karloff

Sara Karloff turned out to be extremely welcoming of my idea, placed no obstacles in my way, and even provided me with a starting point. There were two books she requested I make my primary sources: “Dear Boris” by longtime Karloff family friend Cynthia Lindsay, and the most recent and complete (encyclopedic!) biography, “Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster” by Stephen Jacobs.
6-More Than a Monster
(click image for the book’s website)

I devoured many books and articles during the research period of the project, but Sara had certainly steered me in the best direction of what bios to focus on. Lindsay’s book is a Valentine to her dear friend, Boris, and her central theme of what a kind, personable and well loved man Karloff was became the guiding light for the whole project. For sheer mass of detail and documentation, Jacobs’ book will forever remain the definitive reference book for Karloff’s remarkable life. The majority of the play’s scenes and anecdotes spring from the pages of “More Than a Monster.”

Something else extremely helpful: Sara put me in touch with author Stephen Jacobs, and his immediate response to the idea was as enthusiastic as hers. He became so critical to the development of KARLOFF that I consider him the script’s dramaturg. He lived through many drafts with me, giving me consistently helpful feedback.

Since the time the script was completed, Stephen Jacobs and Sara Karloff both have remained its most enthusiastic fans and supporters.

7-Collage from KARLOFF

(Boris in a “Lights Out” radio drama in KARLOFF – photos by Steve Anchell)

FIRST DRAFT: Months of research left me buried in hundreds of pages of notes. When I caught my breath, I worked my way through a first draft, using as many accumulated anecdotes and quotes as possible. After a couple months of non-stop work, I was excited to write “Finis” on the last page of the draft. When the buzz of accomplishment wore off, I sat down to take a critical look at the script and was instantly slammed with reality: The thing would have taken four hours to perform on stage! Worse – it was too literal, dry, and came across as more of a lecture about Karloff rather than any kind of viable theatre piece.

Gloom. I had become more of a Karloff Fan Boy than ever, but had only the barest suggestion of a stage play to show for my months of work.

TWENTY DRAFTS LATER: After a period of recuperation, I managed to take off my Karloff fan hat and pick up my playwright hat. I started whacking away at the material, determined to shape it into an Entertainment. The goal of writing a script is to entertain, to transport – and if the possibility of enlightening an audience also emerges, all the better. Draft after draft, my Editor’s hat kept me ruthlessly re-shaping the material. Stephen Jacobs started reading drafts once I felt I was getting closer to something actually stage-worthy. Utilizing Stephen’s feedback, and listening to recordings of myself reading the script, a more dynamic structure started revealing itself. New winds of inspiration carried me along until I finally had something I could go into rehearsals with.

8-The Skylight

(Karloff relives the scene from “Frankenstein” when The Creature sees light for the first time – photo by Steve Anchell )

What had emerged was a story about self realization. A story about the indomitable human spirit. Karloff’s life had emerged in a non-linearly presented series of vignettes. The story is of a very determined man who overcame physical and cultural handicaps to become an unlikely success in his chosen field of acting, by making the most out of an equally unlikely opportunity when he was cast in the role of a monster.

The central metaphor of the play: The Frankenstein Monster trying to grasp light when he first sees it, representing Boris, and all of us bumbling creatures, trying to reach and understand more than we’re capable of comprehending.

The script for a stage play is only theoretical. A show doesn’t truly exist until it’s up on a stage in front of an audience. But it’s a big handicap when a new play is debuted outside of the major entertainment centers of New York or Los Angeles. I live in Salem, Oregon, where there’s been only one local theatre group over the last 60+ years, and that group sticks to doing and re-doing the same sure-fire Broadway hits that most community theatres rely on. But this is where I live, and Salem was the only option open to me as a venue for KARLOFF‘s premiere. I was determined to make the most of a less-than-ideal situation and get a debut production of the show up in front of an audience here in sleepy and not-so-big Salem.

I cast a well-known local actor who had the maturity and gravitas for playing Boris, and rehearsed with him over the course of four months. While we worked, the other elements were coming together. I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise most of the production money. I secured a theatre to rent, a tech crew, performance dates were set – it was all coming together.

DISASTER STRUCK: After those four months of hard work, my actor had to drop out due to health reasons. The poor guy’s back was in horrible shape, and he couldn’t do much of the staging the show called for. I reluctantly let him bow out, but it was too late to cancel or postpone the show. Somehow, the show, as the saying goes, had to go on!

And the show did go on. I stepped into the role. I threw caution to the wind, relying on my many years of acting experience to get me through the ominous task ahead, starting with memorizing the 2 hour monologue which KARLOFF is.

I may have written the script, but that’s not the same as memorizing it, and developing a performance!

9-Randy Bowser as Boris Karloff

(Boris tells the audience a story in KARLOFF – photo by Steve Anchell)

It had been tempting to cast myself in the first place, but tough director that I am, I felt I wasn’t especially ideal casting for the role. I’m a tenor, while one of Karloff’s most distinctive traits is his rich baritone voice. Boris was never beefy, but he was always strong, and his physical prowess was always apparent throughout most of his career. I, on the other hand, am slightly built, and my face looks nothing like Boris either. I knew that if the show was being done professionally and I tried out for it, I wouldn’t make the first call back.

All of those reservations had to be cast aside. I had to throw myself into the role and do my utmost, letting the chips fall where they may.

Who’s kidding who though? It was a thrill to portray this one-of-a-kind actor I’ve admired all my life.

10-Wheelchair-bound Boris

  (Boris begrudgingly adapts to a wheelchair in KARLOFF– photo by Allied Video)
I am happy to report that those who attended the show’s premiere run or have seen the show’s video say they really enjoyed my performance, and tell me I captured the essence of the man. I apparently did justice to my material. BUT I do look forward to new productions with actors more closely suited for playing The King of Horror.

11-Boris serenades the KARLOFF audience
(KARLOFF’s singing curtain call)
Sara Karloff was so supportive of the project, she flew up from California to see both performances on opening weekend. For obvious reasons, the wonderful praises she heaped on the show are the most treasured pieces of feedback I’ve gotten about KARLOFF. One of her immediate responses was to say “It’s superb!” At the Q&A session with the audience after the show, she choked me up when she said, “You nailed my father.”

12-Sara Karloff and Randy Bowser

  (Sara Karloff and playwright Randy Bowser in a post-performance Q&A -photos by Steve Anchell) 
The day after opening night, Sara and I were interviewed on camera and the 6 part video is up at YouTube. Sara talks about the show and also shares great anecdotes about her father. Here’s the link to Part One, and from there it’s easy to use the menu and see the rest of the segments: 

SARA KARLOFF interviewed about KARLOFF The Play

Derek M. Koch won the coveted Rondo Hatton Award in 2015 for his great horror-oriented blog, “Monster Kid Radio.”


(Derek M. Koch)

A few months before the play opened, Koch interviewed me about KARLOFF, and became so intrigued with the play’s concept, he came to see it twice, he loved it so much. One of his “Monster Kid Radio” entries is his rave review, coupled with the interview he conducted with Sara Karloff during her stay for the premiere.

Koch interviews Randy Bowser

Koch interviews Sara Karloff and reviews KARLOFF The Play

For a taste of what Sara, Derek and the premiere audiences saw, here’s the “Official Trailer.”

KARLOFF The Play on YouTube  

Now in the wake of that debut production, I know KARLOFF works. My time-hopping, multimedia dreamscape of a play has been embraced by audience members of all ages, some of whom were already Karloff fans, many who weren’t, but are now. The show is a goldmine waiting to be discovered by a professional producer who can bring it to larger audiences hither and yon.

That’s where I am now. I’m trying to bring the script to the attention of someone, or several someones who can take KARLOFF to the next level. It will happen, I would just prefer it to happen sooner or later!

14-Boris in KARLOFF The Play

          (A tense scene in KARLOFF )

The majority of contemporary “one-man-shows” are about the creators. Actors write autobiographical pieces and perform the scripts themselves. KARLOFF is in the mold of the more traditional shows about historical figures which are often written by playwrights, and then performed by others. Examples are “The Belle of Amherst” by William Luce, made famous by Julie Harris, and “Paul Robeson” by Philip Hayes Dean which James Earl Jones performed many times.

It continues to be a point of some confusion that KARLOFF wasn’t written as a vehicle for myself. I get inquiries from people asking when I’ll be bringing the show to their area. The answer is that I have no plans for doing that. It’s my script which I’m promoting. That text is a separate entity from the debut production. I needed to get the show up on the boards and out there into reality, and so produced the initial production with me in it, but now it’s time for a name actor (or two – or three!) to assay the role of Boris in professional productions. That is what I’m now working toward. Show business is a tough nut to crack though. It’s almost impossible to land the script on the desks of producers – But I’ll keep trying!

As of this writing, there is one new production of KARLOFF coming up for Halloween, 2016. Pandaemonium Shadow Shows will present one of Arizona’s finest actors, Charles Prokopp, in a production at the Cabaret Stage in Tucson, AZ’s premiere performance space, The Temple of Music and Art.

15-Charles Prokopp will be KARLOFF
  (Charles Prokopp will be KARLOFF – Halloween, 2016, Tucson, AZ )
One way to help me promote the script is to “Like” the show’s Facebook page:

KARLOFF The Play on Facebook  

“…I’m a Karloff fan who attended one of the opening shows in Salem. Both the play and Randy’s performance were excellent. I found “Karloff” to be entertaining, humorous, and also incredibly moving…” audience member Laura Waters

“…KARLOFF is the perfect mixture of history, humor and imagination. Karloff comes alive as the play moves through a life time of memories…” audience member Cynthia Sloane

16-Mord enjoying KARLOFF The Play

This image from “Karloff The Play” on Facebook proves that even Boris enjoyed reading the play!

The show’s website has more photos, interviews, reviews, videos, and info about licensing productions:

     KARLOFF The Play          

17-Boris and The Blitz

(In KARLOFF, Boris contemplates the fate of his beloved London at the height of the WWII blitz )

I want to thank Kevin G Shinnick for giving me this opportunity to let the readers of Scarlet The Film Magazine know about the show.

I welcome hearing from any and all who have an interest in Boris Karloff and this one-of-a-kind show, KARLOFF. Inquiries and other correspondence about KARLOFF may be directed to:



Long live Karloff the King!

Randy Bowser – author of “KARLOFF”

Below: Boris in two of his stage triumphs, “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “Peter Pan.”

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