Review by Dan Skip Allen
Universal Pictures has had its fair share of movie franchises over the years. The Fast and the Furious and Jurassic Park series are two of the most popular franchises in their history. But decades before these franchises came out, Universal was famous for its classic monsters such as Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and Gil-Man (The Creature From the Black Lagoon). But Frankenstein is considered their most popular monster, and one of the reasons why is Boris Karloff's performance.
Karloff's career is that of a varied actor with many ups and downs in it. The ups of course are the Frankenstein films and a few of the other horror films he's famous for such as The Black Cat and the narration of the animated classic The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. That said, he also did a lot of television work and a bunch of other campy low-rent horror films he had various smaller roles in.
Karloff had a very long career and many people in the business were inspired by him and his career as well as some of the weird and off-the-wall characters he portrayed. The film has some notable people such as Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), film critic Leonard Maltin, Joe Dante (The Howling), and John Landis (An American Werewolf in London). They were all waxing poetic about Karloff and his career.
Karloff had an interesting relationship with Bela Lugosi (Dracula) They were always going for the same types of roles. This made people believe they had a rivalry with one another. The thing is they worked together a few times and we're actually friends off-camera. This is one of those things that gets blown out of proportion over the years. The real feud Karloff had was with his Frankenstein director James Whale.
Some of their feud was depicted in the 1998 film Gods and Monsters, but this film really goes into more of the problems the two had with one another. Whale put Karloff through the wringer on Frankenstein films because of some comments he made about how Whale was on set. In one instance, Whale forced Karloff to carry a real man up a flight of steps many times, resulting in the beginning of Karloff's chronic back problems.
His back issues would lead to the end of his career. He had to start wearing a brace on his leg as well. This hampered his career near the end. He was a constant professional, though. His personal life was a bit different, though having married five times, he could hardly make a woman happy because of his constant work ethic. He did have one daughter though, Sara Karloff, who takes care of her father's legacy.
Great docs have to bring the viewer into the life or subject they are depicting on screen. This one does just that. It talks about Karloff's career in-depth and the talking heads go into much more detail about this legendary actor. The filmmakers effectively depict this man and his storied career and all its ups and downs. I was very enthralled by so much of the detail the film goes into. This was a very fascinating look into this man's long life.
Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster hits theaters on September 17.