Interview on actor Boris Karloff with daughter Sarah Karloff

“Sure, I remember Boris Karloff. He was the monster in Frankenstein.”Well, yes, but what about Scarface, one of the finest gangster films ever made, directed by Howard Hawks … and The Old Dark House, the granddaddy of all haunted house thrillers, directed by James Whale … and The Lost Patrol, the template for all the lost patrol films which followed, directed by John Ford? Not bad, not bad at all.“Boris Karloff, he was in that horror flick, Frankenstein, right?”For sure, for sure. But if it’s Karloff and horror, let’s not stop there. How about 1934’s The Black Cat, a wicked little gem which teamed Karloff and Bela Lugosi for the first time? Or 1935’s The Black Room, another nasty gem in which Karloff plays twins, one good and the other evil (and is he ever!)? Or The Raven, from 1935? Another Karloff/Lugosi delicious little horror thriller. These three solid thrillers work surprisingly well even today, 70 plus years after their releases.“Boris Karloff, Boris Karloff? Wasn’t he in Frankenstein? Played the monster, I think.”Certainly did, more than once. In addition to Frankenstein, he also played the monster in both Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) and Son Of Frankenstein (1939). In fact, there are those who say that his performance as the monster in Bride is the best of his career.“I know who Boris Karloff was, he had the screws in his forehead, in that monster flick, Frankenstein.”Sure did. But the screws were inside his head – and definitely not screwed too tight – in such enduring dark horror classics as The Body Snatcher ('45), Isle Of The Dead ('45) and Bedlam ('46). All three are Val Lewton productions, and each serves as a solid example of Lewton’s estimable work.“Karloff, he was always the same, wasn’t he? The Frankenstein monster.”Don’t tell that to Danny Kaye, who played opposite Karloff in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty; nor to Gary Cooper, who played opposite Karloff in DeMille’s Unconquered, both in 1947. Not a monster in sight, just a very, very fine actor named Boris Karloff.Or tell that to Broadway theatergoers, who caught Karloff in Arsenic And Old Lace and Peter Pan opposite Mary Martin and The Lark opposite Julie Harris.Or mention it to television viewers who caught Karloff’s Uncle Vanya on Masterpiece Playhouse, or his title role in Don Quixote or his King Arthur in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court or his turn as Father Knickerbocker in The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. “Karloff, Karloff? Why do I know the name. …? Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, he was the monster in all those Frankenstein movies.”Which Peter Bogdanovich used to great advantage in his first film, the wonderful Targets ('68). But Bogdanovich uses this as a mere springboard in this tight little thriller. Karloff plays a man not unlike himself, with his own film image as one of the film’s ironic driving points.This Sunday night, at 8 pm ET, Sarah Karloff, daughter of Boris Karloff, discusses her father’s fascinating career on ICONS Radio Hour. Ms. Karloff offers first-hand anecdotes about her father’s approach to acting and, especially revealing, his feelings about his career in horror films
- John Mulholland, ICONS Radio Hour Host