The Walking Dead, Directed by Michael Curtiz, 1936
Synopsis: A career criminal (Boris Karloff) is brought back from the dead via experimental science after being unjustly executed for a crime he didn't commit.
My Thoughts: This is an odd little movie, well-directed by Curtiz, but a definite case of typecasting for its star, Boris Karloff. It's sort of an early example of a genre mash-up, taking the tropes of the gangster film and blending them with some of the motifs from Frankenstein. It works (thanks to Curtiz), but it's overall unoriginality has probably kept it from becoming a bonafide classic. There's a dark morality at work that probably helped to inspire many an EC Comic a few years later.
Karloff gets good mileage from his role, playing John Ellman as a sympathetic thug while living, then as a hollow, creepy, seemingly soulless killing machine, post-resurrection.
Recommended If You Like: The Crow, Val Lewton films, Frankenstein, The Ghoul, EC Comics
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Frankenstein 1970, Directed by Howard W. Koch, 1958
Synopsis: A film crew decides to film in Frankenstein's castle to add authenticity to their monster movie, but interferes with the plans of the original Frankenstein's great-great-grandson (Karloff).
My Thoughts: This is an unapologetic, tongue-in-cheek B-movie all the way. I'm not sure why it's set in the "future" of 1970, as it never effects the plot in any way whatsoever (and no effort is made to make the story futuristic). While it's not a bad movie, there's really nothing going for it that hasn't been done to death in numerous Frankenstein flicks.
Karloff is hammy, but seems to be having fun with the role. I liked the fact that for some reason, Frankenstein was creating a monster that looked like a slightly younger version of himself (I'm talking maybe a five year difference, if that), instead of a much more youthful version. The monster in this is pretty ridiculous -- a giant bandaged-wrapped fiend with a huge boxy head, complete with eye-holes. Not very scary.
Recommended If You Like: The Return of Dracula, House of Frankenstein
The Strange Door, Directed by Joseph Pevney, 1951
Synopsis: A young drifter is drawn, against his will, into a complex plan of revenge from a spoiled nobleman to his imprisoned brother.
My Thoughts: Charles Laughton is amazing as the main baddie, Sire Alain de Malatroit, a repugnant, hateful brat of a man. His line deliveries are this movie's saving grace, turning a standard gothic thriller into something special. Karloff is dependable, but isn't given much to do as the sympathetic, dim-witted keeper of Malatroit's private dungeons.
The movie isn't quite horror, and actually comes pretty close to feeling a little bit like an adventure film at times.
Recommended If You Like: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Corman's Poe films