15 July 2024

The Monster was born William Henry Pratt in 1887 in Dulwich, England. Son of an Indian Civil Service diplomat, Karloff studied for Consular Service but the dark winds blew...he was meant for something else.

He traveled to Canada in his early twenties and began working on the stage; his first film appearance was in 1916's The Dumb Girl of Portici.

The period from 1919 to 1931 saw Karloff's resume fleshed out. He worked in a variety of films including The Last of the Mohicans (1920), The Prisoner (1923) and The Sea Bat. All told, by 1931 Karloff had appeared in over seventy-five films.

To that point, everything had been a prologue. Then came Frankenstein. Preferring Karloff over Bela Lugosi for the role of The Monster, director James Whale cast the forty-four year old Boris as the infamous creation of Dr. Frankenstein; soon, one of THE seminal horror monsters was born.

But guided by Karloff's steady hand, this monster was different, graced by a tenderness and fragile respect for beauty. The vulnerable Monster destroys - but only when there is no other choice.

Karloff's horror trajectory was truly born with Frankenstein and the following year saw him in The Old Dark House (also directed by Whale) and The Mask of Fu Manchu. Yet another iconic image was created, as Karloff donned the bandages in 1932's The Mummy.

The remainder of the '30s saw Karloff appear in two Frankenstein sequels, 1935's classic The Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein (1939), in addition to The Raven (1935), The Ghoul (1933) and The Black Cat (1935) .

Karloff continued to act throughout the '40s and '50s, including 1944's House of Frankenstein (in which he did not play the Monster). He worked with Roger Corman in the '60s, appearing in The Raven and The Terror.

Director Peter Bogdanovich gifted Karloff with a juicy and poignant role in the excellent Targets (1968). It was to be one of the actor's final credits and a fitting swan song to a long and successful career.

Upon his death in 1969, Boris Karloff's movies boasted an immense legacy of classic horror performances. Were he to have graced us with his definitive portrayal of Mary Shelley's creature alone, we would have been happy. All else is simply spare parts.

Bedlam 1946
The Black Cat 1934
The Black Room 1935
Black Sabbath 1963
Bride of Frankenstein 1935
Die, Monster, Die! 1965
Frankenstein 1931
The Ghoul 1933
The Mummy 1932
The Raven 1935
Son of Frankenstein 1939
Targets 1968
The Terror 1963
The Tower of London 1939
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