Boris Karloff

The Ape

In 1940 Monogram wanted a gorilla horror film. Screenwriter Curt Siodmak wanted a film where Boris Karloff tries to cure polio by murdering people for spinal fluid. Somehow these to wishes met in the final product. The result is not pretty, but The Ape nonetheless has an enduring charm. 3/10

The Devil Commands

The fourth and best of Columbia’s Karloff mad scientist films takes an eerie dip into Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Directed by later Oscar winner Edward Dmytryk, it unfortunately falls back on tired B-movie tropes, but it’s still a minor gem of forties science fiction. 7/10

Before I Hang

Nick Grinde’s third Karloff film for Columbia is yet a variety on the scientist on death row. This time K isn’t brought back from the dead, but instead invents a youth serum, which he injects himself with, before realising that mixing it with a hanged murderer’s blood wasn’t the best idea. A rushed effort, but it holds together. 4/10

The Man with Nine Lives

One of five films that Columbia made with Boris Karloff, more or less from one and the same script, this 1940 cryonics film is competently made and quite enjoyable. At least you’ll get a few chuckles out of the utterly silly science, like doctors reviving patients from cryostasis with pots of hot coffee. 5/10

Black Friday

Even if Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were the marquee names for this 1940 gangster/brain transplant mashup written by Curt Siodmak, it is unheralded actor Stanley Ridges who steals the show in his dual role as fussy professor and cold blooded mobster boss. 5/10

The Man They Could Not Hang

Boris Karloff shines as the lone star in his first of five mad scientist films for Columbia Pictures’ B-movie unit in 1939. Made on a shoestring budget, this medical sci-fi turned old dark house revenge thriller is entertaining but predictable. 5/10

Son of Frankenstein

Basil Rathbone is the son of Frankenstein who moves back to his father’s castle, only to find Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi hiding in the basement. The latter gives what is perhaps the performance of his lifetime in this visually stunning movie, which unfortunately treats Karloff’s classic monster with little respect. 7/10