I just celebrated my birthday on the 23rd of Nov and the grand event involved gathering with a group of friends at a bar, then going over to the Rainbow Cinema at Market Square (in Toronto) to catch the late show of CASINO ROYALE. The new Bond was a treat, more reminiscent of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE than any of the last installments. For more Bond-age, check out Poptique's BATTLE OF THE BONDALIKES (Part One, Part Two, Part Three and hopefully more in the future...).
As I got toasted and shared pints, people bring up the celebrities that I share birthdays with... Howie Mandel? I think not! I prefer to bask in the fact that I share my birthday with BORIS KARLOFF! Yup! One of the original big screen boogeymen! And I also share my birthday with his daughter Sara and my own sister's name is Sarah... coincidence? I think not! Lots of his works are finally getting decent DVD releases and for the diehard fan, how about an official life size wall mount? And no - that was not a hint of what to get me next year for my birthday.
The inspiration for this post came from stumbling across the Greenbriar Picture Shows blog, a look back at the "Great Days of Film Exhibition" where curator John McElwee has a two part posting on some of Karloff's films from the 30s and 40s including NIGHT KEY, THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG and ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. (Part One / Part Two).
Film Forum in NYC had a great retrospective including THE MASK OF MANCHU, THE RAVEN, THE GUILTY GENERATION (a prohibition-era Romeo and Juliet), THE LOST PATROL, THE HAUNTED of his work including THE HAUNTED STRANGLER, and of course, one of his best, the post modern take on his legacy, Peter Bogdanovich's TARGETS.
His last appearance in a major film, Karloff, plays an old horror film actor at the end of his career who must confront the new, late-1960s monster in the shape of a clean-cut, junior Republican multiple murderer. Although written and shot in 1967, it was released after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy and thus had some topical relevance to then-current events.
On a patriotic note, here is a tidbit of Canuck trivia - "Having married against his family's wishes, as well as incurred some additional disfavor for abandoning an appointment in government service, Karloff refused to use his family's prominence to secure work in Canada, then much under the influence of the Crown. To support himself, Karloff took work as a farm laborer in the province of Ontario, where he first attempted to realize his dream of becoming an actor."
Finally, here are two youtube treats - a 1960's TV commercial from the late 1960's with Karloff applying various torture techniques to his Ronson Comet lighter and Art Carney auditioning Karloff to take over the Chevy Show from Dinah Shore for the summer season, with his "Shiver Show."