There’s a new documentary currently in the works about legendary actor Boris Karloff. Karloff happens to be one of my favorite actors of all time, so I couldn’t be more excited about a documentary like this getting made.
The film is titled Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster and it’s being developed by Voltage Films. The film follows the acclaimed 2010 biography “Boris Karloff: More Than A Monster,” written by Karloff’s official biographer Stephen Jacobs, who serves as the film’s historical consultant.
The movie is co-produced and co-written by Ron MacCloskey and Thomas Hamilton who is also directing. Tracy Jenkins is also a producer on the film, which offers “a fascinating portrait of Karloff, examining his illustrious 60-year career in the entertainment industry and his enduring legacy as one of the icons of 20th century popular culture.”
MacCloskey has been working on this project for 23 years, “traveling the world to conduct extensive research. Since 2018, the team has filmed 50 interviews in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and London. Contributors include Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Christopher Plummer, John Landis, Roger Corman and Kevin Brownlow.”
Hamilton explains, “Boris Karloff was the ultimate professional. He demonstrated incredible work ethic and gave everything to his roles. He brings humanity and vulnerability to all his performances, especially in his portrayal as Frankenstein’s monster. Karloff communicates a powerful sense of yearning in the creature, hoping for a gesture of human warmth from his creator, and he conveys its forlorn sense of confusion through his extraordinary eyes.”
While most people know Karloff as The Monster from Frankenstein, there are so many other roles in his career that deserve more praise. I hope that this documentary touches on those movies.
The doc is scheduled to be released in October 2021 to coincide with the 90th anniversary of Universal’s Frankenstein.
Here are some additional details on Karloff and his life:
Born William Henry Pratt in Camberwell, South London, Karloff came from a distinguished family of Anglo-Indian civil servants. He began his career in the film industry as a character actor in silent movies, making his screen debut in George B. Seitz’s action serial “The Lightning Raider” in 1918.
After appearing in 80 films, he was “discovered” at the age of 43 by the British director James Whale, who cast him as the monster in “Frankenstein” (1931), “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and “Son of Frankenstein” (1939).
He made his Broadway debut in 1941 as Jonathan Brewster in the black comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and performed the role on Broadway for the next three years, while retaining a share of the profits. Collaborating on three pictures with RKO producer Val Lewton, he carved out a niche in historical period dramas, excelling as the monster and madman in “The Body Snatcher” (1945), “Isle of The Dead” (1945) and “Bedlam” (1946).
Karloff won a Tony nomination in 1955 for his role on Broadway as Bishop Pierre Cauchon in Jean Anouilh’s “The Lark,” opposite Julie Harris as Joan of Arc. Moving to New York, he embraced the medium of ‘live’ television, starring as Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” opposite Roddy McDowell and as King Arthur in “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court.”
In later years, Karloff lent his voice to the role of the narrator and the Grinch in Chuck Jones’s animated CBS-TV special “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966), which won him the Grammy for Best Children’s recording. Karloff died in 1969 at the age of 81, but still captivated audiences with five posthumous screen appearances in “Fear Chamber” (1968), “House of Evil” (1968), “Cauldron of Blood” (1971), “The Invisible Invasion” (1971) and “Isle of The Snake People” (1971).
A founding member of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933, Karloff is also remembered for his strong commitment to protecting the rights of up-and-coming actors, who were afraid to speak out against the studio heads.
Ron MacCloskey said, “He cared so much about the working actor. He didn’t have to do it; he had fame and money and it posed a serious risk to his career, but he knew how bit-part actors were treated.”
While I’m happy to see this feature film documentary is getting made, you would need at least a 10-episode docuseries to cover the life of the insanely talented actor.