The Haunted Strangler (1958)

After watching Fiend Without a Face last night, it made sense to follow it with the film that joined it on its original double bill release in 1958… although Criterion have paired it with the film that I presume it travelled to America with, so we’ll be looking at that next. In the meantime, at least this film had one recognised star, that being Boris Karloff, even if, admittedly, his star was less luminous than it had once been; although I’m definitely on old Bill’s side when it comes to the Lugosi-vs-Karloff debate, it has to be admitted that his career was as full of slop as Bela’s (albeit not so unfortunate as to contain Ed Wood productions). This, to be sure, is even less of an A-grade masterpiece than Fiend Without a Face and even more of a penny-dreadful; Karloff plays Rankin, an author in 19th century London who takes an interest in a series of murders committed some 20 years earlier, and becomes convinced that the man executed for them wasn’t the actual killer. When his investigations lead him to unmask the real killer, the latter’s identity doesn’t exactly come as a surprise somehow. Markedly tamer than Fiend (no bloody brains in this one!), Karloff himself is really the main reason to watch the film, and an excellent reason he is… indeed, this shows why he was probably always destined to go further than Lugosi, cos he really sells the material, there’s no sign that he felt the material was beneath him or anything. and he manages to draw some actual pathos out of this refried Jekyll & Hyde business. Not a particularly good film, but made perfectly watchable by its star, and I did rather like the way that, after Rankin discovers his own culpability, the other characters don’t believe him…

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