Monster Mash

Monster Mash

A Story by Dr. Tim Williams

The life and times of Boris Karloff

"Once upon a time a midnight dreary I ponder weak and weary" just like the macabre writings of Edger Allen Poe. It kinda reminds me of those monster movies we used to watch when we were kids. You know the Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi flicks that always came on TV mostly on Saturday nights when television was so young. Whether it was Frankenstein or Dracula and others we were all entertained. In more than one instance as kids we tried to make a real life monster, just like the Frankenstein movie we watched that previous Saturday. We literally turned our parents garages into "Laboratories." On so many occasions the Saturday night monster movies were showcased by Soupy Sales who hosted Shock Theater. As kids we begged our parents or did anything just so they would let us stay up to that ungodly hour of 10 o'clock when Shock Theater came on. Huddled under blankets ever so near to those small TV screens we were glued to the tube as they say until the very last.
It was Boris Karloff''s Frankenstein that scared us the most. From the moment Dr. Frankenstein yelled "It's Alive" sent shivers down our spines. Even after over 50 years all those movies still come back and conjure memories of wonderful days and nites of a youth filled with imagination. When you look back to those monster movies and compare them, to well, I don't think we can call it a comparison. Mainly because those movies were made without the sadistic violence that is associated with the horror movies of today. Those cult classics used shadows, illusions and let peoples imagination do the rest in order to grasp the setting and tone of all those monster movies of years ago.
Boris Karloff went on to star in many more films but will be forever linked to the most famous role of the Frankenstein monster. Arguably, he was Hollywood's most celebrated and enduring screen horror icon. Boris Karloff embodied legendary movie monsters and madmen in such films as "Frankenstein" (1931), "The Mummy" (1931), "The Mask of Fu Manchu" (1932), "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), "Isle of the Dead" (1945) and "The Body Snatcher" (1945) over the course of a four-decade career. He began as an obscure background player in silent films of the 1920's, that is until 1931, when his sympathetic portrayal as the Monster in "Frankenstein" made him an international star.
For the next two decades, Karloff was the undisputed king of movie horror, while cultivating a lively presence in more dramatic and even comic fare on television and stage. He remained exceptionally popular well intil his eighties. Even then he attracted a whole new generation of young viewers, who were entranced by his avuncular narration for "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas!" . A beloved figure both on and off-screen, Karloff's performances were both chilling and charming. He still remains the gold standard by which all subsequent horror actors are measured. Born William Henry Pratt on Nov. 23, 1887 in the London district of East Dulwich, England, Boris Karloff was the youngest of nine children. He was the only one to venture into acting.
When young Boris in 1909 came to North America it was in Canada that he honed his craft in between all those manual labor jobs that literally almost crippled him. Once arriving in Hollywood Boris earned most of his money as a truck driver in between small parts in silent films. His big break came when he was picked for the Monster role in Frankenstein. Originally that part was going to be played by non other than Bela Lugosi. The film catapulted Boris Karloff to international fame. They say that the rest is history. That is so true especially in Boris Karloff's case. One of the original founding members of the Screen Actors Guild Boris Karloff enjoyed a career that spanned decades.
Some of his most memorable quotes still resonate a man who has always been ever so humble in a career that was so remarkable and memorable. This is just one quote on whether he resented being typed cased as a "horror star that really shows the humility of the man.  "One always hears of actors complaining of being typed cased: if he's young, he's typed as a juvenile; if he's handsome, he's typed as a leading man. I was lucky. Whereas boot makers have to spend millions to establish a trademark, I was handed a trademark free of charge. When an actor gets in a position to select his own roles, he's in big trouble, for he never knows what he can do best. I'm sure I'd be damn good as little Lord Fauntleroy, but who would pay ten cents to see it?"
Boris Karloff's Frankenstein is the bench mark for all the other horror movies that followed. This movie secured Karloff's place in the history of film. No other actor since has left such an enduring mark not only in horror films but in the many other projects that show cased his most recognizable signature voice. The Monster Mash it really is a graveyard smash.  

© 2017 Dr. Tim Williams

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Added on October 19, 2017
Last Updated on October 19, 2017
Tags: film, horror movies, Boris Karloff


Dr. Tim Williams
Dr. Tim Williams

Tampa, FL

A feature writer for the Tampa Bay Examiner. Founded the Department of Economic Development for the cities of Salem and Brockton, Mass. more..