Tag Archives: Boris Karloff

30 Days of Madness, Day 31 — Ranking the 30

by Tom Kapr

This has been an interesting month of film viewing, made far more enjoyable by the friends who voted on the movies I watched.

I’ve had dragons, witches, vampires, werewolves, Nazis, serial killers, beast people, alternate realities, zombies of every variety, at least two alien invasions, at least two foiled armageddons, about half a dozen mad scientists, at least half a dozen cases of possession, and at least half a dozen disembodied hands (seriously, did I watch a single movie this month where someone’s hand didn’t get proper mangled?); as well as killer ants, cars, cats, klowns, plants, goats, beavers, Drew Barrymores, and one really big octopus.

I’ve been including my Flickchart rankings with each film, so I thought as a wrap-up, it would be fitting to list again the 30 films I watched, in order of their placement on my chart. I’ve re-ranked each film to see if hindsight has had a significant change on their placement.

Here are the 30 films, by ascending rank, with a comparison to its original placement. I’m ending this month of October with 3275 titles ranked on my chart, which includes 32 more than I ended September with (I saw two new movies at the theater), so numerical rankings and percentages are always fluid.




Original rank: 3202 (2%)
Adjusted rank: 3166 (3%)

Zombeavers is now 1% less terrible.




Original rank: 3081 (5%)
Adjusted rank: 3081 (6%)

Interesting that Killer Klowns ended up at the same numerical rank but falls 1% relative to a list that is now 32 titles heavier.




Original rank: 2863 (12%)
Adjusted rank: 3036 (7%)

I actually expected this to come out higher than its original rank. Deathgasm was such a great movie for the first half. I tend to rank movies lower if they build me up only to knock me down so hard by the end.




Original rank: 3193 (2%)
Adjusted rank: 3019 (8%)

Which is probably how Q managed to rise above Deathgasm. No goodwill built up, so less disappointment at an ending that was just as bad as the rest of the film.




Original rank: 2612 (20%)
Adjusted rank: 2643 (19%)

Here, on the other hand, Firestarter is a slog for much of its running time only to suddenly race full speed ahead with a hell of an ending. Not enough to save it from dropping a bit, though. I covered two Stephen King adaptations this month. One was a good movie called Christine. The other was Firestarter.


ROAR (1981)


Original rank: 2634 (19%)
Adjusted rank: 2512 (23%)

I expected Roar to rise a bit, and won’t be surprised when it eventually breaks out of the bottom 25%. It might even breach the 2000 mark. I have a feeling the bizarre and singular nature of the film, coupled with the fact that it really is well shot, will cause it to appreciate over time.




Original rank: 1629 (50%)
Adjusted rank: 2049 (37%)

Prince of Darkness was my biggest disappointment based on expectations going in. Those expectations being that John Carpenter is a favorite director of mine, and this was made when he was in his prime (1978-1988). I didn’t expect it to drop quite so far on the re-rank though, and I am sure it will rise back up to around the middle of the list over time.




Original rank: 2553 (22%)
Adjusted rank: 1906 (42%)

Little Shop has one of the biggest leaps of all the films on the re-rank, a 20% jump, freeing it from the bottom quarter. I’m not totally surprised, as this one had already been slowly creeping up my chart.




Original rank: 2186 (33%)
Adjusted rank: 1706 (48%)

Blair Witch is another I expected to rise somewhat in the ranks, simply because I found it to be mediocre but not terrible. It definitely has some excellent sequences, and I suspect that if I watch it again on a small screen in a dark room, it will be more effective.




Original rank: 1588 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1612 (51%)

It Came from Beneath the Sea manages a 24-spot jump but doesn’t shake its 51%. This is another one I found disappointing, certainly not by its special effects, which are still awesome thanks largely to Ray Harryhausen; but because the story framing them was much less well done than other favorite Hollywood creature features of the 1950s like Them! and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.




Original rank: 1510 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1531 (53%)

Evil Dead II has been in and out of the “gateway” position into the top half of my chart; that is, when I add a new title, this is the one it often comes up against, being at the middle. I honestly don’t know which way this one will head over time, but the 2% indicates an appreciation in hindsight. Sam Raimi’s ingenuity and Bruce Campbell’s campy, cult-status-cementing performance will be the deciding factors.




Original rank: 1206 (63%)
Adjusted rank: 1425 (56%)

Phantasm probably doesn’t deserve to have fallen even further, and I think it’ll probably rise back up a bit over time.




Original rank: 1607 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1297 (60%)

Cat People managed to rise a couple hundred spots, thanks in no small part to the fact that it’s just a technically well-made film. It’s my aversion to some of the norms of the time period (xenophobia and animal abuse being unfortunately among those crimes) that will keep it from making a showing in the Top 1000.


XTRO (1982)


Original rank: 1894 (42%)
Adjusted rank: 1261 (62%)

Another 20% leap, this time from the bottom half well into the top half. Xtro is the one that has appreciated the most in my mind, and rather quickly. It may have been the tug-of-war between my awe at its visual effects and my repulsion to those same visual effects. I’m sure it also helps that this has become somewhat of a favorite in the past month among my fellow horror aficionados. It’s a strange film to bond over, but hey, if it works, it works.




Original rank: 1230 (62%)
Adjusted rank: 1031 (69%)

Green Room is another I expected to appreciate a bit, though I don’t expect to see too much greater movement.


MAY (2002)


Original rank: 761 (77%)
Adjusted rank: 887 (73%)

I was actually surprised to see May drop out of the top quarter on the re-rank. This is one that will always have favor based almost entirely on its wonderful lead performance by Angela Bettis. That will be the deciding factor anytime it’s up against a film of similar quality.




Original rank: 782 (76%)
Adjusted rank: 885 (73%)

Triangle. I’m still not sure what to make of this film. It will definitely take a second viewing to know how I feel about it. For now, I expect it to bounce around the top middle quarter of my chart.




Original rank: 919 (72%)
Adjusted rank: 884 (73%)

Zombie rose a bit, and no surprise. Sometimes a film’s effective qualities stick more than its ineffective ones, and this one is a slow-build of a scary film that overcomes its bad narration and the hard-to-swallow romantic relationship at the center. It also has the distinction of introducing me to the work of producer Val Lewton, whose catalog I wish to complete.


HUSH (2016)


Original rank: 804 (75%)
Adjusted rank: 876 (73%)

Hush is the one that I was second-guessing the most on whether it deserved the A I gave it, or if it was really more of a B. It works far more often than it doesn’t, but some of those things that don’t work stick with me. This will probably be one of those films that is always just on the verge of being knocked out of my top 1000.




Original rank: 877 (73%)
Adjusted rank: 826 (75%)

Another film that manages to overcome an inauthentic romantic entanglement with a genuinely horrifying story, a strong heroine, and an iconic villain courtesy of Charles Laughton, Island of Lost Souls manages to climb to the brink of the top quarter on the re-rank.




Original rank: 511 (84%)
Adjusted rank: 666 (80%)

Christine dropped just enough to land at #666. So, yeah. Devil car.




Original rank: 438 (87%)
Adjusted rank: 615 (81%)

Pit seems to have dropped a bit, but I won’t be surprised to see it claw its way back into the top 500. Of the two Roger Corman pictures I covered this month, this was the good one. (The other was The Little Shop of Horrors.)




Original rank: 614 (81%)
Adjusted rank: 595 (82%)

Trick ‘r Treat was a pleasant surprise and a great film to end on. Full disclosure: this is the second time I re-ranked this. The first time, it came up against Fargo, which was inexplicably low and kept it from even breaking into the top 1000. After re-ranking Fargo (which jumped way into my top 250), Trick ‘r Treat was able not only breach the top 1000 but the top quarter of the list.




Original rank: 397 (88%)
Adjusted rank: 417 (87%)

Halloween has been on my Flickchart for years. It had started out in the 500s before I saw it on the big screen this month. The re-rank didn’t hurt it much, and I expect it to be a staple of my top 500.


PHASE IV (1974)


Original rank: 751 (77%)
Adjusted rank: 383 (88%)

Phase IV was probably the greatest surprise of the month. What I expected to be a cheesy 70s creature feature turned out to be a thoughtful piece of sci-fi. No great surprise that it jumped a few hundred spots on the re-rank. Sometimes it just depends on what films it comes up against.




Original rank: 177 (95%)
Adjusted rank: 318 (90%)

Again, sometimes it just depends on what it comes up against. I didn’t expect The Body Snatcher to drop as far as it did, but nor do I expect it to depreciate over time. Even if it weren’t an excellent film, it would be kept afloat by Boris Karloff alone. But this is a great film that will continue to haunt my 300s.


THE WITCH (2015)


Original rank: 329 (90%)
Adjusted rank: 316 (90%)

The Witch was another pleasant surprise: not surprise that it was good, but because it was nigh impeccable. I think the only thing that keeps it from climbing any higher is its extremely disturbing subject matter. The higher on my list we go, the more likely we are to see films that emphasize the beauty in life rather than the horror. But The Witch is about as beautiful as a truly disturbing horror film gets. It had its general release in 2016, and I expect it to be on my year-end top 10 list.


GOJIRA (1954)


Original rank: 347 (89%)
Adjusted rank: 270 (92%)

Gojira makes the leap to the borderlands of my top 250. This was a film that actually got more engaging as it progressed, and has appreciated quite a bit in my mind.




Original rank: 389 (88%)
Adjusted rank: 178 (95%)

While Eyes Without a Face, with the benefit of some time to process, leaps effortlessly into my top 250. I was considering compiling my list of the best horror film of each year, only to realize that it would have to be between this and Psycho. That’s not a decision I want to make, but it does speak volumes about how good this movie is to challenge an established favorite.




Original rank: 150 (95%)
Adjusted rank: 145 (96%)

I knew this was going to be the top spot. I was pretty sure about it even when I watched it on day 4. I was expecting Only Lovers Left Alive to be a challenge to sit through, but it is such a beautiful, engaging, life-affirming film–about vampires. It’s funny, heart-warming, shimmering with music and art. I certainly didn’t expect it to take a place among my  favorite films, but now that it’s there, I don’t see it leaving any time soon. Thank you, Jim Jarmusch.

And thank you everyone who read and commented and voted and helped make this such an unpredictable movie-watching adventure for me.

30 Days of Madness, Day 7 — The Body Snatcher (1945)

by Tom Kapr

Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.


Produced by Val Lewton. Directed by Robert Wise. Adapted by Lewton & Philip Macdonald from the short story by Robert Louis Stevenson.

In case you just breezed past this fact, The Body Snatcher was directed by Robert Wise. He would go on to direct The Day the Earth Stood StillWest Side StoryThe HauntingThe Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Name another director who has made some of the greatest science fiction, horror films, and musicals of all time. The man could apparently genre-jump without breaking a sweat.

The Body Snatchers is my second Val Lewton film this month, and you can now count me among his vast legion of fans. (There’s a vast legion of Val Lewton fans out there, right? There should be.)

As with I Walked with a Zombie, everything is on point, from Wise’s direction, to Robert De Grasse’s haunting black-and-white cinematography, to Zombie composer Roy Webb’s eerie music, to some of the most superb writing I’ve ever heard uttered by actors (Lewton co-adapted Stevenson’s short story under a pseudonym). And speaking of actors, the cast (which includes Bela Lugosi) is excellent across the board; especially Henry Daniell, as the super-complicated Dr. MacFarlane, and Boris Karloff, who I believe here gives one of cinema’s all-time great villainous performances as the cabman John Gray. Save the opening scene where he is introduced with an air of benevolence, as he carries a paraplegic little girl to see his horse, every word that comes out his mouth is dripping with a sense of dread and foreboding.

Oh yes, I love this film. This has been a great month of movie-watching so far, and I fear I’m going to pay for that later in the month. I’ve been allowing a group of cinephile friends to vote on what I watch next, and Zombeavers and Deathgasm have both crept into the list. Won’t that be fun.

Final grade: A (easily)

My Flickchart ranking: #177 (out of 3253, a relative 95/100)

30 Days of Madness, Day 10: Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath (1963) Directed by Mario Bava. Starring Boris Karloff.

My first film by Mario Bava, the famed Italian horror auteur. The English title Black Sabbath actually has nothing to do with the subject matter, which is an anthology of three short films originally entitled I tre volti della paura, or, literally translated from the Italian, The three faces of fear. “Black Sabbath” probably was chosen just because it sounded scary, though why those who chose it thought “The Three Faces of Fear” wasn’t foreboding enough is unknown to me. Boris Karloff hosts the film between the three segments and also stars in the third. Here are my notes on each:

I'll admit that this dead old woman is freaky.

Segment 1: “The Drop of Water”

–Nothing is sadder than lounge music playing on a record player that is turning just a little too slowly

–The Italian directors of the 60s and 70s loved shooting without sound and dubbing everything in later

–The horror in this tale is leaky plumbing?

–The whole thing is kinda goofy

–This is one of the least effective kinds of horror for me. A character I already don’t like brings a curse upon herself by doing the very thing she was warned not to do lest a curse befall her. Not only that, but the thing she does, curse or not, is a morally wrong thing to do. It’s difficult in such a case to empathize with such a character, let alone be afraid that the same horror could befall me.

Segment 2: “The Telephone”

–The horror in this segment is crank calls?

–Why don’t people in horror movies ever call the police when they are first threatened?

–This is pretty lightweight horror, and very 1960s

–Half the horror genre would disappear if the characters showed a modicum of intelligence

-Why would a character make the decision to further isolate herself? It’s one thing if there is no help to be found, but to feel trapped, then have someone ask if they can help you and deny their help? What motivation could there be not accept? None is ever given.

–I might take this movie more seriously if it weren’t for the garish 1960s spy thriller music: ba-BA-da-ba-ba-DAAAAAA

–”You’re dead! Don’t you understand? You’re dead!” Yeah, I don’t think he cares.

–This segment is LAME!

Segment 3: “The Wurdelak”

–Started out so promisingly, but then got very confusing

–Karloff delivers this unfortunate line: “What’s the matteer, woman? Can’t I fondle my own grandson?” My, how language changes. (It doesn’t help that he later steals his grandson from his bed in the dead of night.)

Grandpa Boris is watching you sleep.

–I don’t get this. They all knew what would happen if their father returned from the mountains any later than five days  from the time he set out (though why they knew this was never made clear, or why “five days” matters), yet none of them did a thing when he returned late, even though–come on, now–they all know he’s a vampire.

–Nobody does anything that makes sense in this movie!

–These two love each other? They met, like, ten minutes ago and barely interacted!

–Gotta love the random red lights glowing in the middle of the ruins in the middle of nowhere

–I had such hope for this segment to be good. Now I don’t care how it ends, as long as it ends.

–And to top everything off, here is a musical medley of badness to go with the end credits.

I have to say that between this and my recent viewing of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, I am not much impressed by the great Italian horror auteurs. There seems to be a lack of things making sense in such a way that I can understand characters’ motivations for making the decisions they make. As it is, characters just seem to do things or to know things without cluing the audience in to how or why. At best, it creates a randomly connected series of horror images rather than a cogent horror story. At worst, it’s just alternately boring and confusing.

My Netflix rating: 2 stars (out of 5)

–Tom Kapr