Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Haunted Strangler (1958)

Criterion Cover
The Haunted Strangler from 1958 stars Boris Karloff as James Rankin, a novelist researching the case of a serial killer known as 'The Haymarket Strangler' in Victorian era London.  The killer would strangle, then slash the throats of his victims.  However, Rankin believes that Edward Styles, the man hung for these crimes, may have been innocent.  He finds that a Dr. Tennant performed all the autopsies on the Strangler's 5 victims, and that he abandoned his practice immediately after Styles' hanging, later turning up as an inmate at an asylum.  From there the trail goes cold, it appears that Tenant escaped from the asylum with the help of a nurse who'd fallen in love with him, and the two fled never to be heard from again.

But Rankin is determined to ascertain the true identity of the killer to be sure another innocent man doesn't end up on the gallows.  In doing so, he discovers more than he bargained for.  Insinuating there's a plot twist, which there is and it's a good one, especially given the time in which the film was made.  But I won't spoil it for you.

The film is based on a short story by Jan Read, written specifically for Karloff, with a screenplay by John Croyden and direction by Robert Day, who Karloff collaborated with again later that same year on Corridors of Blood (1958).  Here they capture the 19th century feel of London by gaslight with rich black and white cinematography.  Nothing too flashy though, just a solid story giving a strong foundation for Karloff to work his magic in another great performance.  The makeup effects, or lack thereof, are a testament to the man's talent.  At 80 minutes, it's a tight little flick to watch after the witching hour.  If you're in the mood, enjoy some old-fashioned black and white horror.
The Great Boris Karloff
My Rating:  4 SCALPELS OUT OF 5

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