Friday, October 25, 2019


Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 23
Total First Time Views: 11
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $1,903.48

The Haunted Strangler (1958) d. Robert Day (UK) (78 min) (1st viewing)

Newgate Prison, 1860. The notorious serial killer Edward Styles, also known as “The Haymarket Strangler,” is hanged to death before a bloodthirsty crowd, denying with his last breath that he is guilty of the crimes. 20 years later, novelist James Rankin (Boris Karloff) sets out to prove that Styles was, in fact, innocent and that the surgeon who signed all the victims’ death certificates, Dr. Tennant, is actually the Strangler. With trusty companion Dr. Kenneth McColl (Tim Tuner), Rankin explores dusty hospital records filled with abandoned medical bags and raucous dance halls filled with saucy cancan girls, but the truth they uncover is more shocking than anyone could anticipate.

Though Karloff never really experienced a fallow period in his prolonged career, it had been several years since he had appeared onscreen in a full-on fright flick, keeping himself busy with stage and television projects. 1958 proved to be a return to form for the horror icon, appearing in no fewer than three genre efforts: Frankenstein 1970, Corridors of Blood (opposite rising star Christopher Lee), and this underrated thriller which sees the 69-year-old actor barreling through his paces with the energy of a man half his age.

It really is a magnificent vehicle and the last time we would see him performing with such vitality. Without the use of special makeup devices, Karloff grotesquely contorts his face and body, stalking the shadows and hurling society swells out of his path (all the more impressive considering, five years later, he was struggling to descend the long staircase in Roger Corman’s The Raven).

The film itself is equally taut and engaging, even if it does feel a little padded with dance sequences of lovely ladies flashing their bloomers at the roaring crowd. Vera Day (Quatermass 2) and Jean Kent memorably appear as two of the featured starlets, while character man Anthony Dawson (who played the silhouetted Blofeld in From Russian with Love and Thunderball and put in an appearance in the 1967 Bond spoof Operation Kid Brother) lends his considerable presence to the role of Police Superintendant Burke, friend and foil to Rankin in his quest.

In addition to directing Karloff here and in Corridors, Robert Day also helmed Hammer Films’ production of She, First Man Into Space, and the TV-movie Carrie rip-off The Initiation of Sarah, while producer John Croydon (who co-wrote Strangler with Jan Read from the latter’s original story) brought the highly enjoyable “ambulatory brains on the loose” sci-fi mini-classic Fiend Without a Face to the screen the same year.

While not enjoying the same luster as many of Karloff’s other horror projects, The Haunted Strangler is a solid and worthwhile effort. The Criterion Collection paired it with Corridors of Blood, The Atomic Submarine, and First Man Into Space as part of their Monsters and Madmen box set (spine #364, for those keeping track). Though said collection is currently out of print, you can find it streaming on Shout! Factory TV.



  1. "Haunted Strangler" is a decent movie, but "Corridors of Blood" is the superior of that pair. In fact, I think "Corridors" is a classic that hasn't been accepted as such. Not only one of his best late-career films, but one of his best overall.

    1. Thanks for the comment, J! I would need to revisit Corridors to properly compare it to Strangler. It might be a better movie overall, but I don't remember Karloff giving as energetic a performance. I was just delighted by watching him throw himself into the role, showing off all his theatrical tricks. As a big fan of his work, I'm surprised I hadn't caught up with this one before now! Great fun.

    2. He's very good in "Haunted Strangler" for sure (though the mouth thing is odd). But give "Corridors" another look. Great performance and a really rare blend of "authentic" historical fiction and horror.