Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster

Boris Karloff is, as the kids today put it, a beast of cinematic legend.  His iconic face and voice is synonymous with tales of terror and legends of classic Hollywood.  Like Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi, no one has surpassed what his presence did for cinematic horror and - as it stands - there is no one likely to do what he was able to, both scaring and delighting audiences at the same time.  He is a Hollywood icon.

"both a celebration of Karloff and a bit of a time capsule"

But what of his story?  Surely, a talent like this has a history worth exploring?  And that’s what Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster aims to do in its running time.  Being both a celebration of Karloff and a bit of a time capsule, this collaboration between British-based documentary filmmaker Thomas Hamilton and US-based horror historian Ron MacCloskey is certainly a rewarding watch as it offers a contemporary look at the man behind so many nightmares and the man who is constantly at the heart of so many ongoing inspirations.

Released in theaters on September 17, 2021, coinciding with the 90th anniversary of Universal’s Frankenstein, the film - which is now on blu-ray (with tons of supplemental content) thanks to Voltage Films and Sandpiper Pictures - chronicles the path Karloff took to fame and how he landed the part in James Whale’s infamous Frankenstein and not Lugosi.  We also get interesting looks at Jack Pierce’s makeup for the iconic monster, too..

This exciting documentary begins with Karloff’s surge in the 1960s with Black Sabbath and How The Grinch Stole Christmas and then reexamines Karloff’s career and legacy from a fresh, contemporary perspective and reveals previously unknown details of his life through rarely seen photographs and film footage.

Complete with new interviews from Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Lee Grant, Norman Jewison, John Landis, Leonard Maltin, Caroline Munro, Ron Perlman, Christopher Plummer, and Stefanie Powers, there’s no stone - or should I say headstone - unturned as the man who brought so much joy to kids and adults alike is celebrated and his performances rated.Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster

The region-free, dual DVD/Blu-ray version and the separate DVD and Blu-ray editions all feature the film in its 2021 theatrical format, along with the original trailer and optional English subtitles.  Previously unreleased bonus content totals 140 minutes and includes the newly-produced 2- hour documentary, “Boris Karloff: The Rest Of The Story,” with even more about Karloff's film and TV roles, as well as Donnie Dunagan, Bela Lugosi Jr., and Jack Hill sharing Karloff stories that were not in the 2021 film.

Additional extras are the featurettes “Meeting Boris Karloff,” with interviews of film historian Kevin Brownlow, Karloff's great-nephew Anthony Pratt, and British broadcaster Tony Bilbow, and “Ron’s Story,” about filmmaker Ron MacCloskey’s passion for Boris Karloff. The limited-edition collector’s version dual format DVD/Blu-ray also includes a 16-page behind-the-scenes booklet about the making of the film, with color photographs of memorable off-camera moments and a special essay on Karloff by author Stephen Jacobs.

Coinciding with the 90th anniversary of Boris Karloff’s legendary, landmark performance in Universal’s The Mummy, Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster is a universal achievement that any fan - for a limited time - will want to own.

5/5 stars

Film Details

Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
99 mins
: Thomas Hamilton
Thomas Hamilton; Ron MacCloskey
Guillermo del Toro; Christopher Plummer; Ron Perlman
: Documentary | Horror

Memorable Movie Quote:
Shout! Studios, Voltage Films
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 17, 2021
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 18, 2022
Synopsis: Karloff, examining his illustrious 60-year career in the entertainment industry and his enduring legacy as one of the icons of 20th century popular culture.


Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster