James Rolfe: It's Cinemassacre's "Monster Madness". We're done with the 30's, the golden age, so I figured if I'm gonna do at least one from the 40's I might as well pick another Val Lewton flick. And of those I might as well pick one that has Karloff and Lugosi. I mean, let's face it; they are the kings of horror. So it's only fitting I include their last movie together.
It's been very clear all along that Lugosi always got the shitty end of the stick. Karloff would always get top villain and greater salary. Combine that with the fact that Lugosi turned down "Frankenstein" and Karloff stepped in and became the next horror icon because of it. So it's easy to compare their rivalry on screen with that of real life. Lugosi was often given the smaller roles, but in some films like "The Raven" and "Son of Frankenstein" he really upstages Karloff.
Ygor: He was… huuunting.
James: But the fact is; Karloff was usually in the spotlight while Lugosi was being shoved aside and this movie is no exception at all. It's like Val Lewton didn't even care for him. Instead of making him a main character he gave him this pathetic role as a janitor, which is barely more than a cameo. It's a dull performance but he has nothing to work with. The only big scene he has is where he tries to blackmail Karloff and then Karloff just strangles and kills him. It perfectly sums up how dominant Karloff's career was and it's very sad. Regardless, seeing them together for the last time is still the highlight of the film.
But let's talk a little about the movie. It's based off a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, which was based off an actual case. Karloff plays a body snatcher named Gray. He goes into cemeteries, digs up dead bodies and sells them to the doctors, but eventually decides it's easier just to kill people.
The main character is a doctor who practices medicine, but he needs fresh corpses for testing. So he uses Gray to murder people, which makes for an interesting contrast, 'cause the doctor is high class and Gray is just this dirty rat. He knows that the doctor would be in deep shit if somebody found out what was going on, so he uses this position to take advantage and torment the doctor who he calls 'Toddy'.
Dr. Wolfe 'Toddy' MacFarlane: I will not have you call me by that name!
Cabman John Gray: Toddy MacFarlane.
James: It has some parts that drag, so it may not be as entertaining as some of the Universal thrillers. But this movie has some really effective moments. There's great cemetery sets and chilling cinematography. And its setting of 19th century Edinburgh only enhances the mood. But the real reason to see this movie is Boris Karloff – it's easily one of his best roles. He's such an evil bastard and he's always got that shit-eating grin.