Warner Archives Releases: The Boris Karloff Triple Feature
Karloff's one of my favorites. Though most of his 150-plus film appearances were in B-films, the icon still put his magnificent presence and incredible skills as a character actor into every role.
West of Shanghai (1937): The first fifteen-minutes drag as character conflicts are set up. The payoff comes in the form of Karloff as Fang, a vicious Chinese warlord who kidnaps the group. The genius of the script is how Fang's peculiar sense of honor turns him from antagonist to protagonist as he solves the characters' problems. Karloff brilliantly gives his character a serenity and twinkle that always catches you off guard and frequently has you laughing aloud. A wonderfully offbeat gem.
The Invisible Menace (1938): The weakest of the three, thanks to a dull story mostly set inside a drab warehouse. Karloff plays a man with a past falsely accused of murder. The film's greatest asset is how well it's lit and Karloff's affecting performance in a flashback scene.
Devil's Island (1939): Karloff's an honest devoted doctor falsely accused of treason and sent to the infamous penal colony. A tight story, harrowing situations, and Karloff's sympathetic performance make this a worthy genre entry.
Like most B-films, all three are under 70-minutes. It's also worth noting that the underrated John Farrow (Mia's dad) directed the first two.
You need not be a Karloff fan to enjoy this purchase.