William Henry Pratt was born in England in the latter part of the 19th century. He grew up knowing that he looked different from other boys as he had Indian heritage, but he also knew that his passion for acting would take him far. Moving to Hollywood, he changed his name to Boris Karloff and after a few bit parts he got his big break and his career started to move along quite nicely.
Then one day he auditioned for the role of The Monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein and the rest is cinema history. Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster is a documentary exclusive to Shudder which tells the story of his life, right from his early days down to the last days of his career on stage and screen which lasted 60 years.
Probably best known for playing Frankenstein’s monster and the titular role in The Mummy for real horror aficionados, Karloff’s place in cinema was firmly cemented. Thankfully though, the documentary doesn’t merely dwell on his most famous roles and instead looks at his career overall as an actor and the range he had beyond the iconic monsters.
Taking interviews with such directors as Peter Bogdanovich, John Landis and Guillermo del Toro, The Man Behind the Monster shows that through his performances and his work that he was so much more influential than anyone could imagine. There are also conversations with other actors such as Ron Perlman, who some could say similarly disappears into his roles as Karloff did, and Dick Miller who knew Karloff personally.
There are even snippets of interviews with Karloff’s daughter, Sara to fully round out an actor who most may only know for one role.
Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster is a well-researched and satisfying documentary that goes through Karloff’s career, showing very detailed depictions of what he was like as a man whilst off the stage and at home as well.
Horror fans may delight at knowing more about such a prolific actor who has paved the way for the way we see horror today. However, the documentary shows that what they may know only scratches the surface as to what made the man behind the monster.
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