Boris Karloff Collection DVD
directed by Jack Hill, Juan Ibáñez
starring Boris Karloff, Julissa, Enrique Guzmán
There is a belief with some people surrounding the two titans of classic horror Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi that Karloff just never made any really bad movies, while they seemed to be Bela’s stock in trade. The people have obviously never seen the Mexican films Karloff did at the end of his career. That is about to be corrected with the release of Boris Karloff Collection from VCI Video. This two disc set contains Dance of Death aka House of Evil, Torture Zone aka Fear Chamber, Cult of the Dead aka Isle of Snake People aka Snake People, and Alien Terror, which apparently didn’t rate an aka on the case but the original title is The Incredible Invasion.
It is probably fitting that photo of Karloff in the box art appears to be rolling his eyes as I’m sure he did while making these films which were merely a paycheck. Although these films were released following the actor’s death, his real swan song was Peter Bogdonovich’s Targets (1968).
Boris Karloff’s health prevented him from traveling and working in the high altitude of Mexico City so all of his scenes were directed by Jack Hill (Spider Baby, The Big Doll House) and then cut into the movies. The movies feel as hacked together as one would imagine. The main novelty is in the comparative rarity of the films and the rarity of seeing Karloff in color. The films themselves are quite terrible, but Karloff gives professional performances in all of them. That professionalism helps to make his form into Mexican horror feel like more of a lark than an act of desperation.
House of Evil is presented here under its VHS release title Dance of Death, complete with the VHS title sequence. The film is a mis-mash of old dark house mysteries, Edgar Allen Poe, and Puppet Master movies as a group of Boris Karloff’s relatives are gathered together in his mansion only for the old man to turn up dead shortly after arrival. Karloff’s collection of automation start killing off the house guests until the big twist at the end.
Torture Zone aka Fear Chamber features Boris is a mad scientist who is overseeing experiments to attempt communication with a lava monster by torturing beautiful young women. No, really that’s the plot. There is an octopus blob creature in a dome, a medieval style torture chamber, room of late ‘60’s computers (you know the wall size units with the huge tape reels), and Boris Karloff popping up on occasion to mutter some science mumbo jumbo. The main attraction is Mexican starlets taking off their clothes while being peeped on or doing straight up strip tease. The combo of boobs, Boris, and plastic skeletons make Torture Zone the most entertaining, if most incoherent, of these Mexican quickies.
Alien Terror opens with a title sequence that was obviously jumbled together for a 1980s VHS release. The “plot” is a melange of alien invasion, mad scientists, and Jack the Ripper style murderer. Boris Karloff create an energy ray that attracts an alien who comes to earth to destroy the potential super weapon.
Isle of the Snake People is the best known of the bunch as it has appeared on a number of public domain mega pack DVD sets over the years. It has the unfortunate distinction of being a zombie movie made before Night of the Living Dead yet released after the George Romero classic and therefor feeling like a relic from the 1940s poverty row horrors.
This DVD set is almost a poverty stricken as the films themselves. The masters are obviously the masters used in the production of the VHS tapes in the ’80s and are presented 4:3 in all of their VHS retro glory. The whites are terribly blown out while the blacks struggle to reach mid grey and the overall look is very soft. As low budget as these films were it is questionable how much remastering would help They mostly exist for die hard Karloff completists and fans of too bad for MST3K movies.