The Haunted Strangler (Grip of the Strangler) (1958)
Main Menu Audio
Trailer-Corridors Of Blood, The Sorcerers, Abominable Snowman
|Year Of Production||1958|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Robert Day|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.29:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||Unknown||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Newgate Prison 1860
The film opens with a jeering mob awaiting the hanging of Edward Styles, aka The Haymarket Strangler. Protesting his innocence, Styles is ceremoniously hung and his body placed in a coffin and covered with quicklime. However, before the casket is nailed shut, we see a man stealthily place a scalpel on top of the white powdered body.
Twenty years later, novelist James Rankin (Boris Karloff) is fascinated with the case and through his research believes that Styles was in fact not the murderer. Further enquiries lead Rankin to the conclusion that a Dr Tenant, whose scalpel went missing at the time, was the culprit. Armed with this information Rankin digs up Styles’ grave and discovers the weapon. But as soon as he grabs the scalpel something happens - his body begins to change shape, his face becomes horribly distorted and he transforms into something quite sinister.
Like Corridors of Blood and The Sorcerers, in The Haunted Strangler Karloff plays the part of a good man who ends up being a victim of his altruistic ways. His dynamism as an actor, which unfortunately involved too many meek and mild characters in his later years, is once again allowed to branch out into madman territory in what is essentially a supernatural re-engineering of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Although not as oily and threatening as his portrayal of grave-robber Cabman Gray in The Body Snatcher (1945), Karloff’s status as a horror icon and the empathy he brings to the role in Strangler helps to overcome the film’s flaws.
Whilst the film successfully highlights the underlying callousness of Victorian society, the rhythm of the narrative is interfered with by too many chase scenes which affect the pacing and the film’s overall impact. Also, the mystery is solved far too early on in the film and after that point plot events become easily anticipated.
Interestingly, very little make-up was used on Karloff’s transformation. Evidently, he simply removed his false teeth, sucked in his lower lip and moved his body as if suffering from a stroke. Karloff also made it no secret that he despised his performance in the film, simply stating that he was “melodramatic.”
The 1.29:1 non-enhanced transfer is above average for a film of this vintage.
While the black and white images are relatively crisp, the age of the print is demonstrated by a slight green tinge evident throughout and a move in contrast occasionally when scenes change.
Regardless, shadow detail clarity is excellent in what is a quite dark print, and black levels are deep, showing no sign of low level noise.
There are a couple of mild noise reduction concerns in outdoor scenes such as at 8:16, where the mansion and the walls at 31:27 appear to move when they should be static.
Film artefacts such as print blemishes, white speckling and scratches crop up frequently, but are not too distracting.
Being mainly a dialogue-driven film, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has very little to aurally impart.
The subdued opening theme by Buxton Orr appropriately sets the dramatic tone, as do the squealing dancers during the Can-Can sequences at 15:27 and 36:37, when the evil Karloff is lurking in the balcony area of the small theatre.
Only a few orchestrated interludes are added to enhance the mood of certain scenes, like the graveyard and low-level love scenes, but the score is really subservient to the script and actors who deliver it.
The frisky dialogue (a horny George remarks to a Can-Can dancer: “You give an itch to man’s inclination”) is loud and clear and free of hiss.
|Surround Channel Use|
Letterboxed theatrical trailer (un-countered approx 2-minutes)
The stark raving terror of a shriek in the night!...
Horror trailers for Corridors of Blood, The Sorcerers and Abominable Snowman
The Region 1 Image Entertainment single disc edition is identical in content to our own version.
Our Region 4 is excellent value as it comes with two other essential Karloff films: Corridors of Blood and The Sorcerers in a nicely presented Superstars of Horror: Volume 2 box set from Umbrella Entertainment.
The Haunted Strangler is an above average murder mystery tinged with supernatural elements. Although the film gives away its secrets prematurely, it’s Karloff’s performance as a menacing psychotic killer that overrides the effects of plot predictability.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output|
|Display||Yamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||get a marshall stack, and crank it up.|
|Speakers||2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.|