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Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster is a 2021 American documentary film that details the actor and horror icons life.

Directed by Thomas Hamilton (Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave A Damn) from a script co-written with Ron MacCloskey. Co-Produced by Thomas Hamilton and Ron MacCloskey.

“Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster” compellingly explores the life and legacy of a cinema legend, presenting a perceptive history of the genre he personified. His films were long derided as hokum and attacked by censors. But his phenomenal popularity and pervasive influence endure, inspiring some of our greatest actors and directors into the 21st century – among them Guillermo Del Toro, Ron Perlman, Roger Corman and John Landis all of whom and many more contribute their personal insights and anecdotes.”

Also featuring interviews with Joe Dante, Sara Karloff, Peter Bogdanovich, Dick Miller, Christopher Plummer, Stefanie Powers, Lee Grant, writer Christopher Frayling, Caroline Munro, Ian Ogilvy, Jack Hill, Leonard Maltin, David J. Skal, Daniel Haller, Stephen Baker (Karloff biographer) and film historians Kevin Brownlow and Gregory W. Mank.

Our review:

The trailer for Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster may seem like it will be a talking heads-type of a documentary, the type that relies on personal observations and anecdotes by celebrity interviewees to pad out the running time.

However, this documentary is so much more than that – it provides a fascinating and insightful look at not only the actor’s eventful life (including his half-Indian heritage, his six marriages and his struggles with poverty in Canada before he moved to Hollywood) but also a detailed look at this horror icon’s career.

From his stints in silents and serials to his meteoric rise as a Universal studios star via Frankenstein, the documentary guides us through Karloff’s multifarious roles and his keenness to embrace television as well as cinema in the 1960s via celebrated series such as Thriller. The talking heads are there, and in impressive numbers, but they nearly all add engaging and helpful observations rather than just being filler.

Bolstered by some very rare footage of Karloff’s stage and TV roles, this is a well-researched and rewarding documentary that’s recommended to not only horror fans but anyone seeking an understanding of the evolution of cinema itself.

Other reviews:

“Even if it comes up short on the elucidation side of things, Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster succeeds at inspiring renewed appreciation for the actor, as viewers will certainly come away anxious to load up their entertainment queues with familiar classics and overlooked essentials alike. Based on his depiction in the documentary, I can’t imagine anything else that might bring Boris Karloff a bigger smile.” Culture Crypt

“Hamilton’s approach is pretty straightforward and conventional, but the vintage Karloff clips provide more than enough spectacle and character. He had the good sense to just get out of their way and let Karloff shine through. Affectionately recommended for admirers of Karloff and any of his films…” J.B. Spins

” …an adoring appreciation of a screen icon, one of the founding figures in the birth of The Horror Movie, a cultured man who made his good name scaring generations half to death.” Movie Nation

“An enjoyable and informative film, Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster should appeal to both fans of Karloff and fans of horror in general.” Voices from the Balcony


In the US, Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster will be released theatrically in select locations (list here) by Shout Studios! and Abramorama on Friday, September 17th 2021.

The film will stream on Shudder from January 27th, 2022.

Technical details:

99 minutes


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