Click here to return to the main site.

Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Maniacal Mayhem
Karloff in The Invisible Ray, Black Friday and The Strange Door


Starring: Boris Karloff
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £29.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 17 October 2022

Eureka Entertainment Classics Range releases Maniacal Mayhem, incorporating three film-length tales of terror from the Universal vault starring Boris Karloff. The films chosen for this collection are The Invisible Ray, Black Friday, and The Strange Door – all are presented on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK. Each is taken from 2K scans of the original film elements. Other prestigious actors featured include Bela Lugosi and Charles Laughton. The first 2000 copies contain a Limited Edition O-card Slipcase and Booklet with writing on all three films by Andrew Graves, Rich Johnson and Craig Ian Mann...

In The Invisible Ray (1936), directed by Lambert Hillyer, obsessed scientist Dr Janos Rukh (Karloff) discovers with a powerful telescope that a meteor from the Andromeda system carrying a strange substance which could contain healing powers struck the Earth countless years ago. He reveals the discovery to his two closest rivals in the field and an expedition to Africa is funded. Rukh recovers the sparking substance, but a sample is stolen by one of his rivals (Lugosi), who soon makes a name for himself curing a number of maladies. Meanwhile, Rukh’s close contact with the material has made his skin luminescent, and anyone who touches him immediately perishes. So, he uses this terrible power to seek revenge on the colleagues who have wronged him.

The Invisible Ray is arguably the best of the bunch here, with more lavish and varied sets (Africa, the Doctor’s observatory and laboratory, etc.) and additional elements to the premise. What is essentially a tale of revenge, washes over you like an amalgamation of Frankenstein, a sci-fi monster B-Movie and confidence trickster. Bela Lugosi is the last of these, his character charming the special substance out of the Doctor’s hands and using it to gain his fame and fortune. I would have the hump too, so I can relate to Rukh. There is a brand new commentary by horror mainstays author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman.

In Black Friday (1940), directed by Arthur Lubin, Dr Sovac is a brain surgeon who performs a transplant which has disastrous consequences. When Sovac’s good friend – a kindly old college professor – is caught-up in a gangland shooting, he realises the man will die if he doesn’t perform a part-brain procedure from a well-known gangster called Red, who was nominally injured in the same incident. Initially, it proves to be a resounding success until the professor begins to suffer fatigue, headaches and terrifying nightmares about a gangster. When it is learned that Red hid half a million dollars, Sovac takes him to New York for ‘rest and recuperation’ in order to reassert the gangster’s dominance until he can learn where the money is stashed and use it to fund himself a new laboratory. However, not only is the professor on the point of complete collapse, Red goes after his ex-cohorts for attempting to have him killed.

In various guises, this is a part which Boris Karloff played many times over his career, but they invariably worked well. He had a compelling nature which drew you into his film scenarios. I have no idea how a respected dotty old English professor can periodically change both physical appearance and attire when the other person’s section of brain gains dominance, but it does clearly demonstrate the intended Jekyll and Hyde principle (or should that be principal!) triggered by greed. Bela Lugosi plays one of the gang mobsters (a rather refined one!) that the professor/Red goes after. There is a brand new audio commentary by Kevin Lyons and film historian Jonathan Rigby.

In The Strange Door (1951), directed by Joseph Pevney, the cruel and sadistic Sire Alain de Maletroit (Charles Laughton) tricks a violent rogue into seeking sanctuary through a door with no handle. His plan is to force the ne’er-do-well to marry his niece, against her wishes. But things don’t go his twisted way when it turns out the rogue has a noble heart and attempts to help the young woman to escape the house. She has no knowledge that her father has been kept an innocent prisoner in his dungeon for 20 years. The father feigns madness, but is quite sane and systematically aided by Maletroit’s abused servant (Karloff).

Charles Laughton is perhaps best known for his portrayals in Spartacus, Mutiny on the Bounty, and The Old Dark House. Here he seems to be malicious and spiteful simply because he can be – a sort of bored amusement. Karloff is a lot less present in this movie, but he makes his presence known whenever he appears and is essential to the finale scenes. Indeed, he saves one or all three of the ‘good guys’ on a number of occasions at the cost of his own peril. An enjoyable taut little thriller. There is a brand new commentary by horror mainstays author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman. Also of interest is ‘The Sire de Maletroit’s Door’ – radio adaptations, Stills Galleries and Trailers.

This is a good follow-up to the Karloff: Universal Terror Blu-ray release, and I hope it will be one of many.


Ty Power

Buy this item online