MovieChat Forums > The Body Snatcher (1945) Discussion > Is this Karloff's best performance?

Is this Karloff's best performance?


I think it is a tough call, but is this the best you've ever seen Karloff? There are plenty of other movies you could nominate: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, Isle of the Dead, Targets -- the list is huge. I think he really goes for it in this one though. He seemed to have a real sense of fun with the character of the Cabman, but he also seems ... competitive? Everyone he appears on the screen with he is challenging to step up to his level -- and they all do it. The film is great anyway but his performance, in my mind, really elevates it. A different character from what you normally expect to see him as but extremely entertaining.

On another note, Lugosi looks like he's pretty sick.

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I've always maintained this is Karloff's finest hour onscreen, A. Roode. You hit it on the head; he "really goes for it" here, obviously enthusiastic and blessed with a smart, well-written script. Karloff's performance, and the over-all fine quality of this movie make one of my All-Time Top Five Favorites.

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This is a really great Karloff performance. I think it certainly might be his best.

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Funny thing; Last night I was playing my VHS copy of this film to get some bits for a production piece. I had not watched this film years, but as I was scanning through some scences I thought "My God this has to be one of his best roles.' The scence where he confronts Henry Daniel in the pub is brilliant!!!

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Never get rid of me, never get rid of me, never get rid me!! Classic Karloff and yes it has to be his finest performance. Great film, fine acting, great sets, tight direction. Pity Lugosi's character wasn't fleshed out more though, even though the scene they share together (the last ever scene in fact) is a classic.

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and the scene in the saloon or bar is the deal sealer. His performance is fluid, interesting, and mesmerizing.



and the newspaper read, "her head was not found"

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Thought Karloff was excellent in this film.
He was such an elegant man and to playing this horrid being ... So well done.

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Just might be his best. Karloff was quite creepy

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Every time I see it, I think that, if it isn't his single best, it's extremely close. Every single line he has, and every look he gives, he works wonders with.

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Truth be told I haven't seen much Karloff, but after watching "The Body Snatcher" last night, I'm totally sold on him. He ate that role up. Every time he wasn't on screen I would get fidgety waiting for him to come back. He seemed to be acting circles around everyone else and genuinely enjoying it.
Question- Did Lugosi really hate Karloff as much as "Ed Wood" would have us believe? After watching this I can see why he would.

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Apprently that was *beep*

Lugosi didn't hate Karloff.

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This is definitely one of his great performances. It's hard to say if it's his best. My personal favorite Karloff performance is in "The Man Who Lived Again" aka "The Man Who Changed His Mind."

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[deleted]

targets was such a great last film for him. but it's between this film and the original frankenstein for him as far as his best performances go.

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Contrary to popular belief, he and Boris Karloff did not hate each other, as the famous scene from Ed Wood (1994) would lead one to believe. Both men's children have said that the only rivalry that existed between them is when they were both up for the same parts, and in reality, Lugosi and Karloff had almost no relationship off-set. However, near the sad end of his life, Lugosi allegedly had some morphine-addled fantasies that Karloff was a boogie man out to get him.

Both helped in starting the SAG.

"Kid, don't threaten me. There are worse things than death, and I can do all of them."

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Cabman John Gray - Easily one of the best villains ever to grace the silver screen.

Sadly I havent seen nearly as much of Karloff's work as I would like to, but this is right up there from what Ive seen. Personally I think he may have been a little better in the first two Frankenstein films, but ot by much. He had so much less to work with as Frankenstein's Monster, where as Gray he had a wonderful script behind him. Both are incredible performances for very different reasons, but it's his role in Frankenstein that has deservedly gone down in history.

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Death is but a door, time is but a window...I will be back.

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i dont know...for me the frankenstein performances will always be tops...karloff just had a way of making the monster actually alive and well, human. If you look at the frankenstein movies after karloff's run(Ghost, House, and house of dracula), the monster is just so bland and pointless almost. With Karloff, the monster had a personality, my favorite scenes that display what i loved about Karloff's performances are, 1) the scenes in Son Of frankenstein when the monster finds Ygor dead and the one right after that when he tears down the lab, 2) the monster's "death" scene in the original, 3) and basically the entire Bride of Frankenstein movie. Lon Chaney still had little in Ghost, but something was just lost, and Glenn Strange just stumbled around looking stupid. To me there really was no point to having frankenstein in House of Frankenstein. Niemann and Daniel could have been killed by the wolfman or the villagers just as easily.

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It's been said Lugosi and Strange inherited from Lon Chaney Jr. a handicap, acting-wise, when at the end of "Ghost" the implanting of Igor's brain makes the Monster blind. Thereafter we saw an arms-outstretched creature, plausibly a way to deal with (and play) blindness, as distinct from the confused, sometimes hand-wringing frenzy Karloff gave the Monster. I accepted this explanation until I noticed that Lugosi as the Monster still strapped to the operating table in "Meets the Wolfman" has a nasty sneer on his face and is clearly looking at Patric Knowles, and Strange in the same position wears his own Sam the Bartender grin looking gratefully at Karloff in "House of Frankenstein." I don't remember if Strange was any different in "House of Dracula," but I can believe he was playing the Monster as blind in "Abbott & Costello Meets...," an unlikely sequel to observe and revere earlier premises. Apologies for belaboring this topic on a board for "The Body Snatcher," which I agree has Karloff's finest performance.

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[deleted]

And back to Karloff:-)

Yea.....we just and are still in the middle of a Karloff kick, catching up on years of movies thanx to the DVD sets available. Last night for the first time ever, I saw BODY SNATCHER and man, up until now, I thought Karloff's work in the Frankenstein films was superb, but in this film, WOW! Old Horror films are old hat to us here, but this performance just blew us away. I KNEW the moment Karloff encounters the small cute dog guarding its master's gravesite, that this performance....and film for that matter, was going to be a little bit different. Our jaws dropped when he did what he did....despite it being off screen.....we were like...ooooh Hell nooo they didn't just do that...lol!

I read people talk about actor's giving a 'mesmorizing performance'.....but I usually think they're over-enthused. But here, I was truly fascinated with the straight up evilness he brought to this role...I mean the payoff to seeing the nealry obnoxious singing street girl was ...well...ALMOST too much of a payoff....lol. He felt so dirty....evil......dark......just everything seemed perfect especially contrasted against the other characters. I agree the bar scene had me spellbound at how utterly convincing he was in how over the barrel he had the Doctor, I was squirming in my seat (well, mentally at least lol) but I was getting all uncomfortable for the Doctor (and at that point) wondering what was so damning that he was referencing. It was brilliant I thought. This has got to be on par with the Frankenstein performances, and certainly elevates Karloff higher than he was in my book in his acting chops.


"Phuc Peace, Time To Kill Everyone!"

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I LOVE this film and I think alongside Frankenstein its Karloffs best role, hes amazing in it, very sinister and yet kindly to the child. The films helped by a cracking script, talented supporting cast (surely Henry Daniells finest hour!) and a director that fills the production with atmosphere. My only gripe is I always feel sorry for Lugosi when I watch it, his role was written in just to get him in the film and its such a shame he was reduced to such a little role in the film, hes very good in it though, shame we couldnt see more of him. When you compare what they were both like in, say, the black cat...you can see Karloff still has a name in movies but Lugosis career is in bad shape.

A film that gets better with every viewing...first class.

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hmm, that makes sense. i hadn't heard that story before, but it does explain a lot. thanks

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I've always thought that, aside from "Frankenstein," this is Karloff's greatest performance. If I was to award him a posthumous Oscar for any role, it would be this one. Very subtle and nuanced.

Not in the same class, but also among the best: "The Black Cat," "The Mummy," and "The Mask of Fu Manchu." (I confess I've never seen "Targets.") And how I wish that he could have recreated his stage role in the movie version of "Arsenic and Old Lace."

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gregcox-1,

Karloff himself was deeply disappointed that he couldn't participate in the "AaOL" film. The show was still running on Broadway, and the producers felt they needed him to remain with the show for marquee value. The two actresses who starred in the stage production went West to make the movie instead.

As I've said before, I think "The Body Snatcher" is Karloff's best performance, and yes, it's Oscar-caliber. "Targets" is on DVD, and I highly recommend it; it's an interesting film, greatly enhanced by Karloff's presence. His age and health probably impacted his acting a bit, but it's the very best of his latter-day preformances, and quite moving.

Although none of these films are on video or DVD (to my knowledge), they turn up now and then on Turner Classic Movies, and contain very fine performances by B.K.:

"Five Star Final" (1931)
"The Walking Dead" (1936)
"West of Shanghai" (1937)

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I have always thought this was his best performance too...though i love the first Frankenstein, and Bedlam, and that movie he made with Chris Lee just before he died, and Targets, and Fu Manchu, and the mummy...in fact I dont think he ever gave a bad performance....there a radio recording available of him doing Arsenic and Old Lace (with Peter LOrre) and you get to hear the laughs on "He said I looked like Boris Karloff" And dont forget the Grinch....an small but perfect vocal performance


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I watched this movie yesterday after a long time, and yes, I would say Karloff is at his best here. Of course he will always be mainly known as Frankenstein's monster and the first Mummy, but as an actor I think John Gray, who should always be included to Hollywoods top 10 villains, is Karloff's best performance.

I don't care if you're a vampire, you're still English. Have some manners.

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I'd say definately that his top five performances (In no particular order) are...
"Frankenstein"/"Bride of Frankenstein"--the Pathos he brought to an inarticulate monster was an astonishing feet.

"The Body Snatcher"--A virulently villainous performance, but very nuanced.

"Targets"--A fine ending to a great horror career. A wonderful performance playing a character based on himself.

"The Black Room"--Featuring not one but two of Karloffs best performances.

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I live in my own little world. But that's OK. they all know me here.

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I agree The Body Snatcher was a great character to play, but he showed more acting chops in another you mentioned: The Black Room. For anyone who doesn't know, in it he plays a set of twins with quite different personalities. Not being overly familiar with Karloff, through most of the movie I wasn't really thinking of it as a dual performance but as two separate people.

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