The Climax (1944)

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*. Can you say Phantom of the Opera? The suits at Universal sure could. The basic story here is somewhat similar — a creepy guy who haunts the opera, obsessing over a new singer — and some of the faces are familiar. Susanna Foster is the lead and Jane Farrar plays the jealous prima donna, both parts they played in Universal’s Phantom of the Opera, which came out just the previous year. It was also shot on the same sets as that film, which was in turn the opera set constructed for the 1925 Lon Chaney version.
*. I thought the 1943 Phanton very well padded and felt the same about this film. Too much opera, again, and not enough phantom. Or not enough Doctor Hohner, which is the name of Boris Karloff’s character.
*. Dr. Hohner’s motivation is bizarre. He killed an opera singer he had an unrequited passion for ten years ago and now wants to kill any other singer who sounds like her? Then, making things even more bizarre, his method is to hypnotize the new girl into thinking she can’t sing?
*. I thought for a moment he was going to perform some sort of surgery on Foster but I guess that wouldn’t allow for the happy “star is born” ending. Nevertheless, the hypnotism angle is weird. And it gets even more bizarre as for some reason he links her hypnotic state with an atomizer. Huh? That’s . . . weird. And almost kinky.

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*. Even the Technicolor, which I usually adore, looks washed out and less vibrant. It just contributes to the overall feeling of this being a retread. The art direction and costumes usually get a lot of praise (and the former received an Oscar nomination), but we’ve seen it all before.
*. Things to enjoy: Turhan Bey’s moustache, Dr. Hohner’s secret mausoleum room wherein he keeps Marcellina’s remarkably preserved corpse. And . . . really that’s about it.
*. This was Karloff’s first colour film and it’s a shame it’s such a dud. As with a lot of accomplished British actors who became typecast in stupid horror movies, I’m always left wondering what he might have done had he been given better parts (Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing found themselves in the same situation a generation later). Dr. Hohner isn’t even a character but a cliché.
*. For such a short and eventful film it’s incredibly plodding and dull. I think that’s because it’s so conventional. I can’t think of any reason why I’ll ever watch it again.

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