Bloofer Gent: Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff
Were there better cheekbones in horror? I think not!

Did you think an October would go by without a Bloofer Lady or Gent to haunt your evenings? Fear not! It wouldn’t be Halloween without a proper treat. This year’s spooctacular snacc is someone I can’t quite believe I’ve overlooked – the legendarily luscious Boris Karloff!

He was born William Henry Pratt – not the name of a star, it's fair to say. Family connections in the diplomatic service meant a change was necessary. And while the name he chose to act under was Russian, Karloff was actually Anglo-Indian, which places him close to my heart as long-time readers of the Robot will know I have Anglo-Indian heritage.

Despite a fancy education, young Boris was a bit of a drifter, leaving the UK for Canada and doing all sorts of odd jobs before drifting into acting in his 20s. He ended up in Hollywood, with his first bit-part film roles in 1919. His dark good looks meant he played characters from a range of backgrounds – Mexican, various Indigenous groups, Italian, Spanish, Indian and more. But his breakout role was one that hid his smoulderingly handsome face: as the Monster in the 1931 film Frankenstein. Despite being buried under makeup and prosthetics, he was able to bring a sense of pathos to the role. What’s more, along with Dracula the success of Frankenstein ensured Universal would continue to make horror films for years to come.

And so a scary star was born, albeit one regularly hidden under paint and prosthesis. By the following year, he was famous enough simply to be called ‘Karloff’ on film posters. In 1932 he took the titular role in The Mummy, seeking his reincarnated princess, and played Fu Manchu in The Mask Of Fu Manchu; in 1934 he starred in The Black Cat opposite Bela Lugosi; and in 1935 he faced Lugosi once more in The Raven, and found an unwilling mate in The Bride Of Frankenstein. Those are just his standout horror roles – our Boris was a horrifyingly hardworking hunk, managing stage, television and non-horror film appearances too. 
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster
It takes a lot of makeup to hide the Karloff suavity – but his acting ability shone through

The scares just kept coming, and the co-stars were frequently similarly stellar: Vincent Price in The Raven (1963) and The Comedy Of Terrors (1963); Christopher Lee in Corridors Of Blood (1958) and The Curse Of The Crimson Altar (1968 – the last film released during Karloff’s lifetime, where despite being terribly ill his impeccable elegance is matched only by Lee’s). One star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame simply wouldn’t do justice to such monstrous manliness, so Boris Karloff has two, one for film and one for television.

While other stars were available, in many ways Karloff was the name of horror. In his films with Bela Lugosi, Karloff took top billing. When you wanted to give the audience a thrill, who better? It’s no coincidence that the name ‘Boris’ gets used frequently in the Halloween novelty songs of the 1950s and 1960s (Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s The Monster Mash in particular). Famous Monsters Of Filmland founder Forrest J Ackerman’s ‘Ackermansion’ was in Horrorweird, Karloffornia.

And so this year we’re saluting an absolute legend of horror. Suave and sophisticated, it took 5kg boots and a ton of makeup to mask his charm, but we’re not fooled. Bloofer Gent Boris Karloff, we salute you!


  1. Boris was a bit of a hunk alright!. He and Bela Lugosi were among my dad's favourite actors.

  2. I've got a soft spot for Boris Karloff and he and his cheekbones graced the walls of the living room of the flat I used to live in before I met Jos. It was Boris as Frankenstein drinking tea on set. Much to my shame I hardly knew anything about his background and had no idea he was Anglo-Indian, so thank you for the education. xxx

  3. A great read, Mim. I knew of Boris Karloff's heritage and I recognise him as Frankenstein but I've never seen any of those films. Isn't it a shame that the name Boris will now be forever associated by a self-serving upper class buffoon? xxx

  4. He also narrated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the original animated show, not the horrendous live-action Jim Carry abomination) - his voice is so swoony!


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