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Dr. Hohner (Karloff), theatre physician at the Vienna Royal Theatre, murders his mistress, the star soprano when his jealousy drives him to the point of mad obsession. Ten years later, another young singer (Foster) reminds Hohner of the late diva, and his old mania kicks in. Hohner wants to prevent her from singing for anyone but him, even if it means silencing her forever. The singer's fiancée (Bey) rushes to save her in the film's climax. Written by
Stephen Cooke <email@example.com>
Visually sumptuous but the story is an empty shell...
Edward Ward wrote the score (as in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA), George Waggner directed (he was producer of PHANTOM), JANE FARRAR again plays a rival singer jealous of the new diva, and SUSANNA FOSTER is the lovely singer terrified of co-star BORIS KARLOFF, instead of Claude Rains. Other than that, any similarity between THE CLIMAX and POTO is strictly coincidental.
The story is pretty lifeless, dealing as it does with the old chestnut about an older gentleman, the opera's resident doctor (BORIS KARLOFF) who killed his opera sweetheart years ago and is resentful when a new singer is engaged to sing the former diva's greatest role. He hypnotizes her in an attempt to silence her voice but doesn't count on interception from her romantic interest (TURHAN BEY) and the help of his housekeeper (GALE SONDERGAARD in a sympathetic role).
It was justifiably honored with Oscar nominations for Set Decoration and Art Direction, but failed to become the profitable hit Universal was obviously reaching for. The main reason is the plot doesn't hold enough interest with its cardboard characters. Even the role of the mad doctor is played in very low-key style by BORIS KARLOFF, one of the screen's great horror stars. A little more menace would have been a wise thing and would have heightened whatever suspense there is.
The supporting cast is a pleasant one, with JUNE VINCENT as the unfortunate opera diva Karloff murders, LUDWIG STOSSEL, THOMAS GOMEZ and SCOTTY BECKETT. The most obvious holdover from POTO is JANE FARRAR who practically repeats her role as a jealous diva, but even her tantrums were more credible in the former film.
Edward Ward's score is attractive but not as impressive as his work on PHANTOM, and Susanna's higher register sounds a bit strained at times, although overall her vocal performance is a good one.
Not likely to please fans of horror films with too much music and too little plot.
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