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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Art direction and genuine suspense make for an enjoyable ride.
"The Climax" provides Boris Karloff not only with his first Technicolor film, but audiences with a handsome, humdinger of a mustache-twisting Victorian melodrama.
True, the story is not supernatural, but what does that matter when Boris keeps his deceased girl friend preserved beneath a gauze shroud in a secret room? If this is not sufficient, then just savor the mouth watering color photography, art direction and costumes.
This is one of the most visually handsome color films from the 40's, and ranks favorably against Minnelli's "Meet Me in St. Louis" in the warmth, depth, and clarity of its chromatic range, whilst simultaneously recalling Twentieth Century Fox's lighting schemes from "The Little Princess," and anticipating "Blanche Fury" in its tonal subtleties.
The settings are both sumptuous and historically accurate, (sharp eyed viewers will note that some of the same props show up later in Ulmer's "Bluebeard,") and provide the perfect background for the cloak and dagger theatrics.
Not to be outdistanced are Vera West's (one of Hollywood's most undervalued designers) late Victorian gowns--each a marvel of velvet, chiffon, plumes, and various embroideries, not to mention being a testament to the lost art of dressmaking.
Susanna Foster not only wears them charmingly, but sings like an angel, until Boris hypnotizes her. Thereafter, she is a bit somnambulistic--something of a problem given an impending operatic engagement.
Not to worry though, a turban-less Turhan Bey will save the day, in a nick of time, allowing Susanna to hit her high C on opening night, as scowling villain Karloff rushes off to a succulent fate.
That fate, as depicted, with Uncle Boris collapsing on a curtained bier that is laden with the corpse of his long dead (though still photogenic) inamorata, as they both go up in flames, is as aesthetically and dramatically delicious as they come.
One can almost imagine the the whoops of the popcorn patrons as they cheered this pyrotechnic finale in the Rialto's of yesteryear.
Not to be missed.
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