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Rowland V. Lee
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>
Boris Karloff returned to Universal Studios playing Dr. Frederich Hohner, a man most people believe is haunted by the disappearance of a female opera singer ten years earlier. What they don't realize is that he actually murdered her. In present times he hears the beautiful Angela Klatt (Susanna Foster) sing and her voice reminds him of the one he killed so he plans to control the new singer.
THE CLIMAX was Karloff's return to the studio that made him a legend and the company went all out in regards to what the film has to offer. They gave him director George Waggner who had just scored a major success with THE WOLF MAN. They allowed the film to be shot in Technicolor. They even went all out with a higher budget and a classier looking picture. Everything is here except for a story, energy or any passion. I'm always shocked that Universal threw everything at this picture yet they basically delivered a rehash of SVENGALI and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
On a technical level this film is very impressive as the visuals really jump off the screen. The Technicolor is extremely beautiful and especially the dresses and costumes in the picture. Just wait until you see the fire at the end as it looks incredible. The music itself is quite good if you really judge it and I'd argue that the cast is very good as well. This includes Karloff who has no problem playing the passion that this role requires. Foster, Turhan Bey and Gale Sondergaard are all good as well.
So, what's the problem with THE CLIMAX? It's the story, which is downright boring and the movie ends up moving so slow that it feels twice as long. I really don't know why Universal did this to Karloff and offered such a boring screenplay and especially when they had just done PHANTOM OF THE OPERA the previous year.
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