Grip of the Strangler
The Haunted Strangler
John Croydon, Richard Gordon (executive) for Amalgamated Productions
directed by Robert Day
starring Boris Karloff, Jean Kent, Elizabeth Allan, Anthony Dawson, Vera Day, Tim Turner, Diane Aubrey, Max Brimmell, Leslie Perrins, Jessica Cairns, Dorothy Gordon, Desmond Roberts, Roy Russell, Derek Birch, Peggy Ann Clifford, John Fabian, Joan Elvin, Michael Atkinson, George Hirste, Yvonne Buckingham, John G. Haller, Arthur Mullard, George Spence, Jeremy Young, Robert Day
screenplay by John Croydon (as John C.Cooper), Jan Read, based on the story Stranglehold by Jan Read, music by Buxton Orr, special effects by Les Bowie
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Mild mannered author James Rankin (Boris Karloff) tries to re-evaluate
the case of the Haymarket Strangler for his next book, 20 years after the
obvious culprit was tried and hanged for it. Only, Rankin believes they
have convicted the wrong man (Michael Atkinson), and that the actual
killer was none other than the coroner who examined the Haymarket
Strangler's victims. Thing is, the coroner seems to have disappeared after
the alleged Strangler's execution, and of all things, his scalpel has
disappeared with him.
Stubbornly, Rankin tracks down the coroner's last
known whereabouts to an insane asylum, and figures the only place his
scalpel can be is in the (wrongly accused) Haymarket Strangler's coffin -
and totally taken up by his quest, he bribes his way into unearthing that
coffin, where he really does find the scalpel ... but once the scalpel is
in his hands, he almost immediately turns into a disfigured (!) killer and
starts killing showgirls as a pastime.
It's not long before Rankin - who
without the scalpel in his hand is the kindest of men - notices there's
something wrong with him, which is when his wife (Elizabeth Allan) tells
him he himself is actually the man he is looking for ... and being a good
citizen, Rankin gives himself up to the police thereafter - but the cops
don't believe a word of what he's saying and only lock him up after he
attacks an officer and almost injures him. Still, in his cell, Rankin
becomes his murderous persona again and makes an escape in no time, making
many a killing along his way ... until he attacks his own daughter (Diane
Aubrey), and when he does, the spell of the scalpel seems to be broken and
he refrains from killing her - which is when the police has caught up with
him though, and he is pretty much shot on sight, but with his dying
breath, he asks for the murderous scalpel to be destroyed ...
Grip of the Strangler is an ok horror film, nothing more. Its
premise, digging deep into psychoanalysis and the subconscious, might
sound intrigueing, but its execution, with Karloff's disfigured
face, is rather childish, and somehow one has the feeling the film never
manages to live up to its promise. Still, taken as just another
old-fashioned shocker with not too much of a meaning to it, the film fares
ok enough to make up for an entertaining 75 minutes.