Gin and Boris: A Late-Night Double-Feature Picture Show

October 21, 2016 — Just a few days into this 2016 OTIS Halloween Season, I found myself at my parents’ house in Maryland for a week. Every time I return home, they usually have saved something on their DVR for me that they think I’d want to watch. They know I suck at TV because the only channels ever on in my house are Cartoon Network and Disney Channel. This time, they’d saved a pair of Boris Karloff movies from a TCM marathon of them.

Since it was still mid-September and we were eight hours speeding from our cozy, private Halloween’d up home in New Hampshire, Lindsey and I decided to watch them back-to-back late one day to create our own little Halloween bubble. The visit home was unplanned and not a happy one, and we needed a place to hide out for a couple hours. Fortunately, the Halloween Season is great for hiding in.

I smuggled a bottle of gin into the house just for the nostalgia (I so miss being 8), and after everybody was in bed and a-snooze, we pulled out our booze, and started our late-night double-feature picture show. The oldies are the best for that. With a run time of 1 hour and 6 minutes and 1 hour and 4 minutes, respectively, it took us less time to watch those two movies than almost any single current movie that we could’ve pulled off VOD.

The only thing missing was a horror host, although we did have Ben Mankiewicz introducing the flicks. He works in a pinch even if he does make me miss Robert Osbourne.

The movies were The Man They Could Not Hang (1939) and The Walking Dead (1936), neither of which I had seen before. Which I guess isn’t surprising. Karloff’s cinema resume has more than 200 acting credits on IMDb.

In one, Karloff gets falsely accused of murder, is executed and resurrected, and wreaks vengeance on those who wronged him. In the other, Karloff gets falsely accuse of murder, is executed and resurrected, and wreaks vengeance on those who wronged him.

That…wasn’t a copy/paste error.

But the movies were different in texture. In The Man They Could Not Hang, Karloff plays a mad scientist convinced he can bring the dead to life with a glass apparatus that was basically a freestanding heart and lungs for the deceased. On testing the device on a willing human subject, the experiment is interrupted before Karloff can reanimate the volunteer. The police, naturally, don’t let him finish and charge him with murder. After a long, overly extended court scene, Karloff is found guilty, hanged, and then brought back to life by his assistant. He’s so disgusted by how his scientific brilliance was received that he decides to kill every juror, cop, and judge involved in his temporary demise.

That’s when the movie gets really good. He tricks them all into coming over for dinner, reveals himself as alive, traps them in the house, and then tells them they will die at 15 minute intervals. This ending scene ends too soon and should have been the concept of the entire movie, honestly.

In The Walking Dead, Karloff plays a down-on-his-luck musician who is framed for murder by the mob. He also gets a court scene and is executed (this time by electric chair). Fortunately, the three people on the planet who believe he’s innocent include a doctor who has been experimenting with electricity to raise the dead. Which he does, giving Karloff a skunk stripe in the process.

From there, the movie gets weird. Instead of obsessing about his revolutionary scientific achievement, the doctor starts obsessing about what Karloff saw while he was dead. Meanwhile, Karloff tracks down everybody responsible for his death—even though there’s no natural way for him to have known who’s responsible—and then basically stares them to death. That’s right. His look is so haunting that the bad guys have heart attacks or run away in terror only to get hit by trains or fall and smash their skulls.

The resurrected convict doesn’t kill a single person in this entire movie. And then he simply expires when the last two bad guys crash their car into a tree. All we’re left with is a strange moral about God being a jealous God.

Man, it was a good night much needed. Late-night September. Classic Horror. Boris Karloff. Gin and whatevers. I think this needs to be a new Halloween Season tradition for us: Gin and Boris, we’ll call it.

Oh, and if you want to recreated our night, grab a bottle of gin, and watch ‘em below.