A friend who enjoys my postings about Classic Horror films recently sent me a DVD of two with Boris Karloff. What a lovely addition to my collection! Sunday Steven and I enjoyed Bedlam (1946).
According to the box, Karloff plays the evil head of an insane asylum. Insane asylums have been staples of horror movies and haunted houses for years, especially older, unenlightened ones. Since it was an older movie, naturally this would be an older insane asylum. Then I saw it was a period piece. Goody.
The opening credits are shown over a rather menacing looking painting. Jut as I was thinking it looked like a Hogarth print, I saw that the movie had been inspired by a William Hogarth painting.
I am not an art scholar, and I don’t know much about William Hogarth, but I have looked through books of his stuff. I know he painted in the 1700s and that his works are realistic depictions of the grimier side of London life. He was very moral. One of his series, A Rake’s Progress, depicts the stages of life of a bad man who comes to a bad end.
So I sat back and waited for some grit. And a bad end for those who deserved it.
The movie takes place in 1761, a time when those deemed insane were locked up and badly treated. People would pay tuppence to walk through the asylum and marvel at the inmates in their cages.
Boris Karloff is smooth and sinister. His gentle, kindly-sounding voice serves the part well.
I found it more of a moral tale than a horror tale. There are a few creepy images of the inmates. One of hands reaching out from darkened cages is very effective. When Karloff’s character finally gets his comeuppance, I thought it was fairly horrible (that’s not a spoiler; in a moral tale you must know there will be a comeuppance).
I really liked the movie, but I can’t call it a cheesy horror flick. It was interesting and at times suspenseful. I was concerned about what would happen to the characters. It was even, dare I say, thought provoking. And it reminded me about William Hogarth. I will soon make my way to the library in hopes of looking at a book of his works.