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Image Entertainment presents
The Veil (1958)

"Tonight I'm going to tell you another strange and unusual story of the unexplainable...which lies behind The Veil."
- The Host (Boris Karloff)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 15, 2001

Stars: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Pat Clavin, Robert Hardy, Tod Andrews, Kay Stewart, Tony Travis, Booth Colman, Peter Miller, Morris Ankrum, Ron Hagerthy, Harry Bartell, Lee Torrance, Niall McGinnis
Other Stars: Jennifer Raine, Patrick Macnee, Eve Brent, Jack Lomas, Tudor Owen, Russ Bender, Argentina Brunetti, Roxane Berard, Thomas Henry, Myron Healey, Roy Engel, Paul Bryar, Vici Raaf, Jean del Val, George Hamilton, Clifford Evans, Dorothy Alison, Larry Falk, Don Molin, Sheldon Lawrence
Director: Herbert L. Strock, George Waggner, Frank P. Bibas, Paul Landres, David MacDonald, Curt Siodmak

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (murder, poisoning, mild violence)
Run Time: 04h:22m:22s
Release Date: September 18, 2001
UPC: 014381081428
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-B+B B

DVD Review

1958 was an exceedingly busy year for Boris Karloff. He made a pair of horror films in Britain, The Haunted Strangler and Corridors of Blood (both available on DVD), and was also signed to host and star in 25 episodes of a new TV series, The Veil, to be made by Hal Roach Studios. Since they promised Karloff $5000 per program, the series seemed to be a godsend for the aging actor. The plan was to emphasize the supernatural, as befits his reputation. Nine episodes were completed, and a tenth from an unknown British TV series had been given a framing segment featuring Karloff, when Hal Roach studios filed bankruptcy. No more work was done on the series, and the ten shows completed were never sold for broadcast. Although several sets of episodes were edited together into feature films decades later, the programs have not been seen in their original form, until now. Something Weird Video puts the entire 10-episode run on DVD, complete with narration from Karloff and credit sequences. The result is a rather quaint and charming set that holds up decently, though there is a tendency toward repetition, even in this short season.

Vision of Crime

The first episode features Robert Hardy as brother to a pharmacist. While on board a ship across the Atlantic, he sees a vision of his brother being shot. He immediately returns, only to find that his brother really has been shot, and his vision is making him suspect in the eyes of the constables (Karloff and The Avengers' Patrick Macnee). Karloff is quite funny here as the bumbling half of the constabulary, and Macnee shines as his competent partner. Not exactly terrifying material, but at least the characters are entertaining. Worth three ghosts out of five.





Girl on the Road

This program finds motorist John Prescott (Tod Andrews) giving a lift to pretty Lila Kirby (Eve Brent), whose car has run out of gas. When he takes her to the local roadhouse, the barkeep suddenly calls a mysterious Morgan Debs on the telephone, causing Lila to flee in panic. Mysteries deepen when Lila vanishes completely and Debs (Karloff) threatens Prescott if he tries to investigate more closely. Although there are elements evocative of The Lady Vanishes, there's just not enough time in a half-hour program to give it the depth that it needs. Karloff's portrayal is a little on the uneven side here, ominously threatening in one scene, and quietly tolerant in another. The ending is quite predictable, so the program rates only two spooks.





Food on the Table

This is one of the better episodes, mainly through strength of Karloff's portrayal of a devious sea captain. In need of funds, he decides to do away with his wife (Kay Stewart) to leave him free to marry a rich widow. However, the dead wife has other plans for him. Karloff is astonishingly vigorous for a 71-year-old, believably playing a nasty and vigorous 40-ish seadog. Worth four and a half apparitions.





The Doctors

Here Karloff is the beloved doctor of a small Italian village. When he is run ragged by the demands of his patients, his doctor son goes out in a storm to treat a little girl. The family, however, refuses to let the son touch her, even though she is clearly near death. Only The Doctor will do. The supernatural hardly appears in this episode at all, and then only to tie matters up. Karloff doesn't bother with an Italian accent, nor does his son. However, the supporting cast all have incredibly thick accents that render them barely comprehensible. It's a decent drama attacking superstition, but not much of a spook story. So 2 spooks is all it merits.





The Crystal Ball

Clairvoyance is once again the theme, though here with a bit of a twist. Romance writer Edmond Vallier (Booth Colman), loves Marie (Roxane Berard), but she wants money and marries his publisher instead. As a parting gift, she presents Edmond with a crystal ball. Unbeknownst to her, however, the ball permits Edmond to voyeuristically eavesdrop on Marie and her lovers. Not the wisest of gifts, I'm afraid. The voyeurism theme is unique and symptomatic of the scripts in the series, which have plenty of extraneous material that could have been developed in an interesting manner if the tyranny of the half-hour (less commercials) weren't in control here. Karloff is at his very worst, in a throwaway role as Edmond's rakish uncle. His phony French accent is atrocious, making me glad he didn't make an attempt at Italian in The Doctors. Another 2 spooker out of 5.





Genesis

The title of this program nicely ties together biblical themes of rivalry between brothers, such as Cain and Abel or Jacob and Esau. Black sheep Jamie returns home just as his father is expiring. The old fellow was problematic, however, because he wrote several wills cutting one or the other of his sons out. Unfortunately for brother John, the one that leaves all to Jamie is the more recent one. Things look bleak until the dead father makes a reappearance and gives John some cryptic instructions relating to the first book of the Bible. Karloff plays Jonas Atterbury, the family lawyer who represents son John, even though he hasn't got any reasonable legal grounds to do so. Let's call it a three-spook affair out of five.





Destination Nightmare

Disc Two starts off with a rather different, modern piece. Budding young pilot Peter Wade Jr (Ron Hagerthy) finds himself hypnotized in midair by one of his father's dead military buddies. Seems that the old friend wants Junior to total the plane and kill himself. What foul secret does Senior (Karloff) hide? Well, I've watched the ending twice, and I'm still not quite sure. The production values are significantly more lavish here, apparently a last gasp before Roach gave up the ghost. Speaking of ghosts, let's say this earns three and a half of them.





Summer Heat

This Rear Window knockoff has a somewhat interesting twist. During a heat wave, loner Mr. Paige (Harry Bartell) sees the murder of a beautiful young blonde woman in the apartment across the way. However, when he goes there with the police, they find the apartment empty and no one has lived there in months. The police brush Paige off as a kook, but then a beautiful young blonde woman rents the apartment.... The program features an interesting coda at the police station that gives this episode a rather different character. Say four and one-half wailing revenants out of five.





The Return of Madame Vernoy

Whereas most of these episodes of The Veil leave the supernatural elements until nearly the end of the program, here the occult twist is provided up front. The story takes place in India, where Santha Naidu (the luminous Lee Torrance), a young woman, believes that she was born the reincarnation of a dead woman. She takes her mother and frustrated boyfriend to visit the husband and son she left behind in her former life, and tries to get people to understand that she is the dead wife and mother. The son, Krishna, is played by a very, very young George Hamilton, and he doesn't much care for the idea of a mother that is barely his own age. The Indian setting and the serious treatment of reincarnation boost this up ahead of most of its brethren. Torrance is excellent and quite believable as the reborn woman. Karloff gets another throwaway role here as a college professor come to take Krishna to study in America. Nonetheless, an easy five ghosts for this episode.





Jack the Ripper

This program was bought up from a British horror anthology, and is quite different in tone from the other Veil episodes. Clairvoyant Walter Dunst (Niall McGinnis) goes to Scotland Yard with information on the Whitechapel murderer, derived from his visions; unfortunately, he knows details that only the Ripper himself should know, and thus finds he is the prime suspect. There isn't any gore shown, but there is plenty described, making for a rather disturbing program. McGinnis is superb as Dunst, as is Dorothy Alison as his supportive, if impatient, wife. Even though there is no Karloff, still worth four ghosts.





The re-edited episodes are also available on DVD from Rhino. However, the presentation here is much superior and a definite must for Karloff fans.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original full-screen picture looks quite outstanding here. There is plenty of detail, deep black levels and a wide range of greys. Return of Madame Varnoy has a couple of unpleasant film jumps, but otherwise the source materials are in superb condition. Since the series was shot on film, it is much superior to period kinescopes, such as we find on the early seasons of The Avengers. The video is much better than I anticipated.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The only audio track is in 1.0 mono. Dialogue is clear throughout. Music is occasionally a shade tinny sounding, but is decent overall. A certain amount of low hiss can be heard, but it's not terribly distracting. In short, as good as one can reasonably expect for this material.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 50 cues and remote access
Production Notes
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Two episodes from 13 Demon Street
Extras Review: Although there isn't a huge number of extras presented here, what is provided is very welcome. First is a 12-page booklet with cast and crew information on each episode, a synopsis and production notes. The synopses tend to be spoiler-filled, so I would suggest not reading the booklet until after each program described has been viewed.

The best extra, however, is a pair of episodes from a similar, unsold series that would have starred Lon Chaney Jr. as the host. In contrast to Karloff's studied gentility, Chaney's character is quite a bit more like an EC Comics horror host. His character (the Wandering Jew?) apparently committed some undefined and unspeakable act, and is condemned to read through nasty stories until he finds a story about someone nastier than he is.

The Vine of Death features Pat Clavin as a museum employee who plans to plant 4000-year-old bulbs of a Mirada plant known as the Vine of Death for its habits of strangling live bodies. His neighbor makes a pass at his wife, and as tempers heat, Clavin ends up dead. Unfortunately for the neighbor, he decides to bury the body in the hothouse...with the bulbs of the Vine of Death in his pocket.

The Black Hand is a tired retread of The Hands of Orlac. This time, Clavin stars as a famous surgeon involved in a car crash and loses a hand; he decides to borrow one from the dead driver of the other car. However, Clavin later learns that the hand belonged to a misogynistic serial killer. Things progress predictably from there (including the obligatory ridiculous scene of a man's hand attacking him).

As this series was produced in Sweden, these prints are complete with burned-in Swedish subtitles. The picture quality is not quite up to the standard of The Veil, being somewhat less distinct and clear, but it's acceptable. Less acceptable is the burned-in Something Weird Video logo in the lower right corner seen through the entire running time. Perhaps we can look forward to SWV releasing the entire 13 Demon Street series one of these days—without the imprint?

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

A surprisingly good transfer of a 43-year-old, unsold TV series, with some very nice extras indeed. The suspense and horror elements presented here are, unfortunately, not quite up to the expectations of modern genre audiences, but the program is certainly entertaining for fans of old-school horror. A definite must for Karloff fans, who can hardly pass up this much Boris in one place.

 


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