“It isn’t your voice remember? Now tell me whose voice is it? Tell me.” “Marcellina’s”
Dr. Friedrich Hohner (Boris Karloff) is the theatre physician at the Vienna Royal Theatre. Ten years ago he was in love with the star soprano Marcellina (June Vincent). His obsessive jealousy of her voice resulted in him demanding that she never sing for anyone but him. She tries to break it off with him. In a fit of madness and jealousy he murders her. He keeps her body in a private mausoleum in his home.
Ten years later, another young singer Angela Klatt (Susanna Foster) comes along who sounds astoundingly like Marcellina. The theater owner, Count Seebruck (Thomas Gomez), wants to resurrect the opera that Marcellina was famous for “The Magic Voice”. Her voice reminds Hohner so much of the late diva that, once again, his blind jealously kicks in. He is almost trance-like when he hears her sing.
Hohner is overcome with the impulse to either prevent her from singing for anyone but him or silence her forever. He must either destroy her or destroy her voice. He hypnotizes her into loosing her voice during a rehearsal. He then takes her home with him and won’t let anyone see her. Her fiancé Franz Munzer (Turhan Bey) sees something is wrong and is determined to save her.
“The Climax” was released in 1944 and was directed by George Waggner. Trying to recoup some of the expense of “The Phantom of the Opera” produced in 1943 Universal reused many of the sets used in “Phantom” for “The Climax”. Much ado was made about it being a reboot or even rehash of “The Phantom of the Opera”. Because of that the movie was not very popular. Add to that critics referred to Karloff’s performance as sleep walking. Granted it is more of a gothic melodrama than a horror movie and there are similarities between “Phantom and “Climax” there is still much ado that can be made on the movie’s behalf.
There are a couple things that I liked about the movie. First is Susanna Foster. She played Christine in the 1943 Universal production of “Phantom”. Her operatic range was phenomenal. Her vocal ability to hit B above high C on the scale was tough to beat. Second is that I am a die hard Boris Karloff fan. I disagree that he was ‘sleepwalking’ through the movie. His intensity and his hypnotic aura shows.
Granted singing isn’t the first thing you think of in a horror movie, especially opera singing. There is; however, other things that are standard for your basic horror movie. A mad doctor. A mad doctor who is a homicidal maniac with a Svengali complex. A mad doctor who keeps a dead body in a secret shrine in his home. An unnatural fixation on a voice. The homicidal urge to silence the voice wherever it comes from.
Sometimes it’s not the climax. Sometimes it’s the journey. For “The Climax” the journey is the decent into irrational thinking. The madness. And no one does madness like Karloff.
This is the first movie Karloff did that was in color.