Boris Karloff stars in The Climax, a 1944 film about a man who is obsessed with a prima donna so much so that he kills her and years later when another comes along with a similar voice, he finds it too much to bear and must control her at all costs. Originally meant to be a sequel to Universal’s Phantom of the Opera released a year earlier, it instead went another way, though much like the Phantom of that picture, Karloff’s character Dr. Friedrich Hohner would also play a man haunted by a beautiful woman and her voice. As it is, the picture is dissimilar enough that it can indeed be taken on its own with solid performances from the cast, if little horror to be found.
That being said, it does begin with a bit of horror as Dr. Hohner reflects back upon the woman called Marcellina whom he loves above all else but a woman who wants nothing more to do with him. Not being able to bear the thought of her being with another man, he kills her, silencing that voice he will forever hear in his head for the rest of his days. Cut forward to the present which is ten years since that day and there is a new prima donna waiting in the wings though she knows it not and when given a chance, she brings the house down as well as the ire of Dr. Hohner. What the man does is horrific in nature, an abuse of power akin to an assault as he hypnotizes her so that she might never sing again, never use her voice without his permission as it reminds him too much of his dearly departed Marcellina whom he has kept preserved in a secret room in his house. It is all horror of a sort, but not that which the Universal audience might have had in mind when first deciding to watch this feature. The rest of the film is both dramatic and suspenseful and Karloff wields his presence like a hammer throughout, the role and the film quite possibly suffering were it in the hands of a lesser actor which thankfully, it was not.
Also starring would be Turhan Bey as the love interest of the prima donna played by Susanna Foster who coincidentally played Christine in Universal’s Phantom picture from the year before. Foster is definitely up for the role of the victimized singer and she not only plays the part well, but her singing is top-notch and the music in the film quite good. Bey makes a strong leading man and his onscreen chemistry with Foster works well to make it all quite believable, a perfect foil for the villainous Dr. Hohner. Like all good films, amid the brightly coloured sets and operatic scenes, love eventually wins out in the end and Dr. Hohner reaps his just desserts when all is said and done.
Out of all those vehicles which starred Karloff over the years, The Climax might not have been the best of the bunch with its lack of action and the horror that Karloff films usually tend to have, but it was definitely engaging and made for an enjoyable viewing experience though it could have been just little bit more than it was.