The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Radio Drama
Science Faction

Vol 1, #10
"Stand By For Mars!"
October 2006
If the wealth hasn't been spread your way, find what you need on Ebay.

The Thunder Child Documentary Reviews

Kreating Karloff: Show me the Karloff -- Sooner

by Caroline Miniscule

© Uncanny Productions 2006
Conor Timmis
Conor Timmis is a young actor with a lofty goal. He wants the great Boris Karloff to be recognized with a biopic, and he wants to play the title role. To that end, he has filmed a combination documentary/screen test: Kreating Karloff, and assembled a talented cast of people to put the production together.

This documentary debuted at Fanex 19 (Baltimore) in August, 2006, hosted by film historian Steve Vertlieb, and is now making the rounds of film festivals. (To see if its playing at a festival near you, check out the screening schedule at Conor's blog My Space: Uncanny Films) for updates.)

Timmis' screen tests consist of four scenes from The Mummy, and one from Frankenstein.

The scenes are "shot for shot" from the original motion pictures - from the staging to the lighting to the choreography to the dialog.

The Mummy
"The Spell"
"The Conversation"
"The Meeting"
"The Confrontation"
"The Frankenstein Screen Test"

In a special bit of casting, Liesl Ehart, the second cousin twice removed of Zita Johann (the actress who played Helen Grosvenor opposite Karloff in the original Mummy) recreates her role in "The Conversation" and "The Meeting" scenes. Ed Wilhelms plays Doctor Muller and Rick Broderick Sir Joseph Whemple opposite Timmis in "The Confrontation" scene.

Dr. Frankenstein is played by Justin Granchelli in the sole Frankenstein scene.

© Uncanny Productions
Poster art by Norman Bryn

"I couldn't look like Conor as The Mummy or Conor as Frankenstein, I needed to look like Conor as Boris Karloff and then The Mummy or Conor as Boris Karloff and then Frankenstein."

These screen tests, each lasting a couple of minutes, were filmed over the course of a weekend at Tripeg Studios in Hamden, Connecticut, along with the framing documentary.

The documentary is, in the main, a record of the two days of shooting, but also contains a "Brief History of Boris Karloff", and informed comments by Steve Vertlieb, film journalist extraordinaire.

Each of the actors supporting Timmis, and the production people: makeup artist Norman Bryn and director of photography Scott Sniffen, are also interviewed about their role in this project.

This documentary is a testament to the enthusiasm and professionalism with which Conor Timmis went about bringing Kreating Karloff to fruition. But it's much more than a record of the filming of the screen tests.

Makeup artist Norman Bryn discusses the makeup techniques of Jack Pierce, as applied to Karloff for Frankenstein and the Mummy, and then explains and shows how he did the makeup for Timmis for his scenes. (The actual scenes may have been shot in two days, but Bryn worked on creating the makeup prosthetics for weeks before hand.) Fascinating stuff.

To a lesser extent, director of photography Scott Sniffen does the same thing in discussing how each of the scenes had to be lit to duplicate the effects from those long-ago classics which still hold up today.

© Uncanny Productions 2006
Liesl Ehardt as Helen Grosvenor/Zita Johann
and Conor Timmis as Karloff/Ardath Bay

Then, about a third of the way through, we finally see the first screen test, "The Spell," in which Timmis/Karloff kneels over the reflecting pool which he is about to use in assisting him to kill Sir Joseph Whemple.

© Uncanny Productions 2006
Timmis as Ardath Bay
This is a flaw in this otherwise excellent doc. Its raison d'etre is to have Conor Timmis show his audience that he can incarnate Karloff, and yet we have to wait, and wait, before we get to see it for the first time, and see how well he does it. If the screen tests fall down, the whole doc, fun as it is, also falls down.

Better, in this reviewer's opinion, for at least one of the screen tests to have been shown at the very beginning, so that the audience is not kept in suspense for so long. (Although, there is a nice shot early on of Timmis sounding uncannily like Karloff as he talks over some of Karloff's lines coming from a TV screen, so at least we know he can do the voice.)

However, the wait is worth it. These screen tests are a lot of fun to watch, Timmis proves he can do Karloff (and is a joy to watch opposite Liesl Ehardt's delightful "Helen Grosvenor") and the enthusiasm and skill of the artists involved is palpable throughout.

If it comes to a film festival near you, don't miss it...and drop a line to Universal adding your voice to the clamor for a biopic of Karloff the Uncanny!

Additional reading
The Man Who Would Be Karloff: The Thunder Child interviews Conor Timmis

External sites

  • Conor Timmis' official site
  • Liesl Ehardt's official site
  • A review of Kreating Karloff, by M.J. Simpson

    © Uncanny Productions 2006
    Life casts of Conor Timmis and Boris Karloff,
    used for creating prosthetic makeup

    Return to:

    The Thunder Child Movies Sourcebooks

    Click on the icons for new features in The Thunder Child
    Radiation Theater: 1950s Sci Fi Movies Discussion Boards
    The Sand Rock Sentinel: Ripped From the Headlines of 1950s Sci Fi Films

  • Recommended Reading

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Recommended Reading

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    Learn more or
    Buy Now

    [Home Page] [Contact Us] [Triskelion] [TechnoOcean] [Daily Space] [Store] [Site Map]

    To see our animated navigation bars, please download the Flash Player from Adobe.

    All text © 2006, 2007 The Thunder Child unless otherwise credited.
    All illustrations retain original copyright.
    Please contact us with any concerns as to correct attribution.
    Any questions, comments or concerns contact The Thunder Child.