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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Karloff for Christmas

Admittedly, there is no sci-fi in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the 1966 animated Christmas movie. There is a connection, though, to classic sci-fi: Boris Karloff. He was both the narrator of the Grinch movie and the voice of the Grinch himself. His deep, soft voice was perfect for the narration. Seuss, however, worried that Karloff could too easily make The Grinch too frightening for young children. No doubt, Seuss had seen some of the mad scientist roles Karloff had done in the 40s and 50s. Karloff could -- and had -- infused his voice with a dark menace in his rolls as Dr. Niemann in House of Frankenstein or the Cabman in The Body Stealer, just to name two. Apparently, the compromise was to do a bit of electronic filtering of the Grinch lines to make them sound a bit more gravelly and so, a bit less real.

The Grinch movie has gone on to spawning costumes, copyists and remakes (both bad and worse) as well as becoming such a strong cultural icon that photoshopping one's opponent's face onto a Grinch image is routine repartee.

The song: You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, has lived on in the culture, such that you can find the children of parents who were not even born in 1966, know the song and sing it with zeal. Granted, Karloff did not sing the song, but the song itself lends staying power to The Grinch, who will forever have Karloff's voice.

So, as you enjoy your Christmas, and no doubt cross paths with The Grinch somewhere along the line, just remember the legend of classic sci-fi behind that memorable voice.

Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

Randall Landers said...

The Grinch was one of Karloff's greatest roles. In so doing, he cemented a new take on his own career. That of a beloved icon who was capable of the kind of the broad spectrum the Grinch goes through: from ne'er-do-well to a perplexed criminal to a reformed if not totally good guy who gets to carve the roast beef.

My mother, a product of 1937, was so charmed by Karloff as the Grinch that she insisted we see it every year. And even now, all these years later, sit down and watch it at least a couple of times every season.

And to be sure, it's not the character of the Grinch that brings us back every year (I saw part of the Jim Carrey debacle -- never could finish it). It's Karloff and his sensitivity, especially at the end when the Grinch realizes that he didn't stop Christmas -- It came. It came without all the materialism that the 60's Christmas cartoons worried about (e.g. A Charlie Brown Christmas). And that honest warmth of the great actor came shining through in that moment like a beacon for the world to see.

Sorry for rambling, but it's nice to see someone honor Karloff in one of his most memorable roles.