“The Climax” (1944)
Based upon the 1909 play by Edward Locke, George Waggner’s “The Climax” is a film with obvious pretensions toward elevating the Universal horror film to a more sophisticated and urbane level rather than the usual bogeyman programmers in which star Boris Karloff found himself frequently unchallenged as an actor.
Originally intended as a sequel to the studio’s 1943 remake of “Phantom of the Opera”, “The Climax” makes the same mistakes as its intended antecedent with its meritless surfeit of gaudily staged musical sequences that distract from the central antagonist of the piece; manifested here in the figure of house physician Dr. Friedrich Hohner (Karloff), a man dangerously obsessed with possessing the celebrated operatic diva Marcellina (June Vincent), who vanished mysteriously (though the film reveals the secret of her disappearance in the first minutes of the film with the aid of a clumsily inserted flashback) ten years prior to the central narrative involving the overnight rise of new operetta star Angela Klatt (Susanna Foster). For reasons left best to the plot mechanics left abandoned in unused script drafts, Hohner becomes obsessed with Angela’s voice and its resemblance to Marcellina’s and sets upon a scheme to sabotage the budding star’s career through hypnotic suggestion.
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