This movie is not only in the Essential Horror guide but is also a Criterion selection. It might be Boris Karloff's finest hour but that isn't saying terribly much. We follow a writer named Rankin (Karloff) and his protege McCall (an amateur psychologist) as they investigate a series of murders for which a man was executed twenty years earlier. I'm not sure how much to say about the movie so, if you are wary of spoilers maybe stop here.
Ok, if you are still with me, there is a plot twist about halfway through the movie that I guessed in the opening seconds of the film. To say that it was frustrating waiting for the movie to catch up with me was a bit of an understatement. The way things are staged in the cold open, it is pretty obvious that Karloff himself if the real killer and the man they put to death was innocent. Luckily, this twist was not saved until the end of the film so you get half the running time to deal with the idea that Karloff has been leading an investigation into his own life without knowing it.
Once the murders begin again, the movie takes on an interesting strategy of having Karloff try to convince people he is guilty during his lucid moments. It is sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde style as Karloff bounces from twisted face lunacy to sober regret. After the big turn, the movie doesn't go where I thought it was going to go. It kept me guessing a bit as to the final outcome but it could also be because it meanders all over the place.
Well worth watching, especially for Karloff fans as I am fairly certain he didn't use much if any prosthetics for his transformation into the Strangler. I could have done without the Can Can dancing going on so long but there is a genuinely creepy graveyard scene that had some amazing sound design.