Review of “The Haunted Strangler” (1958)

trailer from YouTube

This week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering is a black-and-white horror flick with monster movie great, Boris Karloff.


The film opens in 1860 at Newgate Prison for the occasion of the hanging of Edward Styles (an uncredited Michael Atkinson), known as the Haymarket Strangler. Styles was convicted of killing five women. The crowd laughs at the man who fights his way to the gallows and protests his innocence. A moment of silence for the bells tolling the hour when the trap door opens, but the spectators laugh as condemned man’s bound feet swing.

Twenty years later, novelist James Rankin (Boris Karloff) begins looking at the Styles case afresh. He’s convinced Styles was innocent and only went to gallows because he was too poor to afford a good lawyer. One of the clues he and his assistant, Dr. McColl (Tim Turner), uncover is that the doctor who performed the autopsies on the Haymarket Strangler’s victims was locked up in an asylum then disappeared with a nurse. He also discovers the doctor’s scalpel is missing.

In the meantime, Mrs. Rankin (Elizabeth Allan) has been trying to tell him something. He promises to talk to her—later. It’s only when he comes across their daughter Lily (Diane Aubrey) and McColl kissing that he realizes what his wife has on her mind. Neither of them knows McColl has promised to immigrate with their little girl to Canada.

There’s something else Mrs. Rankin hasn’t quite gotten around to telling her husband.


According to Wikipedia, this adapted from a story originally titled “Stranglehold” and written especially for Karloff by screenwriter Jan Reed. Karloff does well in it, both as a concerned social-reforming writer, then as a transformed violent mentally ill man.

Some elements toward the end are unusual in this type of movie. Rankin doubts reality. The viewer doubts his sanity—but—but he meant well. He had every intention of exonerating the poor bastard who hanged.

Scenes such as chorus girls undressing and inmates in an asylum being force-fed are gratuitous. Most of the violence is off-camera, but this is not a film for the kiddies.

While the ending is unhappy, it is logical and there is a nice plot twist toward the end I didn’t see coming. It is a good—not great—film.

The Haunted Strangler can be watched here.

Title: The Haunted Strangler (1958)

Directed by
Robert Day

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)
John Croydon…(as John C. Cooper)
Jan Read…(screenplay)
Jan Read…(story “Stranglehold”)

Cast (in credits order)
Boris Karloff…James Rankin
Jean Kent…Cora Seth
Elizabeth Allan…Barbara Rankin
Anthony Dawson…Supt. Burk
Vera Day…Pearl

Released: 1958
Length: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

3 thoughts on “Review of “The Haunted Strangler” (1958)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: