Tense, true, dramatic stories about the mysterious, baffling, unexplainable events in our lives.
In 1958, Frank P. Bibas blazed a ghostly trail when he created the anthology TV series The Veil, hosted by “The King of Monsters” himself, Boris Karloff. Its weird tales were reportedly all based on true-life accounts of frightening phenomena.
Ten of the planned 39 episodes were shot, all with Karloff as host and as leading characters. Then the Hal Roach Studios were swallowed up by financial quicksand, and The Veil vanished like a spook at sun-up. The episodes ended up not on TV but in warehouse storage. For decades, the fact of their existence was known to practically no one.
This book unVeils all the secrets of the supernatural series and its accounts of ghosts (on land, sea, and air), visions, possession, and reincarnation. Appendices include three Veil scripts, synopses of unproduced scripts, an exhaustive history of Karloff’s career as a TV host and rare Karloff photos from the John Antosiewicz Collection. And an Introduction by Boris Karloff.
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DVD Savant reviews the new SCRIPTS CRYPT book: Tom Weaver has a new book out in his Bear Manor 'Scripts from the Crypt' series, an informative dive into Boris Karloff worship called Boris Karloff's The Veil. Definitely an item for focused fans on the greatest of all horror stars – and there are plenty of them out there -- The Veil digs into a heretofore underreported episode in the Mr. K's career – his late '50s years hosting spooky TV shows, while moonlighting as a change-of-pace special guest on TV variety shows, like that of Dinah Shore. Karloff fans that think they know everything about their hero may receive something of a shock, as the book uncovers a TV show called The Veil. Ten episodes were produced in 1958, but when the fabled Hal Roach studio went belly-up they were consigned to the vault and never aired.
Weaver's book series to some degree follows a research 'n' scrapbook format grouped around reprints of some key scripts from the ill-fated series. Much in the book's favor is the sheer unfamiliarity of the subject, here illuminated by a lifetime of research. Weaver's key essay has sufficient data to tell the story of the series in great detail, with little or no guesswork. Each of the episodes is explained in full detail, with mini-bios for the actors involved. When Weaver showed 'rescued' episodes to one of the show's directors, he couldn't remember working on it! For other angles Weaver relies on specialized essays. Barbara Bibas Montero's piece covers the career of her father, the show's producer. Martin Varno (yes, THE Martin Varno, the legendary screenwriter of Night of the Blood Beast) offers a glimpse of what working life was like on the Roach lot, a huge Culver City studio crumbling in disrepair, and soon to fall into receivership.
The book's multiple perspectives are good, too. Weaver presents a well-documented account of the studio's demise as reported in the trade papers. Hal Roach Jr. announced dozens of upcoming shows, just days before the whole studio went before the auction block. That's followed up by an excellent overview of fantasy-horror TV production in the late '50s by Dr. Robert J. Kiss. The takeaway info is that The Veil would at best have shaped up as a weak sister to its genre competition One Step Beyond,and Karloff's later hit show Thriller. And we even hear the story of how the original film material was rescued from oblivion, by the late proprietor of the Something Weird video label, Mike Vraney.
Tom Weaver can be highly critical of genre pictures that don't meet his personal criteria, and his writing refuses to sugarcoat The Veil. Despite some good playing, he finds that most of the episodes are weak both in story and execution, with Boris Karloff's recurring roles only infrequently giving him a diverting character to play. Weaver is surprisingly hard on Karloff, for seemingly taking any job that came along and even for being a pinchpenny. To me it's entirely understandable if the old gent just put on his gracious act for P.R. purposes. Before stardom came he'd led as brutal a life as a 'wandering actor' could, working in unreliable stage companies out in Canada and the northwest. He'd long ago discovered that he could work simultaneously on Broadway and in junk movies, without a deleterious effect on his career. True, the series doesn't sound like much of a keeper, but the detail is absorbing. Was Karloff required to provide some of his own costumes? Weaver marvels at the fact that he always wears the same tie, not only in the spooky episode intros, but also when in character in some of the shows.
Boris Karloff's The Veil concludes with some extra scripts, some interesting photos and collector errata such as an appendix on a grim double murder committed by the actor's niece back in England. Everything is thoroughly indexed and annotated, making this a serious reference book as well, not just a compendium of fan fluff or (cough) reviewer opinion. Weaver always manages to make interesting reading of what the mainstream might consider some pretty minor '50s horror efforts. This particular subject may sound less essential than others, but the book's peek into the realities of '50s horror TV production is often illuminating.
Finally! A BearManor Media Scripts from the Crypt book (#7 in the series) dedicated to Boris Karloff ’s spooky anthology TV series … The Veil. You were hoping it was going to be Thriller, didn’t you? And perhaps you're also thinking, “What the heck is The Veil?” You cannot be faulted. Hardly a day goes by when nobody anywhere, Karloff fans included, mentions this 1958-59 series from Hal Roach Studios. The Roach Studios, under the stewardship of Hal Roach Jr., were then in full meltdown mode, and when lawmen moved in to shut the place down for non-payment of debts, The Veil died an abrupt and ignominious death. Ten Karloff-starring episodes had been shot, and they went into cold storage for decades. Finally, in the 1970s, the episodes were compiled into anthology TV movies, and in the 1990s the individual episodes arrived on home video.
Is The Veil too arcane a subject for a Scripts from the Crypt book? (Actually, it should be called a Teleplays from the Crypt book.) I’m of two minds. No one, not even Karloff aficionados, are particularly fond of the show, and it was so low-budget that the other actors in the ten episodes are (according to author Tom Weaver) the Who’s Who of “Who cares?” That’s a little harsh; there were a number of very obscure people in the show, actors whose entire IMDb lists would fit on the head of a pin, but a few episodes did have stars worth seeing (Tod Andrews, Eve Brent, Robert Hardy, Whit Bissell, Denise Alexander), and Patrick Macnee and George Hamilton turn up in supporting roles. One thing that makes the book worth reading is that it’s also a history of the dying days of Hal Roach Studios, told in Weaver’s usual snarky style.
After an introduction by Karloff in which he beats the drum for The Veil (actually written for a 1958 newspaper column), the first chapter is by Barbara Bibas Montero, the daughter of Veil creator and producer Frank Bibas (1917-97). She was born around the same time as the series, and therefore has no first-hand stories, but her chapter is nevertheless an interesting look at how a tyro TV series producer (her dad, a New Yorker) got involved with a moribund studio (Roach), traveled with his family to California, labored long and hard on his creation – and then had to exit because of what was described as a “policy hassle.” We get the impression that the real problem was that paychecks got to be few and far between on “The Lot of Fun,” and that’s backed up when Barbara reveals that after her dad left Roach, the family had to drive, rather than fly, the thousands of miles home to New York. Incidentally, Barbara thinks her late dad isn’t as late as he could be, detailing several latter-day incidents that make her think that he’s still watching out for her. Some are humorous and others, if she’s reporting them accurately, are rather eerie. It’s a great kick-off for a book on The Veil, whose stories were supposedly taken from real-life cases of supernatural phenomena (ghosts, reincarnation,
Next up is Weaver with a history of the creation of the series and an episode guide. Three Veil scripts follow (“A Chapter of Genesis,” “No Food on the Table,” “The Return of Madame Vernoy”), and then about 90 pages of lively appendices. Weaver is back with synopses of six Veil scripts that were never filmed; my favorite is the worst one, “The Signal,” in which Karloff would have played a freighter captain who turns SoCal sleuth. Martin Varno, a Roach story editor in the late ’50s, contributes a piece describing the lot in its last days and his observations of Karloff on the Veil set. Over 30 pages long, Dr. Robert J. Kiss’ essay on Karloff ’s history as a TV anthology series host is one of the highlights of the book. (Excerpted from this book, his coverage of Karloff ’s Thriller series was Classic Images #507’s cover story.)
Next comes Weaver’s interview with Jo Swerling Jr., son of the famous screenwriter, who very entertainingly reminisces about his work on Thriller (he wrote and directed Karloff ’s intros) and his complete devotion to the actor (“I wish he were my grandfather”). There are also two chapters primarily comprised of rare 1950s and ’60s photos of Karloff in which he poses with everyone and everything, from a lizard, a spider and a snake to Rosemary Clooney, Betty Hutton, Dinah Shore, Art Carney and Chuck Jones. Karloff ’s wife Evelyn is featured in a number of charming shots.
There’s even a grisly section devoted to Karloff ’s niece (his brother’s daughter), who gorily murdered her own young sons in England at the same time that Karloff was making The Veil. Weaver lets a series of original (1958-59) newspaper articles tell the awful tale, starting with a December 20, 1958, story that reports the murders without connecting her with the crime, and progressing through others in which she’s accused, arrested and tried. In those days of swift justice, by February she was declared insane and locked up for life. Even though her married name was Bromley and her real surname Pratt, newspapers played up the celebrity connection, many articles sporting titles like “Karloff Niece Insane Killer”!
Presumably no Veil stills exist because all the Veil pictures in this book are frame grabs, but all are sufficiently sharp to serve their purpose. The Veil, a shorter-than-short-lived series, may not be of much interest but the Scripts from the Crypt—The Veil book goes down so many fascinating side streets that Karloff fans will find more than enough to make the purchase worthwhile. Hardcover is $35; softcover $25.
- Laura Wagner/Classic Images