Boris Karloff: The Many Faces of a Film Icon – A Critical Symposium

Plymouth, UK (1.4.2022), 28. January 2022.

Due to a few requests, we have extended the call for papers to 28th January 2022.

Hosted by Plymouth College of Art, UK. To take place at Plymouth College of Art’s Tavistock Place location on 1st April 2022.

Keynotes to include: - Dr. Alison Pierse (University of Leeds), author of After Dracula: The 1930s Horror Film (2013) and editor of Women Make Horror (2020). - Stephen Jacobs, author of Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster (2010; second edition forthcoming) and The Karloff Compendium (forthcoming, 2022), as well as guest in and historical consultant on the documentary Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster (dir. Thomas Hamilton, 2021).
Other symposium attractions to include: - A full day academic symposium with panel discussions on various aspects of Karloff’s life and career. - Associated screenings of Karloff features to take place on the evenings of Thursday 31st March and Friday 1st April at the Plymouth Arts Cinema, located at our main site (film titles TBC). - Examples of practice-based approaches to Karloff’s life and work with accompanying discussions.
- A display of new archival materials relating to Karloff.
- Lunch and refreshments on the day (delegate fees TBA ​in due course).

Boris Karloff was born William Henry Pratt in 1887, in the village of Camberwell, Surrey (now South London). Most often remembered as the star of Frankenstein (dir. James Whale, 1931) and two of its sequels (Bride of Frankenstein in 1935 and Son of Frankenstein in 1939), Karloff’s career spanned more than half a century, from the silent era to New Hollywood where he worked with Peter Bogdanovich on the highly experimental film Targets (1968), in what proved to be one of his final, though no less impressive, feature performances. Beside Whale and Bogdanovich, Karloff traversed a range of industry contexts where he worked under a number of significant directors over the course of his career, including Mario Bava, Roger Corman, Michael Curtiz, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Michael Reeves, Douglas Sirk, Jacques Tourneur, and Robert Wise. For many, Karloff was and remains “one of the screen’s greatest madmen” (Darryl Jones, 2002). While Karloff’s star image is mostly intertwined with the horror genre, this dedicated symposium hopes to invite both new perspectives on some of the actor’s most iconic roles, as well as draw attention to the many other faces of Boris Karloff, both on- and off-screen. It is our aim to demonstrate that Karloff was more than the sum of his most famous parts, that the mercurial man who gave a “profoundly sympathetic performance” (Jones) as Frankenstein’s infamous monster was an actor with impressive range that is demonstrated by a rich and expansive filmography.

After several delays relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, this revamped event will take place on Friday 1st April 2022 at the Plymouth College of Art. With keynote speakers Dr. Alison Pierse (Unversity of Leeds) and Stephen Jacobs (acclaimed author of Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster) confirmed, we hope that the day will draw together a range of additional speakers, both new and established, who are interested in various aspects of Karloff’s life and career. In correspondence with this event, we will showcase a selection of archival materials relating to Karloff and his career and will offer accompanying screenings of some of his feature films.
It is our hope that this symposium will lead to publication opportunities for some of its speakers. Though we are still in early discussions at this point, Boris Karloff: The Many Faces of a Film Icon has already attracted the attention of a publisher interested in attending and optioning an edited collection following the event.

Topics for presentations may include, but are not limited to:

- Any of Karloff’s feature films
- Karloff and his collaborators (co-stars, directors, producers, etc.) - Karloff in Hollywood
- Marketing Karloff - Karloff and film stardom, or uses of his star image
- Karloff’s performances, including as a silent film star through to his late-career performances
- Karloff and franchises
- Karloff as a horror icon
- Karloff as a transnational star
- Karloff and masculinity
- Karloff and race
- Karloff and monstrosity
- Archival work on Karloff
- Writing on Karloff, including biographies
- Your own suggested idea

Submission Details:

We would like to invite papers proposals for 20 minute presentations of approximately 250 words, accompanied by a short biographical statement. The deadline for proposals is Friday 14th January 2022 (with confirmation to follow shortly after). Please address proposals and/or any inquiries to the dedicated mailbox at boriskarloff@pca.ac.uk under the subject heading “Boris Karloff Symposium”, and/or cc in Dr Eddie Falvey at efalvey@pca.ac.uk, who will reply to any questions on behalf of the organising panel.

Disclaimer: Due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, this event has seen several delays. This re-launch comes with a revised date, which we hope will attract a number of new speakers and attendees. The organisers have kept records of previous correspondence and will personally re-invite those who expressed interest in and/or submitted abstracts for the original event. For further information, do not hesitate to contact the organisers whose information is available above.