Sunday, July 25, 2010

November 28, 2009: Boris Sells Out! : Karloff in the advertising world

The following info-tisement is brought to you by Frankensteinia’s Boris Karloff Blog-a-Thon

Hey, everyone has to pay the bills, from the undervalued millions who drive the buses that take us to work everyday, to the children’s party clowns who twist the balloon animals that entertain our ungrateful, caterwauling children, to the Hollywood superstars who play our mummies and monsters, sweating beneath pounds and pounds of collodion and spirit gum. Let’s face it, getting top billing in Bride of Frankenstein or The Black Cat may look great on a resume, but it doesn’t exactly bring home the bacon, and no one knew this better than Boris Karloff. When he wasn’t starring in one of the dozen or so movies and TV shows he filmed every year, Karloff the Uncanny was supplementing his income by hawking electric clocks, shaving cream, antacids, and booze. Karloff may have been best known for scaring the pantaloons off folks throughout the mid-20th Century, but corporations still had a lot of faith in his ability to sell their wares because his unmistakable puss appeared in numerous adverts. So step right up and get a hold of your wallet, because you’ll surely be inspired to spend as we take a look at Karloff the Adman when…



Boris Karloff was a canny choice for Tums spokes model. After causing mass digestive disorders with his terrifying portrayals of the Frankenstein Monster or Imhotep, he’d hip you about correcting your belly ache by popping a few Tums. Notice the subtle use of “haunt” in the oh-so-authentic quote from the man in this ad. You see, the word “haunt” is meant to evoke Karloff’s horror movie roles, because horror movies are about things that haunt other things. In this case, Karloff is being haunted by gas.



Despite the eternal trustworthiness of Boris Karloff’s regal countenance, I’m still tempted to question the science in this advertisement for Williams shaving cream…



…but all concerns are washed away by this one, which not only explains exactly why actors have “extra-sensitive” faces (“because of make-up, daily shaving…”) but shows Karloff taking advantage of that smooth, kissable mug by putting the moves on a receptive young lady.



The following ad catches Karloff and boxing commentator Bill Corum in the midst of a casual conversation about Heublein’s pre-mixed cocktails. The guys were just sitting around, kicking back a few while wearing their bathrobes in front of an exit sign as a Heublein operative skulked around in the darkness, jotting down everything they said. Smartly, he chose not to include the part where Corum compared Heublein’s Rusty Nail to cat pee.



This ad for the miraculous “self-starting clock”, masterminded by General Electric when the company wasn’t building nuclear weapons, plays on Karloff’s well-known status as a “country gentleman.” Oddly, it also reveals the actor’s bucolic locale of choice to be Beverly Hills.



Boris’s advertising chops were not limited to print ads. Here are a few of his less celebrated appearances on the boob tube.

First he tortures his Ronson Comet lighter in this creepy commercial from the late ‘60s…







…next he contends with the jackassiest hunchback assistant since Daniel in House of Frankenstein in this ad for A-1 steak sauce

…and he finally makes a post-mortem appearance as his most famous creation in this ad for Frankenberry cereal:









Photo of a big bunny rabbit!
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