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The Haunted Strangler

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The Haunted Strangler (1958) starring Boris Karloff,
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The Haunted Strangler (1958) starring Boris Karloff,

In The Haunted Strangler, a researcher investigates a notorious serial killer. Although he was hanged 20 years before, the murders resume …


Warning: graphic violence that some viewers may find disturbing. The central character, James Rankin, is a writer and crusader in 1880’s London. Over the course of the film, the audience sees the cruelty of the prison system of the time, as well as as the workings of an insane asylum. Take the warning seriously. Which is somewhat surprising for a 1958 film.

He’s convinced that Styles was innocent and that the real murderer was a doctor named Tennant. A doctor who disappeared from the asylum, along with his nurse.

Cast of characters

  • Boris Karloff (The Ghoul) … James Rankin. The writer and social crusader. He wants to use the case of an executed murderer to push for government-provided defense attorneys. But is the Haymarket Strangler the man they executed?
  • Jean Kent (David Copperfield) … Cora Seth. The older of the can can dancers. She was an eyewitness to the original murderer.
  • Elizabeth Allan (A Tale of Two Cities) … Barbara Rankin. James’ wife, Lily’s mother. A loving, protective person.
  • Anthony Dawson (Dial M for Murder) … Superintendent Burk. He sees no sense in exhuming the body of the murderer, executed 20 years before. And he’s quite insulting to Rankin in the process. He becomes critical later on in the movie.
  • Vera Day (Too Many Crooks) … Pearl. The pretty young can can dancer. She becomes a modern victim of the Strangler.
  • Tim Turner (A Night to Remember) … Dr. Kenneth McColl. James’ assistant, in love with Lily.
  • Diane Aubrey (Village of the Damned) … Lily Rankin. James’ daughter. She’s in love with Kenneth. Although her father isn’t quick to believe that.
  • Max Brimmell (Blood of the Vampire) … Newgate Prison Turnkey. The man who suggested that, for a minor bribe, he could let him in to exhume the body.
  • Leslie PerrinsNewgate Prison Governor. In charge of the ruthless prison. He doesn’t want to grant James’ request to exhume the 20 year old body. At first.
  • Jessica CairnsAsylum Maid. After singing “The Ratcatcher’s Daughter”, she’s murdered by the Strangler.
  • Dorothy Gordon (Hobson’s Choice) … Hannah. The Rankin family’s maid.
  • Desmond RobertsDr. Johnson. The physician who examines Rankin after his seeming breakdown.
  • Roy RussellMedical Superintendent
  • Derek BirchGuyse Hospital Superintendent

Editorial review of The Haunted Strangler courtesy of

The first half of The Haunted Strangler is a civilized look at Victorian London, with socially minded novelist Boris Karloff investigating a 20-year-old murder case. Still, it’s Karloff, right? So when the elegant, snow-haired king of horror movies finally wanders into a graveyard in the middle of the night, shovel in hand, intent on digging up the bones of a serial killer, the viewer can breath a sigh of relief: we’re back on familiar turf. Freshly dug turf, that is. This is not the last surprise in this neatly turned picture, which has some genuinely disturbing moments mixed into the cut-rate atmosphere.

The plot borrows from the legends of Dr. Jekyll and Jack the Ripper, and the presence of Karloff specifically invokes his earlier horrors in Val Lewton’s moody shockers, Bedlam and The Body Snatcher. The horror maestro, 70 years old, is exceptionally agile; stripped to the waist and fighting a straitjacket, he looks as though he’s about to outwrestle his two burly attendants down at the local insane asylum. You go, Boris! Weirdest thing about this movie: the inordinate amount of footage devoted to can-can dancers–no, the star is not involved; Karloff wasn’t that agile. –Robert Horton

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