The Boris Karloff Drinking Game

No one escapes Boris Karloff's menacing eye.

Boris Karloff knows all and sees all. Let’s drink to that!

Gentle Reader, we do not normally advocate drinking games while watching classic movies. Today, however, we are making an exception.

If you’re someone who doesn’t imbibe spirits, do not fear! You may still join us with the soft drink of your choice. At the conclusion of the movie, the effect will be the same.

To which movie are we drinking? It’s the 1940 war thriller British Intelligence, starring Boris Karloff and Margaret Lindsay.

This is a film about British and German agents who spy on the opposing government, and on each other. These are very busy spies; they do not eat, shop, play, read, visit or do anything regular people do. They spy. Period.

This film is supposed to take place during World War I, but the costumes are unmistakably 1940-ish. Maybe this doesn’t bother you, but it bothers us no end. It’s almost as if the filmmakers wanted beat us about the head with a metaphor of another big war. (Now, which one could that be?)

Before we get into the rules of the Drinking Game, here is the basic plot of the film: A female German spy (Lindsay) is sent to England to spy on a family that has Information Useful To The German Government. This family employs a limping French valet (Karloff) who says his wounds are the result of the Germans – blast them!

It’s not long before Karloff and Lindsay discover they are both spies, but for whom are they really spying?

The film has a great cast. Karloff, best known for his portrayal of Frankenstein, is credible as a man you’re never quite sure of. Plus, he has a really creepy way of looking at you sideways, so that you fear what’s going to happen next.

Lindsay, who bears a passing resemblance to Barbara Stanwyck in this film, is such a good sport. She marches through the awful script with the determination to make this a better movie than it has a right to be.

But it’s still a dreadful movie. Which is why it’s necessary to employ the Boris Karloff Drinking Game. Are you ready?

A drink must be taken for…

  • Each time an agent changes his/her story about which government he or she is spying for.
  • Each time a new spy is revealed.
  • Every how-very-convenient plot device.
  • Each time a member of the English family suddenly appears on screen, only to be written out again.
  • Every dire prediction of a “strong man” rising to power in Germany at some point in the future.
  • Every time you suspect a piece in Lindsay’s wardrobe was stolen from another movie set.

This constitutes a lot of drinking during the 62 minutes it takes to get through the film. You’d better make sure you’re sitting down – even if you’re just consuming soft drinks.

Do we recommend viewing this movie without the aid of alcohol or caffeine? We do not.

If you’ve already seen British Intelligence and have more recommendations for the Boris Karloff Drinking Game, please let us know. This movie provides a vast wealth of liquid opportunity.

British Ingelligence: Starring Boris Karloff, Margaret Lindsay, Bruce Lester. Directed by Terry Morse. Written by Lee Katz. Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., B&W, 1940, 62 mins.

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24 comments

  1. We’re celebrating the publication of our new book, OLD HOLLYWOOD IN COLOR 3: WHEN SILENT STARS SPOKE, so this seems like a good time to devote a post to this particular topic. There’s a lot of Hollywood mythology surrounding the fate of silent movie stars when they made talkies, and even such hit films such as SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) only served to reinforce those myths. The fact is that most silent screen stars did just fine in talkies and the ones who stand out because they didn’t do well are a distinct minority. You can read more about it in the book (a shameless plug) but here let’s actually listen to the silent stars themselves when they broadcast on radio.

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  2. I haven’t seen this film and just cant imagine why, or maybe I can. I do like your game and might have to hunt this movie down just to play. Although it sounds like I might have to spend more on the drinks than I on film itself.

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  3. Since “British Intelligence” is one of the worst films in Karloff canon, perhaps extensive drinking is the only way to get through it. A most entertaining post.

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  4. I was at first disappointed with myself for having missed this film. Now I see it a sign of my ability to pick only fine films to watch. Yeah, right. Your drinking game is a hoot. Love the “how-very-convenient plot device.” Drinking on every one of those in all too many movies will have you drunk by the 2nd reel.

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  5. I will play this very clever game… with sweet tea rather than alcohol. Not quite the same effect as booze or caffeine, but a sugar rush has to count for something, right?

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  6. Ruth, I’m a teetotaler, but the Boris Karloff Drinking Game sounds hilarious! No more for me, thanks, I’m driving! Thanks for the warning and your clever way to make lemons into (hard? :-)) lemonade!

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  7. It may not be a great film but Karloff is fascinating, as always. (How many have seen him as the religious fanatic in John Ford’s neglected masterpiece THE LOST PATROL?)

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