Boris Karloff‘s daughter wants her “Mummy.” Er, money.
Or, more specifically, Sara Karloff wants Universal Studios to pay up for allegedly reneging on a royalties deal for using her horror-icon dad’s likeness in studio advertising and promotional materials for movies such as 1999’s blockbuster remake “The Mummy.”
According to Daily Variety, Karloff‘s lawsuit is seeking more than $10 million. According to the complaint, filed Thursday in Los Angeles, Sara Karloff and Universal spent months negotiating a royalty agreement. During the 1930s and ’40s, her father starred in a number of horror pictures for Universal, and the studio wanted permission to use his likeness as the Frankenstein monster, as well as the Ardath Bey/Imhotep characters from “The Mummy.”
But, according to Sara Karloff’s suit, the studio pulled a fast one. It “tweaked” the Karloff characters and created a generic Frankenstein and Imhotep that looked a lot like Karloff in guise, but was different enough so that the studio didn’t have to pay royalties to her.
Sara Karloff says that Universal only used actual images of Boris in its style guide, a catalog that advertises to third-party licensees the characters and images that are available. But anyone who ordered Frankenstein or Imhotep got the so-called phony version, thus the style guide was “the centerpiece of the bait and switch scheme,” the lawsuit says.
Universal officials declined to comment, but Sara Karloff’s attorney, Allan Browne, told Variety: “The suit was brought to stop the unsavory business practices of Universal. Universal owes a ton of money to Sara Karloff based upon Universal’s wrongful use of Boris Karloff‘s image and likeness.”
Boris Karloff died in 1969, and under state law, his daughter is the successor to all rights in his name and likeness for publicity purposes.
Sara Karloff has apparently been on Universal’s case for a while. In a post found on the official Boris Karloff Home Page (www.pe.net/~karloff/), Sara Karloff wrote: “HELP! Does anyone know where I can find a copy of my father’s contracts for ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Bride of Frankenstein‘ and ‘The Mummy‘? If so, I only want to briefly review the terms of the contracts for clarification of certain ‘ownership’ claims made by Universal Studios.”