Directed by John Brahm [Other horror films: The Lodger (1944), The Mad Magician (1954)]
Even for the time period, this early werewolf flick didn’t really add much to the genre. That said, it’s a perfectly competent film, and it’s mystery even allows it to harken back to the more classic old-dark house-type films.
None of this is to say the story itself is bad – it’s a somewhat fun little mystery with possibly supernatural aspects thrown in along with more than a few suspects. The movie hits hard on the procedural part of detective work, too, and even throws in a ten-minute coroner inquest. Of course, this wasn’t always the most thrilling material, but it did lend an authentic feel to the film.
John Howard, Bramwell Fletcher, and James Ellison all do pretty well in their roles, though I will say without the mustaches, I’d have likely found the three indistinguishable. Heather Angel was perfectly fine as the leading woman (and even had some strength not often seen in women from older films), though Heather Thatcher came across as annoying most of her time on-screen (likely because she was the comedy relief character). Halliwell Hobbes, though a name I’m not familiar with in the least, was perhaps one of the most memorable performances, playing a life-long butler with a secret.
And of course, this is where a lot of the fun has always come from these types of films – multiple parties throughout the movie, all with deep secrets and their own goals. That’s why films like The Last Warning and The Bat Whispers are films I often speak fondly about when discussing this era, and that’s why this one is a bit better than you might at first suspect.
Truth be told, when I first saw this film, I was somewhat bored, even though the film’s just over an hour long. The issue was that there weren’t nearly as many ‘scary’ sequences as you’d hope, which is still an issue now. However, I appreciate the way they approached this, in an almost-scientific mind-frame, so while it’s not always overly exciting or engaging, there’s still something to see.
Coming out just a year following The Wolf Man, and seven years off Werewolf of London, The Undying Monster does little to add to or really expand on the addition of werewolves to the horror genre, especially when the film plays out like an old dark-house mystery with a werewolf thrown in last minute. Even though it’s not dripping in originality, it’s still a competent film, and the setting, an old mansion near the cliff-side, certainly brings a pleasant atmosphere to it.
4 thoughts on “The Undying Monster (1942)”