The Undying Monster (1942)

Poster

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.

7/10

One Body Too Many (1944)

One Body Too Many

Directed by Frank McDonald [Other horror films: N/A]

Though with an additional comedic element, One Body Too Many has almost all the staples of 1930’s and 1940’s horror movies. A dark and stormy night, a crowded mansion, mistaken identity, reading of a will, secret passages, red herrings, the whole shebang. In fact, the only thing it doesn’t have is a gorilla. Still, I don’t say this as to portray the movie as being too generic – while that might be the case, I happen to love these dark and stormy night will-reading movies; they’re entertaining, and this one’s no different.

The aesthetics are pretty cool – thunder and lightning in the backdrop as multiple mysterious people are creeping through a silent dark house. While the copy I own (and that’s most widely available) is a bit on the grainy side, it doesn’t lose the effect. The downside of the film is two-fold, though: firstly, the while the plot is simple, throwing in ten to twelve different characters can come across as convoluted. When the killer was revealed at the end, I thought he had already been seen with the other characters in the previous scene. Lost a bit of the power they might have been aiming for.

Really, the main character (played by Jack Haley), Bela Lugosi’s character, and Professor Hilton (William Edmunds) were the only ones that I could easily tell apart. Most of the others were interchangeable. Still, that may be more a problem with myself than the movie. Secondly, though, is the run time. While the movie is just 75 minutes (an hour and 15 minutes), some sequences seemed to drag on a bit too long (especially one particular sequence involving secret passageways about an hour into the film). Had they just cut out ten to 15 minutes, I think the movie would have been a bit better.

The comedic elements overall weren’t too bad or distracting (the main character’s cowardice, not to mention a few of the antics, were a bit much), and some of it was actually rather amusing, such as the recurring gag of the butler (Lugosi) trying to serve seemingly-poisoned coffee multiple times throughout the movie, only to get consistently rejected. I have to admit, I got a kick out of that. When I first saw this film, I rated it slightly above average. It just doesn’t stand up to my memories, though. One Body Too Many is an amusing film, but the problems can be a bit glaring. Overall, I think it’s slightly below average. Likely still worth a watch if these films are your type of thing.

6.5/10

The Monster Maker (1944)

The Monster Maker

Directed by Sam Newfield [Other horror films: The Mad Monster (1942), Dead Men Walk (1943), The Flying Serpent (1946)]

This is around the fourth time I’ve seen this film, and for the most part, I always have considered it around average. Not my cup of tea, but certainly not bad, in short.

The story is a moderately simple one: A crazed doctor infects a pianist with a deliberating disease, disfiguring him, and will cure him only if he can marry the pianist’s daughter, hence, becoming the ‘Monster Maker.’

J. Carrol Naish does a fine job as our Dr. Markoff, and the rest of the cast is decent too, though some hysterics from some of the actresses does tend to get on my nerves. There is a slightly boring portion halfway through the film, an eight-minute sequence of the doctor unleashing a gorilla on his assistant (he believes her to be a liability to his plan), but there is still some decent suspense present.

Of course, being a 40’s horror film, the ending is a bit sudden, but I was rather happy with the conclusion. Oh, another positive note – even if this movie isn’t your type of film, it clocks in at only and hour and two minutes. Quick to finish and easy to digest. I don’t love The Monster Maker, but for Poverty Row entertainment, it’s a fine movie.

7/10

Son of Ingagi (1940)

Son of Ingagi

Directed by Richard C. Kahn [Other horror films: N/A]

This is an oddity, one of the first all African-American casted horror movies. As such, it’s as Poverty Row as one could imagine. Also, the version widely available seems to be missing a minute or two halfway through the film (which is already short – clocks in at just over an hour). Sound quality, or video quality, for that matter, wasn’t up to par for even my standards of the time period, but it was just about as good as I remembered it.

Really, it’s just a generic movie, with some okay light-hearted comedic portions provided by one of the characters (who was actually played by a writer of the script) and an almost-threatening atmosphere. It falls short, though, of it’s aims, and overall, seems an overly forgettable movie, especially as so many other horror films, some great, came out around the same time. The points I give it are mainly for the setting itself (a house, which, while generic, was used to good effect in the film) and some of the more humorous lines.

5.5/10

(Note: This was one of the reviews I wrote early on, so it’s shorter and far less in-depth than my more recent ones. Should I rewatch the film, I’ll update my review.)