Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Monster Maker (1944)



Who's in it?: J. Carrol Naish (House of FrankensteinBatman serial); Glenn Strange (House of Frankenstein, The Mad Monster); Ray Corrigan (Undersea Kingdom); Ace the Wonder Dog (Phantom serial)

What's it about?: A mad scientist poseur uses a serum to deform the father of the girl he's stalking.

How is it?: It's pretty great for a couple of reasons. First is the twist on the mad scientist convention. Naish plays a madman, but he's actually - Maniac-like - impersonating a scientist that he killed. The backstory is pretty cool. Naish's wife left him for a famous scientist who was pursuing the cure to a rare, deforming disease, so Naish injected them both with a serum that gave them the disease and killed them. He's been living the high life in the scientist's place when he meets a girl who resembles his dead wife. Unfortunately, she and her father are a little creeped out by Naish's unwanted, relentless attention, so Naish uses the serum to force Dad to help convince his daughter.

The other thing I love about the movie is all the familiar faces. Naish played Karloff's hunchbacked partner in House of Frankenstein and was also the bad guy in the first Batman serial. Naish is a creepy-looking guy with a strange, almost Peter Lorre-like voice, so he plays a great villain.

Glenn Strange gets another turn out of his Frankenstein make-up and doesn't even have to pretend to be a dumb bohunk. He plays Naish's giant henchman, Steve. If I seem overly impressed by Strange's being out of make-up, it's because I'm not enough of a Gunsmoke fan to have remembered that he was a regular on that show for like 13 years. Incidentally, tomorrow night's movie also has a Gunsmoke connection, but I'll leave that for then.

For absolutely no other reason than because it's awesome, Naish's character also has a killer gorilla. I was pleased to learn that it's played by Ray "Crash" Corrigan, star of Undersea Kingdom, a goofy serial about some adventurers who get trapped in Atlantis for 12 episodes. And speaking of serials, Ace the Wonder Dog (who played Devil in the Phantom serial) is Naish's pet and the gorilla's nemesis.

Rating: Good.
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