Archive for The Monster Maker

Things I read off the screen in “The Monster Maker”

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2011 by dcairns

The first “Things I Read” of 2011, and the first 2011 entry in my insane mission to see all the films illustrated in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, the quest known to legend as “See REPTILICUS and Die.”

Not that there’s that much to read off the screen in this movie, but what there is, is choice. The movie is a PRC production (I always think that stands for “Poverty Row Company,” but no) starring Ralph Morgan (the Wizard of Oz’s brother) as a famous pianist, and J. Carroll Naish as a mad scientist obsessed with acromegaly. Obsessed to the point of keeping some in a bottle.

I always think of Naish as a sort of poor man’s Sam Jaffe, which would make him a very poor man indeed, but you have to say this, he gives it his all. He plays this dumb conception of a mad doctor with total conviction. This isn’t anything like as good a movie as DR RENAULT’S SECRET, another movie I discovered via the Gifford book, in which Naish played the experiment. Here, he’s in love with Morgan’s daughter, who resembles his dead wife. She won’t give him a tumble, so he doses Morgan with acromegaly, and then blackmails him for the cure: “You must tell your daughter to be very nice to me.”

Morgan refuses, kills Naish, gets the cure, and returns to his career with no legal consequences. Happy ending!

MAN IS WHAT HIS DUCTLESS GLANDS MAKE HIM — you know, that’s as true today as it was in 1944.

The fun stuff: Naish explaining to the daughter that her father’s career is at end, since not only have his fingers swollen to the size of Cumberland sausages, his appearance is no longer such that concertgoers would be happy looking at him; Morgan’s impersonation of the Elephant Man; and Morgan’s backstory — he’s not the real scientist at all. He took the guy’s place after killing him. This was revenge for the guy stealing his wife. His first reaction to that had been to acromegalize her so that no other man would want her, but she killed herself. Damn.

What’s frustrating, apart from the fact that the film isn’t any damn good, is the way it runs extremely mundane versions of familiar horror movie tropes — the woman with the uncanny resemblance to the dead wife isn’t a reincarnation, it’s just a wild coincidence.

Oh, and there’s a phony gorilla, but when it gets loose, it’s driven back into its cage by a handy German shepherd (a dog, not a Bavarian farmer). I found myself wondering why so many crappy horrors of the 40s feature obviously fake gorillas. Some kind of Gorilla Defamation League might be hypothesized: making great apes look bad. The one time a real gorilla turns up, in John Ford’s MOGAMBO, it is immediately shot (by second unit director Yakima Canutt).

Makeup is by Maurice Seiderman, “the best makeup artist in the world” according to Orson Welles. You can’t, using 1944 technology, successfully turn Ralph Morgan into Rondo Hatton, but he does his best. Director Sam Newfield assists by avoiding closeups for 99% of scenes. How do you think he got to be the most prolific director in Hollywood history? “Gotta get this scene in the bag FAST so I can hit the crap tables, baby! Despite the fact that I’m currently directing something called THE MONSTER MAKER, I feel lucky tonight!”

Mmm, Reptilicious

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by dcairns

My quest, the one I’ve entitled See Reptilicus And Die — my quest to see every film depicted in the pages of Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies — the book he wrote by taking dictation form my childhood nightmares — my quest, I say, is not far from completion. If you visit the pages where I listed the films I had to track down and see, you’ll observe that most of the entries are now coloured BLOOD RED, meaning I came, I saw, I choked back my vomit.

Here’s a list of movies located but still to be watched –

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR: killer moth romp with Cushing. Lovely.

MURDER CLINIC: never knew what this was, turns out to be a giallo. Got a very scratchy, very pink copy.

THE PHANTOM OF SOHO: actually got two radically different cuts of this krimi kaper, in different languages. Will watch both, become confused, write post.

INVISIBLE INVADERS: an Edward L Cahn atrocity.

WILLARD: rat movie with Michael Jackson theme song. Figures. Anyone remarked how the lyrics of “Thriller” describe accurately Jacko’s use of THE EXORCIST to terrify small boys into sexual submission?

THE VAMPIRE (1957): around this time somebody also made THE WEREWOLF. I guess it was time somebody noticed those basic titles hadn’t been exploited.

GAMERA VS JIGER: monsters duke it out at the 1970 Japan World’s Fair.

KING OF THE ZOMBIES: one of the easiest to see, since it’s actually online, and one of the hardest to sit through (I’ve tried, God knows I’ve tried).

RETURN OF THE APE MAN: the original was pretty bad. This phony sequel at least George Zucco and John Carradine to bolster Lugosi (and by “bolster” I mean “physically support”).

THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA: it is entirely possible that I’ve seen this, on a b&w portable TV in my bedroom when I was 17. But I’m not sure that counts, since I don’t remember a damn thing about it.

BLACK DRAGONS: is going to be an ordeal. What drugs do you recommend to enhance the experience?

THE MONSTER MAKER: Ralph Morgan as a mad scientist is an attractive prospect, though part of me wishes it was his brother Frank.

DEAD MEN WALK: Zucco always cracks me up.

INVISIBLE AGENT: this ought to be good fun.

THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET: watched half an hour before sinking into a coma. Will try again, using strong stimulants. Even duller than remake, THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH. Even with the lovely Helen Walker, an immortal snore.

THE DEVIL BAT: has to be at least watchable.

EQUINOX: one of several Gifford titles to have received the Criterion treatment. And I’m not just talking about classics, but THE GRIP OF THE STRANGLER also.

THE HYPNOTIC EYE: I just tracked down a copy of this nasty-sounding thing. Beatniks, hypnosis and mutilation.

REPTILICUS: the mother of all Danish dinosaur movies.

The tricky ones are still the remaining rarities I haven’t laid hands on, of course. But plans are afoot…

Nine Lives, Seven Curses, and a Triphibian Monster

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by dcairns

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Part three of my jumbo list of all the films illustrated in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford which I still have to see.

Have decided to mark the films out in red as I see them. People will be able to look back at these posts in a thousand years and they will appear SOAKED IN BLOOD.

110. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH — this might be the next Gifford-illustrated film I watch, since I have a disc of it lying around somewhere. Sounds promising enough — Vincent Price is that man.

113. I admit it, I’ve never seen WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS’ DORMITORY, originally known (in Germany) as LYCANTHROPUS, a rather classy title somebody should re-use.

118-119. With the heading “Women’s Lib hits Transylvania,” Gifford provides images of lady vampires. I find I can’t be sure I’ve seen RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, but I’m almost sure I have. The original COUNT Y ceases to be interesting the second George MacReady’s narration ends, apart from a cool end shot of happily vampirised townsfolks, if I’m recalling it correctly. Bert Gordon’s SAINT GEORGE AND THE SEVEN CURSES must be worth a few chuckles, but it’s not one that I’ve ever come across.

128. PHAROAH’S CURSE (1956) seems like it’s practically bound to stink, but the make-up in this still is fairly impressive.

138. Never seen GAPPA, THE TRIPHIBIAN MONSTER. Loved giant monster movies as a kid, but Gappa and Gamera never seemed to turn up. I would see Godzilla and pals in kids’ matinees at my local Odeon. My appetite for giant Japanese monsters has waned a bit since then.

144. THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET is the original of THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, so is probably a snooze.

146. THE BRUTE MAN. Rondo Hatton fascinates me. Possibly something to do with his appearance, but I can’t put my finger on it.

150-1. Boris Karloff in a string beard, for THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES. I’ll happily watch Boris in any old crap, including string beards. I don’t know if I ever saw all of THE WALKING DEAD, but I downloaded it so now I can. I love Michael Curtiz’s other horrors, so this has to be of some value. DEAD MEN WALK has two George Zuccos for the price of one. The cheap, cheap price.

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152. Rondo again! HOUSE OF HORRORS will have to be seen, as will THE MONSTER MAKER, in which Ralph Morgan pretends to have acromegaly, the disease that afflicted R.H. for real, giving him his distinctive manly appeal.

154. THE DEVIL BAT is widely available but I somehow missed it so far. I think it’s meant to be a fairly enjoyable Poverty Row Lugosi effort.

156-7. THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA gets a colour still this time, and then there’s a monochrome one from BLACK DRAGONS, with Lugosi. Was just offered a copy of this one.

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158-9. The motherlode! Never seen DR RENAULT’S SECRET, THE MAD MONSTER, RETURN OF THE APE MAN, THE APE MAN or CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN. An entire two-page spread which I’m a stranger to. That must mean something. Maybe I’m supposed to watch all of these in a marathon session. From what I’ve heard of the two APE movies, that might nery well prove fatal. Actor Steven McNicoll observed of Lugosi’s performance in THE APE MAN, that the tragedy was “you can see he’s thought about it.”

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160. THE STRANGE CASE OF DR RX. Weird title, weird film. No doctor of those initials appears in the story, but “Pinky” Atwill plays Dr. Fish, apparently. In a way, that’s even better.

162-163. Monogram’s VOODOO MAN somehow rates two stills. Well, it does combine Lugosi, Zucco and John Carradine.

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