Phantom Limburger


Recently watched two fantasy-fright type films which had very interesting elements but were strangely boring overall. One was ANGRY RED PLANET, the other was NIGHT MONSTER, a Universal horror movie I’d never heard of and which I figured must be dull. How else to explain its obscurity?

Well, it mostly IS dull, and there are lots of irksome things about it — Bela Lugosi plays a butler, and he’s JUST a butler, not even a meaningful red herring. A mauve kipper at best. But unlike a real snooze like SHE-WOLF OF LONDON, it actually revolves around a cool idea…


Ralph Morgan, the Wizard of Oz’s brother, has been reduced to limbless paralysis by the fumbling efforts of his doctors. When said medicos, including Lionel “Pinky” Atwill (deep joy) start getting bumped off, only Morgan has the means, motive and spectacular lack of opportunity that must, by the rules of DR X, establish him as the perpetrator. But rather than mad science as facilitator for his limbless killing spree, the film gives us a cherubic swami whose ministrations have given Morgan the power to generate ectoplasmic extremities using the power of his mind, so he can walk and strangle and be avenged using phantasmal arms and legs which fade as the dew when no longer required. The perfect alibi.


The movie begins charmingly, with the turbanned guru strolling up to Morgan’s mansion and remarking on the uncommunicative character of the local frogs. I immediately liked him. I did not, however, recognize him as Nils Asther, the once-sculptural beauty who specialised in oriental roles (a bit like Warner Oland, but lovelier) despite being Danish (a bit like Warner Oland, who was Swedish). A shame the interest is dissipated across too many characters with too little to do (the hero, as is often the case, is a waste of time), but a number of the supporting cast are better than they need to be. Movie serial specialist Ford Beebe directs with what one might call efficiency. He got it done inside two weeks, anyway.

9 Responses to “Phantom Limburger”

  1. Jack Smith cites Night Monster as a gem in his Maria Montez paen.

  2. I wish it had the slapdash panache of Cobra Woman.

  3. True, but the half-asleep creepiness of it all was what entranced Jack.

  4. It’s definitely somnolent.

  5. Alexander Peacock Says:

    Now you guys have made me *really* want to see it!

  6. From Ford Beebe’s Wikipedia page: “Alfred Hitchcock commended Beebe for his 1942 film Night Monster, impressed with the speed and economy of the production.” Huh.

    I haven’t seen it for decades but I remember it having a nicely creepy atmosphere in the outdoor night sequences, when the crickets and frogs go silent. And the drops of blood left by the killer because his ectoplasmic limbs don’t quite fit.

  7. Yeah, it’s not devoid of interest, it just somehow doesn’t manage to be that involving. I liked the somewhat working-class girl with the eye-bags at the start, but she gets offed early and we have to kickstart the narrative again with new and duller heroes.

    Maybe Hitchcock noted that idea for Psycho and figured out how to make it work? I doubt it though.

  8. Hitchcock’s version could have been called NIGHT MOTHER.

  9. It could indeed, it could indeed…

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