The Monster Walks (2002) Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
Universal’s success with DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN spawned a wave of horror films at other studios—and the 1932 THE MONSTER WALKS was among them. In terms of entertainment, it is merely tolerable at best, but it does offer the opportunity to see what other studios were doing in the genre at the time and how their films stand up along those created by Universal. In this instance the answer is “not very well.”
Although it doesn’t credit them, THE MONSTER WALKS seems to be drawn from two sources. The idea of a murderous ape is central to the Edgar Allen Poe story “Murders In The Rue Morgue”—and that story was filmed the same year at Universal with Bela Lugosi as star. The idea of a mysterious house with secret pannels through which a hairy-handed killer strikes at a pretty heiress is straight out the 1927 silent block-buster THE CAT AND THE CANARY, which had also been popular in a 1930 talkie remake titled THE CAT CREEPS. So original, it isn’t.
In this story, pretty young Ruth (Vera Reynolds, a silent actress whose career did not long continue after the advent of sound) returns home when her father dies. There she must contend with a suspicious uncle (Sheldon Lewis), a suspicious housekeeper (Martha Mattox, who had appeared in the silent THE CAT AND THE CANARY), the housekeeper’s suspcious son (Mischa Auer), and a wild ape named Yogi that is kept caged in the basement. No, it isn’t too long before hairy hands are reaching through secret panels in Ruth’s bedroom. But is it Yogi, who has a dislike for her? Or is it someone else? And if so, who? Savvy viewers will have little trouble figuring it out.
By 1932 standards the film is competently made but there is nothing about it you could call inspired—and one element that may gave you some pause. The cast features a black actor Willie Best, billed here (no doubt in an effort to emulate the then-popular Stepin Fetchit) as Sleep ‘N’ Eat. In truth, Best was a gifted comic, but like many black actors of the period his options were limited, and he was frequently trapped in “lawsy I be skeered” roles that fed into the stereotypes of the day. Best does as well as he can with the role of Exodus, but like the rest of the cast he doesn’t have much to work with.
No, this movie isn’t anything to write home about, and frankly I am tempted to give two stars instead of three—but as I wrote at the beginning of this review, it does give us an idea of what other studios were doing in an effort to compete with Universal’s horror films. And while there were occasional exceptions, it seems pretty obvious that Universal had little to worry about.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
About The Monster Walks (2002)
Starring: Rex Lease, Vera Reynolds, Sheldon Lewis, Mischa Auer, Martha Mattox
Runtime: 63 minutes
Director: Frank R. Strayer