The Monster Maker 2002 Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
Hollywood generally produced two varieties of horror films during the 1940s. RKO took the lead with the subtle creations of producer Val Lewton, who specialized in creating a mounting sense of unease through implication instead of specification. Universal, which had been so innovative earlier, generally recycled its earlier creations in a series of sequels, rehashes, and “monster rally” movies that saw every creature from Frankenstein’s monster to the wolf man to Dracula under the same roof. And then there was Production Releasing Corporation, commonly known as PRC.
Although it occasionally turned out a real ringer, PRC was a “poverty row” studio that specialized in short films that fell just below the “B” movie standards of the major studios. The studio had particular success with low-budget adventure, crime, and horror films, with Ulmer’s famous DETOUR and Bela Lugosi’s infamous THE DEVIL BAT cases in point. For the 1944 THE MONSTER MAKER, PRC essentially combined the delicacy of RKO’s Lewton and the familarity of Universal’s stories—and the result was one of the studios better films.
In terms of style, THE MONSTER MAKER leans heavily on Lewton’s sense of discretion; in terms of plot, it is a riff on two earlier Universal films that had starred Bela Lugosi: THE RAVEN and MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. J. Carrol Naish plays the very Lugosi-like Dr. Markoff, a fraudlent research scientist who has actually made good in finding a cure for a rare glandular disorder that causes its victims to undergo a nasty physical change into lumpy-looking horrors. That’s all to the good, but Markoff is obsessed with his dead wife. When meets Patricia Lawrence (Wanda McKay), who looks just like the late Mrs. Markoff, he is determined to get her—even if it means infecting her father (Ralph Morgan) with the disease and using his ability to cure it as leverage to force the unwilling Patricia into marriage.
The premise is quite clever, and in this particular instance PRC has an expert cast. Naish, Morgan and Glenn Strange were well respected character actors, and while players Wanda McKay, Terry Frost, and Tala Birell were hardly household names they were competent players with solid careers. What the film doesn’t have, unfortunately, is a good script, and director Sam Newfield sure as hell wasn’t any Val Lewton or James Whale. The result is a well-acted but clunky and clumsy film that is really more interesting for what it might have been than for what it actually is.
When all is said and done, THE MONSTER MAKER is really most interesting as a comparison to what RKO and Universal were doing with horror films at the time. It will never stand up against the likes of CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, or THE WOLF MAN, but film fans interested in horror movies of the period will find it worth the effort.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer