For a 73-minute movie, Night Monster (1942) has a lot happening! In fact, it took a while for me to get acclimated and understand exactly what was happening. The cast is large, and the set-up is complicated. It left me a little tired, just like I imagine the actors felt each time they ran up the stairs to find the body of the next person that had been mysteriously murdered.
It’s basically an “old dark house” film, but instead of a bunch of family members waiting for an inheritance, a bunch of doctors wait to learn which of their institutions is going to receive an investment from the ailing Kurt Ingston (Ralph Morgan.) They’re shocked to learn that none of them will, because, with the help of mystic Agor Singh (Nils Asther), Ingston has discovered his own cure for his paralysis.
Apparently, all matter is cosmic substance and vibration and it’s possible to reassemble physical elements in another place. Ingston and Singh demonstrate, creating a skeleton out of nowhere, blood dripping from its hands. Coincidentally, all the murder victims have been strangled, yet there is a pool of blood beside them. If they’d all just believe what they’ve seen, they could solve the mystery pretty quickly.
There’s also a series of murders happening outside the mansion, committed by someone with very large feet. It’s like Cinderella back in the house as Constable Cap Beggs (Robert Homans) asks the guests to remove their shoes. Those murdered internally seem to be due to revenge, the ones murdered outside seem to be due to knowing too much.
Don’t be fooled by the top billing of Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill. The former plays the nondescript butler, and the latter is one of the first internal victims. With neither one of them driving the story, it’s left to actors I mostly didn’t recognize. The one I thought I recognized, Ralph Morgan is not who I thought he was… he’s the brother of Frank Morgan, the Wizard of Oz.
Although partially assembled from pieces of other, better movies (the foggy woods from The Wolf Man, the burning castle from The Ghost of Frankenstein), there’s nothing particularly wrong with Night Monster. However, there’s not anything particularly great about it. It’s average, and that’s not really a reason to complain..
Written by Clarence Upson Young
Directed by Ford Beebe
Starring Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Leif Erickson, Irene Hervey, Ralph Morgan, Don Porter, Nils Asther, Fay Helm, Frank Reicher, Doris Lloyd, Francis Pierlot, Robert Homans
RT 73 min.
Released Oct. 20, 1942
Recorded on Aug. 15, 2020 (Svengoolie)
Rating 5 Frankenstein Monsters (out of 10)
This review is part of the annual Countdown to Halloween. I invite you to join me as I attempt to gain some space on my DVR. Every day, I'll be watching something from the bottom of the list, thereby reducing the percentage that's full... so I can record more!
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