Produced by Roland West Productions; Released 3/16/25 by Metro-Goldwyn Pictures; Director: Roland West; Screenplay: Willard Mack and Albert G. Kenyon, from the play by Crane Wilbur; Cinematography: Hal Mohr; Production Manager: W. Heywood; Film Editor: A. Carle Palm; Titles: C. Gardner Sullivan; 7 reels (6435'); Print Source: Warner Brothers Classics
CAST: Lon Chaney (Dr. Ziska), Gertrude Olmstead (Betty Watson), Hallam Cooley (Amos Rugg), Johnny Arthur (Johnny Goodlittle), Charles A. Sellon (The Constable), Walter James (Caliban), Knute Erickson (Daffy Dan), George Austin (Rigo), Edward McWade (Luke Watson), Ethel Wales (Mrs. Watson)
SYNOPSIS: "On a lonely country road with the night wind moaning weirdly through the frightened trees, A human Monster watched with cat-like eyes for a vision." John Bowman, agent for an insurance company, crashes his car and disappears. Johnny Goodlittle, a clerk for the company, aspires to be a detective and has received a diploma from a correspondence school for detectives. Johnny and Amos Rugg, the head clerk, are rivals for the love of Betty Watson. Amos takes Betty driving, but Johnny follows to keep an eye on the couple. During a fierce storm, a strange man in a tree lowers a mirror to the road that flashes light back at the car, causing it to crash. Betty, Amos, and Johnny see a light in Dr. Edwards' sanitarium. Entering the strange house, they find themselves locked in. Dr. Ziska, enters and tells them they must stay the night until the storm subsides. He is assisted by Caliban, a huge mute. The visitors are led to a room where strange fumes come out of the fireplace and make them dizzy. Betty and Amos are captured, but Johnny escapes, and discovers Ziska's secret laboratory. In an underground chamber he discovers Dr. Edwards, owner of the sanitarium, and John Bowman. Edwards tells them that he was overpowered by his patients and has been held prisoner. Ziska is the leader, and Rigo and Caliban are two of his more dangerous patients. Ziska has been waiting for a woman to conduct experiments on, and he now finds Betty to be a perfect specimen. With the aid of an electric death chair, Ziska plans to transfer Amos' soul into Betty's body. Johnny, who overpowered Rigo, dons his clothing and uses it to capture Ziska. He ties Ziska to the electric chair, and Caliban, unable to see in the dark, turns on the power, electrocuting his master. By hooking Caliban's feet with a winch, Johnny hoists him upside down and captures him. Watson, the insurance company investigator, offers Johnny a job as a detective, and Betty is thrilled with her brave hero.
"As always, Lon Chaney does excellent work in an unusual character role. He appears as the sinister surgeon in charge and scores heavily although his role is secondary to that of Johnny Arthur as the boob detective." ---Moving Picture World
"'The Monster' was a corking stage thriller. As a picture it proves to be somewhat suspenseful, but it seemingly is played too fast to get the full effectiveness that there was in the play...Lon Chaney does not make the crazed surgeon as terrifying a picture as he might have, and in that the film lets down to a certain extent." ---Variety
"The starch seems to have been taken out of the pictorial conception of THE MONSTER by the inclusion of too much light comedy. The result is that, although this film possesses a degree of queer entertainment, it is neither fish, fowl nor good red herring. The thrills that might have chilled one's feet and finger tips end in causing chuckles and giggles...Mr. Chaney does not have very much to do, but his various appearances are effective...Chaney looks as if he could have enjoyed a more serious portrayal of the theme." ---The New York Times
NOTES: Contrary to popular folklore, THE MONSTER was not Chaney's second MGM picture. It was an independent production from Roland West's production company, and MGM acquired the distribution rights for the picture. THE MONSTER will prove somewhat of a disappointment to die-hard Chaney fans, but a delight to connoisseurs of Director West's stylistic gothic dramas. Like some of his other works, especially THE BAT and THE BAT WHISPERS, THE MONSTER is a lavish production marked by gothic sets, lush art design, and is punctuated by both the grotesque and quite a bit of comic relief supplied by Arthur. The film was originally released with lavish color tints that enhanced the eerie mood. All this leaves Chaney a bit out of place, as the viewer is not quite sure whether he intended his role to be taken seriously.
© 2000,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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