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A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.pig@live.co.uk. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Undying Monster (1942)

When a studio like Universals makes a hit like The Wolf Man (1941), it would be sheer lunacy for another not to try and cash in on it. The Undying Monster is exactly what that is, Fox’s answer to the Wolf Man but it’s more than that. Aside from being a straight cash in, it attempts to be something different and has become something of a forgotten classic. Instead of telling the story of a man dealing with the curse, we instead follow two witty Scotland Yard investigators as they attempt to unravel an age old family curse. They get more than they bargained for though and soon realise that not everything can be explained by purely scientific means. In some respects Undying Monster is similar to the much later The Beast Must Die (1974) and I love both of these movies. However this isn’t the only thing to recommend this underrated gem.

The greatest thing about The Undying Monster is its atmosphere. It’s simply oozing with gothic cliché`s. A spooky old house on a cliff overlooking the sea, fog covered moorland, a family crypt and a hidden room, all these and more are to be found in the sixty minute run time. The tone is set well during the opening scene where the Butler and the Mistress of the house discuss the curse and look out onto the Moors. It’s a simple but chilling scene somehow making the film appear like Hound of the Baskervilles but with Werewolves, particularly the 1930’ Basil Rathbone adaption. Other stand out moments are the ones set in the crypt, particularly when they discuss the legend. There’s a brilliantly simplistic statue of a creature resembling a dog and as our hero’s discuss what it could possibly be the direction is at its most tense and it’s a truly haunting moment. Indeed the whole movie was shot studio bound and it works entirely to its advantage, undying monster manages to create a whole world of its own. It’s a heavily stylised feel and one that’s perfectly suited to the gothic overtones of the story.
Another thing that makes the undying moment the lost classic it is, are the two lead detectives. I’ve heard that in the book the primary detective is in fact female. Now of course this being an early 40’s, it was hardly conventional for a woman to be the strong leading character. Instead that role is given to a man and the female is made a comic accomplice. Now I must confess having not read the novel and indeed had no idea that this was the case until after viewing. I actually found the two detectives very likeable and the female accomplice very amusing and entertaining, helping the gentle fun feel of the movie. I don’t agree that they changed the female lead to male but it was a different time period that was how things worked back then. Was someone to adapt The Undying Monster now then it would have to be done with a female lead, but although I may not agree that with the principle it is admittedly done well. James Ellison is your standard 30’s pulp lead but he does it well and he’s well matched to his co-star. Speaking of said co-star it’s ironic that considering she was originally the lead, it’s ironic that Heather Thatcher as his side kick steals the show. She’s charming, witty and actually had me laughing out loud! The constant mentions of their other “spooky” adventures had me wishing to see more of this duo; I wonder if there were ever any plans for future adventures? One thing I feel compelled to point out is that it’s not until the last ten minutes or so that they reveal it was a werewolf committing the crimes. This did not take away from my enjoyment though, the supernatural element is strong in the film and it’s obvious to the viewer that “The Beast” is a werewolf, even if it isn’t to the detectives.

However as I mentioned at the start there is something that disappoints me about this movie and it’s the end. In the last few moments attempts are made to try and eradicate the supernatural element from the film entirely yet it’s disastrous. It’s revealed that the killer did indeed suffer from lycanthropy (at this point everybody nods like it’s a common illness) but instead of turning into a werewolf he merely thinks he did. Compared to the previous scene in which he was running around with wolf makeup on, women were screaming at him and the police shot “the beast”, it makes no sense. I don’t really know why this was put in there but I can’t deny it ruins what would be a perfect movie. That aside though, this really is a great little early werewolf flick. With heaps of atmosphere, great set pieces and superb acting I really can not recommend this enough.

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