Night Monster (1942)

Night Monster (1942)

“All matter is really cosmic substance in vibration.”

A reclusive cripple (Ralph Morgan) with a seemingly insane daughter (Fay Helm), a lurking butler (Bela Lugosi), a skittish maid (Janet Shaw), and a menacing chauffeur (Leif Erickson) invites a diverse group of guests to his decaying mansion — including a mystic (Nils Asther), a psychiatrist (Irene Hervey) hoping to help Helm, two doctors (Frank Reicher and Francis Pierlot) who may or may not have played a role in botching Morgan’s recovery from his disabling accident, and a young crime novelist (Don Porter) intent on solving the series of murders that are shortly played out.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Bela Lugusi Films
  • Lionel Atwill Films
  • Murder Mystery
  • Old Dark House

While this “old dark house” thriller (directed by Hollywood workhorse Ford Beebe of Flash Gordon fame) will clearly be of most interest to Bela Lugosi fans, they’ll quickly find that his role is peripheral at best. Fortunately, the storyline — though predictably convoluted, and overpopulated by too many characters — is engaging while it lasts; of particular interest is the sequence in which Asther works his creepy mumbo-jumbo (“There are certain details in the process that we are not allowed to explain to the uninitiated.”), and Atwill’s nicely handled “big reveal” scene. Not must-see viewing, but not a total snooze, either.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography (by Charles Van Enger)
  • Some humorously corny dialogue:

    “How is it dames always know what’s on a guy’s mind before he knows himself?”

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for diehard Lugosi fans.


3 thoughts on “Night Monster (1942)

  1. That would be the perfect context for catching this one. Too bad it’s so obscure… Hopefully it will emerge on a new Bela Lugosi DVD collection at some point.

  2. First viewing – a once-must (though I suspect it’s even better on a second viewing) as a unique addition to Universal horror (with an often-inventive script). As per my post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “The air is charged with death and hatred and something that’s unclean!”

    ‘Night Monster’ (1942) [complete in two clips in comments section]: Something of an unusual find – a film I’ve been trying to locate for years. Yes, it’s on DVD (I don’t tend to buy films I’ve never seen) but TCM never shows it. It has a generic title that says nothing of what the film’s about. It boasts Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill as the stars – when they are really just two of many people pulled together for complex ensemble playing. (A particular plus in the cast is Janet Shaw – an early victim – who, a year later, shows up in ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ as the world-weary waitress who says, “I’d just die for a ring like that.” A particularly surprising element is Leif Erickson as a brazenly horny chauffeur who openly lusts after *every* female. And Nils Asther is here, too!) It’s short (73 minutes) but it’s jam-packed with plot development and duplicitous characters. It owes a lot to Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ – and that gives away much but, at the same time, it’s not spoiling the supernatural goings-on that throw the viewer off at just about every turn. The film occasionally edges very close to camp without actually crossing that border. And I found some moments quite frightening. I was genuinely held in more or less-tense suspense to the very end.

    [NOTE: The print here is occasionally a tiny bit too dark in some of the outside night sequences. But that didn’t bother me much when I went full-screen.]

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