“What is this thing that’s been hanging over us for years?”
After the attempted murder of his fiance, an aristocratic man (John Howard) and his sister (Heather Angel) receive an investigative visit at their old dark house from a Scotland Yard scientist (James Ellison) and his droll assistant (Heather Thatcher). Could a local doctor (Bramwell Fletcher) or the long-time house servants (Halliwell Hobbes and Eily Malyon) have anything to do with the mysterious attack?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Detectives and Private Eyes
- Murder Mystery
- Old Dark House
Fox Studios’ first attempt to cash in on the horror film franchises started by Universal Studios and RKO was this interestingly shot but ultimately disappointing comedic murder mystery. With assistance from DP Lucian Ballard, director John Brahm — best known for helming The Lodger (1944) and Hangover Square (1945), both starring Laird Cregar — offers atmosphere in spades. It’s too bad the hour-plus narrative leans so heavily on poorly limned characters and unfunny humor (“This place is colder than a tax collector’s heart!”), culminating in a poorly handled surprise outcome. With that said, you’ll likely get a chuckle when the entire gang heads downstairs to see exactly what’s been lurking in the basement of this family’s eerie manse (who in the world has those kinds of things in their house?!). Watch for steely-faced character actress Eila Maylon, perfectly cast as a veteran housekeeper with potential secrets up her sleeve.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- John Brahm’s creative direction
- Effectively spooky sets
- Lucian Ballard’s highly atmospheric cinematography
No, though fans of such B-level flicks (or Brahm) will likely want to check it out.
One thought on “Undying Monster, The (1942)”
First viewing. Not must-see, but it’s fun for genre fans. As per my post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):
“Aye – and there’s a frost on the ground, too. It was just such a night when some men say–”
‘The Undying Monster’ (1942): Universal had a huge hit with ‘The Wolf Man’ the year before – which made 20th Century Fox see green and jump on the werewolf bandwagon. Of course, the characters in this 63-minute film learned nothing from the previous film. Look where they live! In the middle of nowhere, in a creepy mansion, next to – what is that?, the Moors? And they’re surprised when weird things happen?! 😉 There’s really nothing here that’s all that original (outside of a few details) but it’s still a lot of fun. The way the standard dialogue runs (i.e., “It’s here! It’s in the house!”), you get the idea that, if he had pushed his cast just a teensy bit more, director John Brahm (‘The Lodger’, ‘Hangover Square’) could easily have had something as amusing as ‘Young Frankenstein’ on his hands – esp. when lead James Ellison says something like “Can’t you cough or sneeze or do something to let a person know you’re about?!” Wonderfully photographed by Lucien Ballard. Also starring Heather Angel (who kept reminding me of Myrna Loy) and Heather Thatcher (who sort of comes off here like a British Eve Arden),