I give you The Monster!
Archive for Glenn Strange
For some reason I used to get Lionel Atwill (allegedly a creep in real life*) mixed up with George Zucco. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s because both men came from the same eras and appeared in similar films, and were usually cast as villains. Zucco was particularly good as vengeful scientists or zealots, such as Professor Forbes in The Flying Serpent (1946), a short role as Lampini in House of Frankenstein (1944), as Andoheb the High Priest of Arkan in The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Tomb (1944/1942), as Heinrich Hinckel in Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943), and as Dr. Lorenzo Cameron in The Mad Monster (1942). In many ways, Zucco was typecast in the same type of roles that Bela Lugosi accepted with Monogram and PRC. The Flying Serpent is pretty much a remake of Lugosi’s vehicle The Devil Bat (1940).
In The Mad Monster, Zucco is at his zaniest as a spurned scientist who injects a “catalytic agent” (aka wolf blood) into his simpleton gardener Petro (played by a pre-Frankenstein Glenn Strange).
Zucco’s plan is utterly fantastic. At first he wishes to go to the War Department with a scheme to create an invincible army of wolf-men. I’m not sure if he wants to avenge himself and prove his theories are correct by having the wolf-men whip the Axis powers, but then as he hallucinates in front of a non-existent group of skeptical colleagues and scientists he changes his tune to world domination. Petro becomes his guinea pig.
The makeup and transformation dissolves are decent enough.
Glenn Strange is perhaps best known as having played the Frankenstein Monster in three Universal films, but he was actually a veteran of over 300 film and TV appearances through a long and productive career. In Monster, Strange plays the role a lot like Lon Chaney, Jr. did as Lennie in Of Mice and Men (1939). He even sounds a bit like Chaney. Strange made a ton of films, especially westerns (he once rode as a stunt double for John Wayne), but I can’t remember him having as much dialogue as he had in this film. I think he probably made a better cowboy than a monster.
Of course Zucco uses the Mad Monster for his own vengeful purposes…
And always check the back seat!
Petro creeps around, and there’s a romance, and Zucco makes the Mad Monster Mad…
They don’t make ’em like they used to!
*Child actor Donnie Dunagan recalled a few years ago that he was advised to stay away from Atwill during the filming of Son of Frankenstein (1939).
As part of Universal’s 100th anniversary, the studio is releasing several significant titles on the HD Blu-ray platform. Reviewed here is one of my favorite films Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). I like the packaging of these Universal Blu-ray discs. The familiar transparent blue plastic case slips into an outer gate fold sleeve secured with a small Velcro-style patch. There’s a bit of trivia written about the film and other productions from 1948. Some people throw these outer jackets in the garbage -not this cat! I even kept the marketing strips or Obi found on Japanese laserdiscs (rest in peace). I’m a pathological hoarder and keep it all. As a result, I am running out of space and need to erect a warehouse dedicated to storage of plastic media! Anyway, I got on a tangent. Nice packaging Universal!
The disc comes with some supplements. I like David Skal’s documentary Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters (2000), and the running film commentary by film historian Gregory Mank. He’s informative and packs considerable trivia into his discourse. By the way, the opening animation titles were likely rendered by Walter Lance (creator of Woody Woodpecker). I wonder if Lance also worked on Bela’s transformation to bat sequences? There’s a possibility I think that Lance didn’t perform the animation work in AC Meet Franky. Various internet sources suggest that Lance and Universal-International’s new management were on shakey ground in the late 1940’s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Lantz
So, how does the film look? It looks terrific down to the tiniest yak hair fiber on Lon Chaney’s face. However, I don’t see a whole lot of improvement from older DVD prints. By comparison, the new Jaws Blu-ray is really special with a full-boat restoration. Folks looking to upgrade an old VHS copy might want to consider the Blu-ray disc, and for around $15 it’s a no-brainer for genre buffs.