Saturday, August 7, 2010

Man Made Monster (1941)

Man Made Monster -1943
Directed by George Waggner

This is an under appreciated classic from Universal. It was based on this film that Universal decided to crown Lon Chaney Jr. their new horror star, leading to him getting his most famous role of all-Larry Talbot The Wolfman.

Chaney plays Dan "Dynamo Dan" McCormick, a man who makes his living in side shows electrocuting himself (which he says is mostly fake). He's on a bus that crashes into an electric pole, which electrocutes everyone on board but him. This brings him to the attention of Dr. Lawrence, a scientist who happens to employs a mad scientist (don't they all). Of course the mad Dr. Rigas played by Lionel Atwill makes Dan a monster, which leads to disaster.

Lon Chaney Jr.'s decay due to the repeated electrical experiments starts off subtle and gets progressively worse. He goes from a pale makeup with soft graying hair to a mummy-esque emaciated wrinkled skin supplied by Jack Pierce. John P. Fulton's wonderful special effects show a charged up Chaney glowing, as does his victims when he touches them.

Trivia Time: When the film was reissued it went through some name changes, like "Electric Man" and "The Mysterious Dr. R". In the 1950s Realart renamed it "The Atomic Monster" and put it back in theaters. Unfortunately, that title was already used by Alex Gordon for one of his films. He sent his lawyer, Samuel Z. Arkoff, to talk to Realart about changing the title and he met James H. Nicholson who was working there at the time. Because of this meeting Arkoff, Gordon and Nicholson would go on to create American International Pictures.

This film is currently hard to find, since it was only issued on VHS and has not made it to DVD yet.

UPDATE-8/8/2010: I stand corrected. It IS available on DVD, in the Universal Horror Classic Movie Archive, along with "The Black Cat" (1941), "Horror Island" (1941), "Night Monster" (1942) and "Captive Wild Woman" (1943).

Until Next Time,

Stay Insane!

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