NIGHT MONSTER (1942)
Article #461 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 6-19-2002
Posting date: 11-12-2002
Strange strangulation murders are being committed in the vicinity of a mansion owned by a man suffering from paralysis.
I’ve never quite understood the logic of casting horror stars like Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill, and then consigning them to worthless and immemorable roles, as this movie does. There’s not much to Atwill’s role at all, and he vanishes from the story about half-way through, and Lugosi is once again consigned to the butler role, where he doesn’t even function as a red herring. Yet during the opening credits, it’s their names that are front and center to bring in the viewing public. It’s no wonder Lugosi made so many movies with Monogram; at least when they cast him, they gave him a role as prominent as his listing in the credits.
These are all side issues, of course; as for the movie itself, it’s a minor Universal horror film, to be sure, but it’s probably my favorite of their lesser ones. There’s very little padding or wasted space, and it has the courage of its convictions in that it isn’t simply a mystery disguised as a horror film (which one might suspect, given the fact that the movie is sort of a variation of the “Old Dark House” type of movie). The first time I saw this movie was in unusual circumstances; my local Creature Feature had mixed the final reels of this movie with the opening reels of THE MUMMY’S HAND, and I found myself suddenly thrown into another plot halfway through the movie. Nevertheless, at least one scene remained stuck indelibly in my memory; this is the scene where we learn the truth about the paralysis suffered by the patriarch of the house. Also, the clever use of sound is memorable; the croaking frogs in the vicinity become quiet whenever the murderer is around. The movie uses this devise sparingly, but very effectively. This was one movie I hadn’t seen in years until I saw it for this series of movies. It was nice to see how well it held up.