OOM #6 – Man Made Monster (1941)

Hello people and greetings from Valdivia! It is a pleasure to be here and to be able to write for you about the movies I see here and about the horror movie a day deal that I’ve had with you since October started. Today I manage to write just enough for you, so nothing special from my end… yet! Look forward to it, maybe.

It seems that we’re always going backwards, as a shitty song says, because today we jump from 1986 backwards to the year of 1941, and that’s because of the new schedule of the Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness by James Rolfe. Au contraire other years, James has decided to not go in a chronological order, but in a random (he even calls it ‘Whatever-You-Wanna-Call-It-A-Thon’) order and even random themes, so yesterday was 1986 today was 1941 and tomorrow may be 2005 for all we care!

So, today is the turn of a Universal movie! Oh joy, a shame that it’s one of the 40’s but it’s still a source of excitement to see another movie from this era. ‘Man Made Monster’ (1941) has been under my eye for quite some time, because it’s usually considered the start of the horrific and wonderful career of Lon Chaney Jr. So, without much else to say, I leave you with James Rolfe’s review vide of it here. And me? Well, keep reading for my review/take on it.

Well, this movie, Universal Pictures Horror and all, has some problems, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a disposable bag of garbage, it might just be a disposable and forgettable film. Let’s remind you guys of something that may come as a shock, for those who didn’t know, I don’t think much of ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941), I’ve never considered it a great movie, and something very similar happens to every wolfman picture that I ever see, I find them lacking unless something spectacular happens. While this isn’t a werewolf picture, it is directed by the same director and also stars Lon Chaney Jr. that some people love and respect, and while I do respect his craft and the way that his face fixates in horror or violence, I think that my favorite may still lie between the ballpark of Karloff and/or Lugosi.

Now, of course, the fact that the most famous werewolf movie was made by the same team the same year as this movie, doesn’t mean that the film has to follow suit, and it doesn’t, mainly because this movie is worse. The characterization of the actors is weak, specially when it comes down to where they stand in front of each other, where the protagonist (Chaney Jr.) is the only survivor of a fatal crash with electrocutation as a death result for everyone, but the first moment we see him he is making jokes about the whole situation and later he still takes pride into the fact that he survived, giving second thought on the issue of the five people that one must assume he knew if they belonged to the same circus act in which he played with electricity and where he built his tolerance to the deadly element.

Our hero of sorts finds himself in the hands of scientists, one honest and a crooked one, that try to test his abilities, and while the old kinder one is tolerating and at the same time kind to him, the young and vicious one just tries to take advantage of the situation, giving him large quantities of electricity, to make him sort of addicted to it, so he needs it to survive and find strength in life. The movie decides to cut the process of the depression of Chaney Jr., were we are given notes and fades to understand that he slowly becomes more dependent, and then when we finally return to a diegetic time, we only see him depressed and without much energy until he is given the jolt of life that he now so dearly needs. It could’ve been a great and early example of the issues of addiction, but it was either something that wasn’t as talked about or just wasn’t seen as something important, nevertheless, a missed opportunity.

Around that time is when the film gets to a dead stop, when Chaney Jr. is given such a quantity of electricity that he kills the kinder scientist under the orders of the meaner one, and the way that they represent his state is through a glow in his skin and any other part of his bare body that is shown to the outside. While nowadays looks fake, at the time seeing a man glow like that must’ve been incredible, so I won’t judge the special effects of this, I still find them charming and in a way incredible for the low budget in which they were working. The film stops because Chaney Jr. stops and has to be trialed, and the whole process is done mostly without his presence, and the truth is discovered much later.

Obviously he is condemned to the electric chair and he survives and goes on a rampage that is similar to the classic ones of the Universal Monsters. Classic elements, but at the same time unoriginal. The fact that the movie is under an hour long helps and at the same time makes you wonder, that if it ever was any longer than that, how much duller would it’ve been, how much filler would’ve needed and yet at the same time I’d have to wonder how much interesting could it’ve been if they were forced to add some more plot to this quite straightforward picture. Maybe we could’ve seen some of the deterioration of this Man Made Monster, maybe some process, a play on the dull romance that seems way too forced for us to care about the investigative couple.

The film is far from perfect, as you can see, but it doesn’t lack the charm of the Universal Picture that I’ve come to love. Let’s continue with this tradition and let’s see what time will say about us and about the movies we talk about.



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