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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, April 3, 2023

Night Monster (1942)

This is an interesting movie. Before I start with the review, I have to mention that I was surprised as to the quality of Night Monster. I thought I was in for another poverty row studio production, but this is a Universal flick! Which further confused me because it isn’t ever listed on their Horror lists, and this certainly feels like a horror movie. But then I suppose it could also be considered a mystery. Check out my plot synopsis and let me know where you think it belongs.

Things kick off with three doctors being brought to a creepy old house in the woods. The owner is a man named Kurt Ingston and he has summoned the doctors who treated him for a terrible illness. There treatments failed and left him a cripple, but they seem to think that him asking them to come stay for a weekend is still a way to thank them for trying. It isn’t. Instead, he wants to show them the results from training he received from a yogi named Agor Singh. He shows them that he can conjure a skeleton from a far off land. Before the show can continue it is interrupted.

We also have Igston’s daughter Margaret calling for a psychiatrist. She is distraught for reasons that never are completely shared but wants her own doctor to tell her if she is losing her mind or not. This is how we meet our heroine Dr. Harper and thru her our hero/her love interest Dick. There is also a house filled with creepy servants, including Bela Lugosi as the butler and some locals, including the sheriff. He arrives because there have been murders, including the former maid who was killed after quitting and trying to warn everyone about the weird stuff happening at the Ingston estate.

More folks die, the secrets are revealed, and we get a fun ending. All of this is wrapped up tightly in an entertaining seventy three minute runtime. Night Monster gets right to the good stuff with the creepy old house, lecherous limo driver, and Lugosi being his creepy self in the first couple scenes. I was sucked into the story and while I figured it out early on the first time I watched the movie it was still a good time watching how it unfolds. To be clear the viewing for this review is maybe my tenth time watching this one. It was one of those movies that played a lot on my local hosted late night shows, and I think Svengoolie plays it every so often as well. I can confirm that it never gets old and is fun on repeated watches.

The setting of the house with most of the action happening at night when it is properly foggy gives Night Monster just the right atmosphere. This is continued with the reveal of the creature as well as establishing the supernatural bits with the yogi summoning the skeleton. This as well as the look of the monster itself is well executed for the forties and I think still looks pretty good today. Toss in Lugosi’s menacing performance as the butler Rolf as well as Lionel Atwill’s appearance as one of the doomed doctors and you have some legit horror cred. Though it is odd that both were given small supporting roles.

The movie also does a wonderful job of blending the horror elements into that of a mystery. Though again it is obvious who the killer is and how they are likely doing it. But still there are a few questions here and there that need answered. I still think that Night Monster should be on the “official” list of Universal Horror movies and was included in the initial Shock Theater package from Universal that put so many of their classic monster movies on television in the fifties. Either way if you consider it horror or consider it a who done it this is still highly recommended. If you could consider any Universal movie from the forties a hidden gem this is it.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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