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Saturday, December 3, 2016


Close. After CHARLIE CHAN and MR. MOTO ended their runs at 20th/Fox, B-pic producer Sol M. Wurtzel needed an inexpensive replacement. (In 1942 alone, he turned out 15 pics.) One idea, not much favored @ Fox, was Horror. But with Universal coining cash on their monster line-up and Val Lewton’s suggestive fright-fest starting @ RKO (CAT PEOPLE/’42), this (alongside companion pic THE UNDYING MONSTER/’42) was Fox’s attempt at the genre.* It’s a one of those mad scientist things, with George Zucco, very good here, tampering with animal & human genes to produce unhappy sub-human J. Carrol Naish, looking miserable in modified Mr. Hyde make-up, while daughter Lynne Roberts and fiancé Shepperd Strudwick ignore all the obvious clues that something’s gone terribly wrong. Director Harry Lachman, with many a CHARLIE CHAN behind him, pulls off some lively, atmospheric work, especially in a few unexpectedly rough & kinetic action/murder scenes. Plus, the general level of Fox studio polish is a treat for this sort of quickie production. But does the plot have to be quite so obvious and the dialogue so idiotic? And why no French flavor to match the supposed locale? Everyone’s a misplaced Brit, like the inexplicable cast of Martin Scorsese’s HUGO/’11.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Odd to see well-known supporting players like Mike Mazurki and Arthur Shields go uncredited in significant roles.

DOUBLE-BILL: *Write-Up of companion pic THE UNDYING MONSTER to follow. John Brahm, who made the superb HANGOVER SQUARE/’45 directed, so there's hope.

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