Monday, September 28, 2009

Man Made Monster (1941)

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"The most amazing monster the world has ever known!"
Starring Lon Chaney Jr. and Lionel Atwill
Directed by George Waggner
From Universal Pictures

In my opinion, one of the lesser known and under-rated Universal efforts. Man Made Monster was, in fact, Lon Chaney Jr.'s first "true" horror film coming right before The Wolf Man. Shot in only three weeks, it was the cheapest done by Universal in 1941 despite some nifty glowing special effects. Like many other projects, this one was originally conceived as a vehicle for either Karloff and/or Lugosi but neither were destined to star.

The story begins when a bus hits a power line, killing all passengers on board, except for circus performer "Dynamo" Dan McCormick (Lon Chaney Jr.), who survives because he is immune to electricity, seemingly due to his carnie act. McCormick is taken in by the kindly Dr. John Lawrence (Samuel S. Hinds), a leading authority on electrobiology, and it would appear that he truly has Dan's best interests at heart. However, Dr. Lawrence's dodgy colleague - dare I say mad (are there any other kind?) scientist, Dr. Paul Rigas (Lionel Atwill) takes a shine to the prospect of using Dan as a guinea pig to test his ideas about electricity.

Dr. Rigas begins experimenting on Dan, giving him higher and higher doses of electricity, thereby turning Dan into a true Electric Man. After the experiments, Dan's touch kills anyone and anything by electrocution. Framed for Dr. Lawrence's murder by the evil Dr. Rigas, Dan is fully under the bad doctor's control. Soon, Dan is captured by the police and later sentenced to death.

Sending an Electric Man to the electric chair - not surprisingly - does not do away with Dan, and he escapes from prison. He has been supercharged and is living on borrowed time - and power.

He returns to the lab to not only confront Dr. Rigas but also in the process saves the young heroine June Lawrence (Anne Nagel) in the nick of time. Wearing a rubber suit, Dan takes young June into the countryside, only to be chased by the authorities and June's beau reporter. After dropping June, the Electric Man gets snagged on a barbed wire fence, thereby ripping his containment suit. As a result, he runs out of the electricity that has been keeping him alive, and he perishes.

The film was later re-released under various titles including Electric Man, The Mysterious Dr. R. and most notably The Atomic Monster.

I recommend it to all classic monster fans. It’s a solid little film and there’s no better time of year to check it out!

1 comment:

  1. Johnny: I loved this film. first and foremost, it used Lon Chaney, Jr. perfectly, which his best known film, The Wolf Man did not (Chaney is called upon to play a leading man type in the beginning of the film. Ouch!). Also, it has Lionel Atwill doing his patented Mad Scientist thing, where is always reigned supreme. He was one of the great loco men of science of all time.

    Great post! -- Mykal

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