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This is the story of Dynamo Dan, a sideshow worker who does a faked
electrical act. Perhaps because of this he's the only survivor when a
bus he's on slams into a high tension tower and all the passengers are
killed by the electricity. Dan ends up working with Lionel Atwill a mad
scientist trying to make electrified super humans.
Yes, its as corny as it sounds but then so are the Frankenstein films. Corny or no the film is a great way to spend an hour of your time on a rainy night.When most people think of the Universal horror films in the 1930's and 40's they tend to think of the Frankenstein/Dracula/Wolfman movies forgetting or unaware that Universal turned out a a number of very good second tier horror films at the same time. This is one of them.
Warning: do not confuse this with The Indestructible Man which has a similar plot line but which is not particularly well made.
8 out of 10 on a rainy night with the lights off and your best honey by your side.
A prime example of how to make a good movie on a low budget. Excellent photography, solid script, great cast (including Chaney in his first Universal horror flick), and that now very familiar but still exciting Salter-Skinner-Henderson music score. Fondly remembered little movie.
Watching this movie again recently I was impressed with how efficiently crafted it was. Clearly not meant to be a major feature, MAN MADE MONSTER is nonetheless put together with great skill. I was particularly impressed with how fast they kept the pace and the attention paid to fleshing out the characters. The attempted execution is conveyed only through the reactions of supporting characters who are clearly conscious of the grim circumstances of state approved homicide. Chaney portrays the likable lug turned pathetic victim with real sincerity. He has no idea what's happening to him, and in one of the final scenes his mime reminds me of Karloff's original Frankenstein monster (ironic since when Chaney himself played the monster he had no such opportunity). And Lionel Atwill as a scientist more mad than evil is, as always, a delight. Good movie.
Lon Chaney Jr. was often stuck in lousy if entertaining b-films, due to
various reasons (typecasting, difficulty to work with due to his
chronic alcoholism), but occasionally the man proved himself to be an
extremely good actor. I'm always surprised to see him give a literally
good performance, but he comes through every now and than, creating
horror protagonists the viewers can feel sympathy for. He did it in
"The Wolf-Man", "Spider Baby", and he does it in "Man Made Monster", an
unfortunately overlooked second tier Universal monster flick.
"Man Made Monster" is very good for several reasons. As mentioned above, Chaney turns in one of his finest performances. Lionel Atwill is superb also, but hes always fantastic. Here he plays a villain thats never remotely over-the-top yet always purely evil. Also, the screenplay is well written, with likable characters you can always feel sympathy for. The direction by George Waggner keeps everything moving at a very quick pace, even though the actual monster doesn't turn up until over half way through. The short running length of an hour helps out as well, and the material manages to be satisfyingly developed despite the brevity. The only negative aspect is the dated romantic subplot involving a newspaper reporter and the daughter of one of the scientists, but those were often expected in this kind of film. "Man Made Monster" is a nice little gem that satisfies the target audience. (7/10)
Man Made Monster is directed by George Waggner and stars Lionel Atwill,
Lon Chaney Jr & Anne Nagel. It's adapted from an original story titled
The Electric Man which is co-written by H.J. Essex, Sid Schwartz & Len
Golos. It is notable for being the first horror venture for Chaney Jr
who would make his signature horror movie The Wolf Man the same year.
Plot sees Chaney as "Big Dan" McCormick, the sole survivor of an
electric train wreck. That all the other passengers were killed by
electrocution fascinates the sci-fi boffins, particularly diabolic Dr.
Paul Rigas (Atwill), who coerces Dan into a series of tests. The
outcome of which will spell disaster as Dan absorbs huge levels of
electricity and becomes immune to it. Soon Dan will become the
unstoppable Electric Man.
Universal's Man Made Monster has no pretence what so ever, it is what it is, a short sharp shock shocker that plugs itself into the mains and lights up the screen for its 1 hour running time. Which in the case of the excellent Chaney Jr is actually the case, as he is transformed into a hulking, walking light bulb head that garners sympathy in the way that Universal's other man made monster did. The photography (Elwood Bredell) is moody and atmospheric, Hans J. Salter's musical score delightfully oozes familiar Universal values, while Waggner and his team, when one considers the short running time, do very good work on the characterisations; with Atwill given full license to be bonkers-real bonkers.
It's all very conventional in the grand scheme of Universal horror. Monster elicits sympathy, a foxy lady in the mix (Nagel), mad scientist, dashing hero type (Frank Albertson) and here we even have the intelligent pet. There's some smarts in the writing as the makers observe capital punishment and note man messing with things he probably shouldn't be. But really just don't go too deep with it and enjoy a solid little chiller that's boosted by John Fulton's first rate special effects. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After surviving an accidental electrocution, Dan McCormick (Lon Chaney,
Jr.) comes to the attention of a couple of scientists doing work with
the effects of electricity on the human body. While Dr. Lawrence's
intentions are very noble and above reproach, Dr. Rigas (Lionel Atwill)
has other, more "sinister" applications in mind for their experiments.
His idea is create, through repeated exposure to extreme levels of
electricity, an army of supermen to do his bidding. And Dan McCormick
represents the ideal test subject.
Man Made Monster might be considered a "lesser" Universal horror film, but it's a good one. I haven't seen it in literally decades and I'm happy to report that it held up rather well. It's not as good as some of Universal's better known films, but it's a solid, entertaining effort. Director George Waggner (who would go on to direct Chaney in The Wolf Man) does a marvelous job of keeping things moving at a nice pace. None of the relatively short 59 minutes is wasted. Chaney, always good at playing the sympathetic figure, does so here as well as ever. Atwill has always been underrated in my eyes and he gives one of his most demented performances as Dr. Rigas in Man Made Monster. The special effects are "cool" for the lack of a better word. The glowing Chaney works. Overall, this is one that deserves a much wider audience, especially among horror fans. Even though it's a limited release, hopefully the new R1 DVD release will put Man Made Monster into the hands of more fans.
This has been one of the most elusive of the Universal Horrors for me a fellow member here in particular knows that for a fact; having caught up with it finally via ulterior sources, I still had to go through a variety of hassles as my copy froze no less than three times during its brief 60-minute duration and pixellated twice besides! Anyway, while I cannot say that MAN MADE MONSTER scales the heights of the best the studio had to offer in its heyday, this is as good a B-movie as they turned out (especially coming from their second phase). Of course, it introduced Lon Chaney Jr. into the fold of Universal horror stars: "The Electric Man" (an alternate title for the film itself) a sideshow performer who survived both a bus crash and electrocution proves a nice antecedent (going from vigor to sheepishness and from wild-eyed disbelief to self-destruction) to his signature role of Lawrence "The Wolf Man" Talbot; actually, he supports Lionel Atwill who is in top (that is to say, over-the-top) "Mad Doctor" form here, especially relishing those scenes in which he tries to persuade others to his radical credo (basically constituting megalomania). Interestingly, the film was originally intended as yet another pairing of Universal's two reigning genre icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and, in point of fact, it does play quite a bit like THE RAVEN (1935)! The rest of the cast includes Samuel S. Hinds, who made his fair share of films in this vein, as Atwill's eminent superior and the first to take interest in Chaney's case (also, cluelessly but hilariously suggesting to Atwill that he drop the experiments and 'help himself to some cheese and beer' instead!) and the obligatory romantic couple i.e. pretty Anne Nagel (as Hinds' niece/secretary, who is sympathetic to Chaney) and Frank Albertson (as conveniently a reporter who, for love of the heroine, is in two minds about what to do with the scoop of his life). As expected, the film particularly scores in the make-up (Chaney's constant 'treatments' lend him an effectively sickly, even aged, countenance) and special effects (his imposing glowing automaton comes courtesy of a master, John P. Fulton) departments. And while MAN MADE MONSTER is kind of short on action during its first three-quarters, it more than makes up for this with a terrific climax which sees Chaney being tried, convicted and executed for Hinds' murder but, since he is impervious to electricity, he breaks free to exact well-deserved retribution upon the man who ruined his life; arriving just in time to save Nagel from Atwill's clutches, typically for a Universal Studios monster, he then makes off with her into the countryside (chased by the authorities and Albertson) towards his doom. There are, however, a couple of unexpected touches as well its stance against capital punishment (the heavy heart evident in the people assigned the grim task) and the pained reaction of Chaney's devoted mutt at his demise.
Big Dan McCormick survives a bus accident that is hit with electricity only to end up being the guinea pig for two scientists...one a good man who wants to investigate McCormick's immunity to electrical currents for the benefice of mankind and the other who wants to make McCormick the prototype of his super human electrical men army that only he is able to control. Lon Chaney, in his first horror film for Universal(Well, after all everybody else mentioned it so why not me?), does a good job doing another variation of Lenny from Of Mice and Men being the simple man who is tricked and coerced by the evil scientist. The evil guy is played with relish and finesse than none other than Lionel Atwill. Atwill plays the man with a degree of enlightened insanity. Lionel Atwill played evil scientists better than anyone else for my money. He enunciates his words with delicacy while all the time looking through those snake-like eyes. The special effects and direction in this one are pretty good and the film is very enjoyable.
MORD39 RATING: *** out of ****
This was Lon Chaney, Jr.'s first "monster" movie, from the same director who would later helm THE WOLF MAN, Chaney's most popular flick of all. MAN MADE MONSTER is highly entertaining and enjoyable. It contains all the elements of a good, solid horror film.
Lionel Atwill is at the top of his game as an insane doctor trying to create an army of electrically charged zombie-men. He finds the perfect subject in the sweet and gentle Chaney, a sideshow attraction famous for demonstrating his immunity to electricity.
Lon's performance echoes his acclaimed role of "Lenny" from 1939's OF MICE AND MEN. He comes off as a likeable but gullible lug. He was always best as an actor when conveying pathos or brutish strength.
The pace of the film is quick and easy, and the Universal music adds spice to an already competent thriller. It's a fun hour or so that fans of early horror films do not want to miss.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Man Made Monster was Lon Chaney Jnr's first horror picture and I found
this movie enjoyable.
A man is involved in a bus crash and he turns out to be the sole surviver of this. A mad scientist then takes him in and learns he is immune to electricity. After being sentenced to death for killing a man, he survives the electric chair and then goes on the rampage killing several people and then runs out of electricity and dies through this. The parts where the dog makes friends with him lets the movie down a little. This doesn't seem to fit in with the main story.
As well as Lon Chaney Jnr, the movie has an excellent role from Universel horror regular Lionel Atwill and Anne Nagel plays the main female role.
This movie is an excellent way to spend an hour one evening.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
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