Man Made Monster, at least for the first fifteen minutes (of an hour), gives Lon Chaney Jr. one of his best roles. He gets to be the affable guy his other performances from the forties often hint he’s capable of being, but never gets to be. Not surprisingly, Monster takes that aspect of his character away and turns him once again into a tragic monster. This time, Lionel Atwill is turning him into an electronic zombie.
Lots of Man Made Monster is familiar. The opening reminds a great deal of Unbreakable, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say M. Night Shyamalan is aware with this film–it’s clear from his films he doesn’t know anything about movies. And Danny Elfman has at least heard Hans J. Salter’s score, as he turned some of it into the Batman score.
The film’s uncredited legacy aside, it’s a misfire–too cheap, too short. There’s not enough time spent with Chaney to make it a significant tragedy and the special effects are goofy. A glowing electric man is not scary.
There’s a lot of great acting here. I’m not sure if Atwill’s ever had more fun; he’s a joy to watch as he oozes evil. Samuel S. Hinds plays the good scientist here and does well. Anne Nagel and Frank Albertson are somewhat unlikely love birds who figure Chaney’s not really bad; it’s got to be mad scientist Atwill.
Waggner has some great closeups and some mediocre medium shots.
It pretty much evens out.
Directed by George Waggner; screenplay by Waggner, based on a story by Harry Essex, Sid Schwartz and Len Golos; director of photography, Elwood Bredell; edited by Arthur Hilton; music by Hans J. Salter; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Lionel Atwill (Dr. Paul Rigas), Lon Chaney Jr. (Dan McCormick), Anne Nagel (June Lawrence), Frank Albertson (Mark Adams), Samuel S. Hinds (Dr. John Lawrence), William B. Davidson (District Attorney Ralph Stanley), Ben Taggart (Police Detective Sergeant), Chester Gan (Wong), George Meader (Dr. Bruno) and Russell Hicks (Warden Harris).