The Undying Monster
DVD Release: 2007, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Theatrical Release: 1942, 20th Century Fox
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I first heard of this movie a year or two ago and put it on my Netflix list but never got around to watching it until recently. Based on the 1922 novel of the same name, The Undying Monster is an early 1940s 20th Century Fox horror film that, at times, plays like a Universal horror film from the 1930s. It’s also obvious that the studio was looking to cash-in on the popularity of 1941’s The Wolf Man, a trend that even the cover art for the DVD continued by making it look like some long-lost sequel to that movie. This movie has a great vibe to it in the beginning and final moments: spooky atmosphere, a wonderful heart-pounding score and fantastic set pieces. The cinematography is top-notch as well to help set the mood. I don’t usually notice stuff like that, so if I’m taking note of the cinematography, it has to be good. Other reviews I read confirmed for me that I was right!
This is a solid B-movie but it’s more of a murder mystery rather than a horror film. You only see glimpses of the werewolf (and any real excitement) at the beginning and end of the film. The rest of the time the movie spends discussing the legend of the Hammond family curse while a pair of scientists investigate to try to prove who (or what) is actually committing the murders. There’s a few red herrings along the way. It’s not obvious who or what is the killer in this movie and whether it boils down to science or the supernatural. It kept me guessing, so that part I liked.
There’s also a few comedic moments. Mostly coming from the lead scientist’s female assistant. I’ve seen other reviews knock the movie for these scenes but I didn’t mind it so much. Universal would often throw in a few comedic moments into their horror movies so it didn’t seem too out of place. Fox seemed like they were only following the Universal template with this movie. Only in the final scene, right after the police shot and killed the werewolf (and his identity was revealed), did the comedy seem really wrong. I would’ve preferred a more somber, dramatic ending rather than the scientists ending things on a good laugh.
The Undying Monster may not be essential viewing for fans of classic horror, but it is still a fun treat even though it doesn’t live up to its full potential.