MAN MADE MONSTER (REVIEW)
Dir. George Waggner
Reviewer. Dan Cook
The film that first introduced horror protege Lon Chaney Jr. to the genre, George Waggner’s MAN MADE MONSTER is a strange yet enjoyable sci-fi thriller which may follow many of the standard Universal B movie traits but benefits from a hugely likeable central performance and some eye-catching set pieces. In a story that bears a notable resemblance to that of the 1936 Karloff and Lugosi vehicle THE INVISIBLE RAY, Chaney plays “Dynamo” Dan McCormick, a circus performer and the lone survivor of a horrific bus crash. Made somewhat immune to the effects of electricity, the unsuspecting Dan becomes the test subject of a mad doctor (Lionel Atwill) whose power-hungry theories surrounding electro-biology turn him into a glowing, indestructible creature, deadly to the touch.
With its many shots of equipment-laden laboratories (much of which are actually taken from stock footage from the FRANKENSTEIN catalogue), mad doctors, a pretty heroine being stalked and a killer creature on the loose, MAN MADE MONSTER is very much a typical middle-era Universal horror picture and as such, it didn’t exactly set the box office alight back in 1941. Lon Chaney Jr. is a charismatic lead of course and does a great job conveying the cruel tragedy of his character but otherwise the supporting performances from the likes of genre regular Lionel Atwill, Anne Nagel and future IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE co-stars Frank Albertson and Samuel S. Hinds, much like the movies primitive special effects, aren’t anything special. Nonetheless, despite the films flaws, it’s minor success gratefully convinced the studio to promptly sign Chaney Jr. to a contract, leading to THE WOLF MAN less than one year later and thus allowing the star to carve out his own extraordinary legacy unique to that of his legendary father of a 1,000 faces.
Made for a comparatively small budget of $86,000 over the course of only 3 short weeks, MAN MADE MONSTER certainly doesn’t reach the artistic levels of the more high profile Universal classic. However, as a piece of schlocky sci-fi silliness, it’s still an entertainingly weird little curio with more than a few bright sparks scattered throughout its very brisk 59 minute long running time.