The Monster Walks Film Details
Overview: People in an old dark house on a stormy night are menaced by a killer ape.
Review: Ever since the literary origins of the horror genre, stories about old dark houses have haunted the dreams of horror fans across the globe. Like in literature, cinema adopted this kind of stories quickly and this Gothic branch of horror was early explored by the filmmakers. Among the earliest movies of this kind in the “sound era”, is this little known Gothic film by Frank R. Strayer starring no one else but Mischa Auer (whom years later would achieve fame and recognition as a comedian) in a creepy and very dark role. The film is about the death of a millionaire scientist, and the subsequent reading of his will. Among them are his young daughter Ruth (Vera Reynolds), his brother Robert (Sheldon Lewis) and his two servants, Mrs. Emma Turg (Martha Mattox) and her son Hanss (Mischa Auer). After the reading of the will, mysterious events begin to happen as it seems that a killer is after those more benefited by the scientist’ will. This kind of plot is nowadays a cliché, but in its day it was still fresh and a favorite both among the audience and among the writers. Made just 5 years after the first sound movie, “The Monster Walks” is a stylistically a film that still retains some features from silent films. It is one of the first works of writer Robert Ellis (who would achieve fame writing the Charlie Chan films), more exactly, his first talkie; and sadly, it shows, as it feels too stagy for its own sake. However, Ellis’ love for mystery is present and while clichéd, the plot is well developed and shows why he became a master of the genre. Strayer’s direction is also a bit restrained, as if he was experimenting with the new technology. Strayer builds up his film with care and at a very slow pace, and while his lack of expertise is obvious, it’s interesting to see the steps that lead to his far superior “The Vampire Bat” and “The Ghost Walks”, and eventually to his highly successful “Blondie” series. It is also worth to point out that he gave both Mischa Auer and Willie Best one of their first opportunities in the business. The acting is a mixed bag of extremes, with some members of the cast being excellent while others give rather poor performances. Mischa Auer is without a doubt among the former and while he is more recognized as a comedian, he pulls off a role clearly inspired by Lugosi and Karloff’s performances on the Universal films of 1931. Martha Mattox is equally impressive as his mother but is definitely Wilie Best (under the racist pseudonym of “Sleep ‘n’ Eat”) who steals the show with his great talent for comedy. The rest of the cast is less impressive, and while Rex Lease makes a good lead, Vera Reynolds’ over the top melodrama (probably another element from silent films) is a bit annoying and distracting. Like most films done on the Poverty Row, “The Monster Walks” suffers of a terribly low-budget and even lower production values. The old dark house scenery becomes repetitive and modern viewers may be bored by this old style of film-making. The over the top acting of some members of the cast may also be another distraction that hurts the film, but the biggest problem lays on the fact that nowadays the plot is neither original nor interesting. This last detail is definitely not the film’s fault, but viewers are to be warned. “The Monster Walks” is not a classic, and definitely not a very good film, but it is a great chance to watch how film-making was evolving as it features the early work of four great artists of the 40s and how they learned the business. As a novelty, this film is very rewarding and a nice chance to watch non-Universal horror of the origins of film. 5/10
Duration: 57 min
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Also known as: Le monstre marche,El monstruo asesino,The Monster Walks,O Passo do Monstro,The Monster Walked