THE UNDYING MONSTER (John Brahm, 1942)

The financial success of Universal’s The Wolf Man the previous year prompted 20th Century-Fox to put out its own werewolf movie. Alas, German-born John Brahm’s The Undying Monster, from a novel by Jessie Douglas Kerruish, is among the worst films ever made: a mere hour that seems like 2¼ hours in the watching. There must be a Grunes family curse that I should ever have been subjected to such a thing.
     Actually, the Hammonds are the family one or another of whose members, through the years, has been clawed to death by a nasty werewolf—although Helga Hammond (Heather Angel, giving the one good performance) pooh-poohs such nonsense. Scotland Yard investigates assaults by the werewolf on the fog-drenched, secluded grounds of the Hammond mansion in the late Victorian or early Edwardian era. The atmosphere reeks of Baskervillainy.
     The police investigation is a shambles, with Inspector Curtis shouting every single stupid thing he says, including his misogynistic mockery of sidekick Christy’s “female intuition.”
     The opening scene inside the mansion at night, with seeming corpses turning out to be two dozing Hammonds, one of them a dog, is ridiculously overwrought, with the camera zigzagging from one to another feature of the décor to the ominous beat of the stately grandfather’s clock that hints ancestral/genetic mayhem. After this sculpted splash of Brahm’s visual extravagance, the insipid script kicks in. By comparison, The Wolf Man had benefitted from Curt Siodmak’s meritorious script, which director George Waggner did his best to mangle.
     Ultimately, the Hammond family “mystery” admits a simple, cornball solution—one that is pretentiously slow to arrive.
     Brahm proceeded to direct two far better films: The Lodger (1944), about Jack the Ripper, and his masterpiece, The Locket (1946), with the performance of a lifetime by Laraine Day.

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One thought on “THE UNDYING MONSTER (John Brahm, 1942)

  1. You’re correct in noting that Undying Monster is a bad Wolf Man rip-off (compare it to another, superior WolfMan-inspired film, Cat People). It’s dismaying in how it sets up its premise and then resolves it so lamely. However, its cinematography is beautiful and Heather Angel, an underrated actress, is very good in it. The one bizarrely interesting thing about the film is its not-quite-buried incest theme (when the werewolf attacks his sister at the end), which could have added a new, Freudianized twist to lycanthropic mania – one wonders what Val Lewton would have done with it.

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