The Soul of a Monster is a 1944 film released by Columbia Pictures, directed by Will Jason and written by Edward Dein. It stars Rose Hobart as Lilyan Gregg, George Macready as Dr. Winson, Jim Bannon as Dr. Vance and Jeanne Bates as Ann Winson. Though it is marketed as a horror picture, and there are elements of it throughout the film, it is more of a suspenseful drama than anything else. There is nothing to be frightened of in the film, except for the lead protagonist’s actions, and even then they are tame to many of the other films released at the time such as House of Frankenstein, The Invisible man’s Revenge and The Uninvited.
Summing up the plot, Ann Winson’s husband is dying. She cannot live with that reality and so prays for someone, some power, to save him no matter the cost. It can be argued that what comes answering her call is the Devil or a demon of some sort, but it is clothed in human guise as Lilyan Gregg. She saves Dr. Winson at the cost of his soul and effectively turns him into a fully-functioning zombie. He is a man that can feel neither emotions nor harm and it bothers him on some level that he has become as such and by the end of the film he takes measures to correct the wrong that was done to him.
This film is another case of a title misleading its audience by stating something that is not exactly true. Sure, Dr. Winson had no soul for the bulk of the film, but he was not exactly a monster. A few of his actions could be condemned as monstrous but it was not exactly his fault. George Macready does a good job as the protagonist, though it is hard to qualify him as such as he is supposedly a monster. He was a little stiff during the first half of the movie, but soon looked to be more comfortable in the role during the latter half as it picked up steam.
Rose Hobart essentially stole the show as the woman/creature who barters for souls. She is fairly captivating on screen and the film revolves around her for she wields the power over Dr. Winson whether he likes it or not. Jim Bannon and Jeanne Bates are decent as the supporting cast of friend and wife, but they are overshadowed by Hobart and Macready. If the film was longer it could have looked at the characters a bit more and gone into Lilyan`s past and her motivations, but such was not the case and what we ended up with was direct and to the point without any padding.
The film does leave the question of who exactly Lilyan was unanswered. Angel, devil, demon or witch, we never find out and though it is a minor point, it is a little frustrating to not discover which. All around it was a good film, if a short one. It lacked any real scares though it was entertaining and it was unintentionally funny at times with bits of dialogue here and there like during the moment Dr. Winson receives a cut on the arm. Not funny in a way to cause you to laugh, but humourous in the way the lines were delivered. Being only about an hour long, it is worth watching if you have nothing else to do.