Who is the Man and Who the Monster? – The Monster Maker (1944)

The Monster Maker 4
There are many films about mad scientists doing mad things to normally innocent people, but there are few that take it as far as The Monster Maker does.  In it, J.Carrol Naish, the great character actor that he was, plays Dr. Igor Markoff – a scientist who enjoys experimenting and is the leading man in his field dealing with the disease called acromegaly.  He is so good in fact, that he has learned how to both create and cure the disease, though just why it is he has not released his findings to the world is never explained.  Also starring is Ralph Morgan as a concert pianist, a man who also loves what he does and who is being blackmailed into giving Dr. Markoff his daughter Patricia as she resembles the doctor’s former wife.  Blackmail is dirty business and Dr. Markoff takes it too far by infecting Anthony with acromegaly, thereby taking away his ability to play piano and quite possibly sealing the doctor’s own fate.

The Monster Maker 11By 1944 there were many movies that featured similar storylines such as this one – the mad scientist taking his experiments just a little too far, the heroine of the film put into some sort of nasty predicament and the hero coming in to save the day.  In the case of this particular film, Morgan was both victim and hero which was a little different from the norm and added to the suspense of it all as you had no idea just what was going to happen come the end of everything.  His performance was solid and induced quite a bit of pity from the viewer as he started to metamorphosize after being infected with Markoff’s serum.  The special effects which consisted of the makeup Morgan had to sport were done surprisingly well considering this was a B picture bordering on Z.  Combining that makeup with the dim or dark lighting that was present in most scenes by that point, Morgan made for a truly excellent monster, though monster he was not.

The Monster Maker 9Naish was in fine form as he most usually was, once again playing the villain of the piece, something he excelled at.  It is a shame that the writers and makers of this film could not have come up with something a little more inventive to showcase rather than an actual disease which does in fact affect a number of the population.  That being said, they did make the most of it and Naish hammed it up quite well with his mad scientist gimmick to perfection.  There was a lack of action, but it was more than made up for with the decent performances and the rising tension throughout.

The Monster Maker is a good film, a fun one even for those that enjoy B films made on the cheap.  The story is familiar and a little cliche, but the payoff is worth it all and while the general horror of it might not stand up today, the situation that Morgan’s character finds himself in is both horrific and tragic.

3 out of 5
The Monster Maker 2

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