He Knew Exactly… – How to Make a Monster (1958)

After creating a teenage werewolf and a teenage Frankenstein, it only made sense to create another picture and bring the two monsters together. So it is that How to Make a Monster Came into being and instead of going down the old familiar route like Universal did by merging their franchises, American International Pictures, producer Herman Cohen and writer Aben Kandel crafted a unique way of bringing them together under one banner. In lieu of featuring the monsters, which is only logical, the film would instead take place in the ‘real’ world and the only monster would be the makeup artist that created them for the big screen. It is a fun twist, one that leaves you scratching your how-to-make-a-monster-7head at first because you really have no idea just where it is going to go, but soon all is revealed and while it does head into a slightly clichéd mad scientist mode, it is so well done, that you can forgive it.

Robert H. Harris plays Pete, a special effects and makeup guru who has worked for the studio for decades. That all comes to an end when another group buys the film company and has to make some cuts in order to make the purchase worth their time. Pete just so happens to be one of those cuts and after the current picture that is being made is finished, so is he. Angry, Pete decides to get a little revenge through the only way that he knows how – his makeup and the actors which includes the Teenage Werewolf and Frankenstein of the film they are currently shooting and aided by a little science to make them susceptible to his suggestions.how-to-make-a-monster-19

The movie is a lot of fun as it does not really follow the usual horror film path, and while it does eventually stray into familiar territory, getting there was not only delightful, but gratifying. So while you get to see those teenage monsters from the previous films, they are not quite what you expect and it keeps things fresh. There is little horror to be found except in the actions by Pete. Yes, the man lost his job, but to cause the murders of various peoples who are essentially just doing theirs, is a little extreme. It was a radical way to go about the killing, especially as nobody would think that a real monster would have done the deed and it would have worked if not for a simple mistake which manifested itself in the final act of the film.

how-to-make-a-monster-36Gary Conway would return to reprise his role as the Teenage Frankenstein while Michael Landon would not and instead be replaced by Gary Clarke. The men did a great job playing the young and trusting actors who would report to Pete for their makeup application, never knowing the nefarious purposes that he had in mind. That makeup would be just as good in this film as it was in the previous two and turned out to be just as effective. It was a bit of a shame that this would be the last time that we would see these two creatures on the big screen as they held a lot of potential. Monsters may not have been as popular as they were years earlier, but like Pete says in the film, everybody loves a good horror film and they never quite go away because people like to be scared – as crazy as that seems. Good acting, smart writing and competent direction by Herbert L. Strock made How to Make a Monster an exemplary example of what the genre could do.

4 out of 5

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