Man Made Monster (1941)

Genres - Horror, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film  |   Run Time - 68 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Man Made Monster was one of two collaborations between Lon Chaney, Jr. and director/writer (and sometime producer) George Waggner to reach theaters during 1941 -- the other was The Wolf Man, and together the two movies revealed a winning combination. Where most directors would be hampered by Chaney's limited acting range, Waggner manages to play to the star's greatest strength -- his earnestness -- and effectively glossed over his limitations, and evoked audience sympathy for the actor and the character that he plays. That's essential in a film as fast-paced as this one, and it's one of the major reasons why Man Made Monster has endured in popularity across the decades -- indeed, as part of a B-horror package on television in the 1960s and 1970s, it proved even more popular than it had been in theaters in the 1940s, a factor helped by a brace of colorful and pleasing performances surrounding the two leads (Chaney and villain Lionel Atwill). Waggner and Chaney would pull off a similar trick with The Wolf Man, except that the latter was inherently a more profound film that required more effort from viewers (and, admittedly, gave more in the way of chills, as well) -- Man Made Monster, by contrast, was just plain fun. The movie was good enough to get re-released as The Atomic Monster, and also yielded a quasi-remake of sorts in The Indestructable Man, also starring Chaney, but in a much less sympathetic part. Sad to say, actor and director would not enjoy this kind of success together for too much longer -- Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943) could (and should) have been their magnum opus together, but for some unfortunate post-production editing. Chaney would fare reasonably well with other directors for the rest of the decade before personal problems (including alcoholism) wiped out his career, while Waggner would find success producing some notably campy pictures (most especially Cobra Woman) and direct a pair of John Wayne's more popular action vehicles, before he turned to decidedly secondary fare, such as the cautionary political fantasy Red Nightmare (1957). But this picture showed what he could do without a lot of money but with a good script, an actor who was on the same page, and a solid supporting cast.