Undying Monster, The (1942)

The Undying Monster (1942), directed by John Brahm.

An old mansion on the cliffs by the sea, an ancient family curse, the unnerving howling of some creature in the night, bodies savaged when the nights are frosty. When her brother is attacked the plucky daughter of the house decides to get to the bottom of it and brings in a comical sleuthing couple: he a scientific rationalist, she more intuitive and occult minded but still with a line of snappy patter.

All in 63 minutes!

Isn't that a great title? Adapted from a book described as just plain terrible: "Once you put it down you can't pick it up again".

The good: it looks just outstanding with lovely composition, lighting and photography by Lucien Ballard. Skilled director John Brahm did not mind genre pictures and he does what he can.

The bad: clumsy, erratic plot, too much feeble humor from the sleuthing couple. Stupid ending, one of those summings up that explain away and contradict what we have just seen.

Fox was a prestige studio that disdained horror films, but they could hold out only so long. They didn't want to admit they were copying Universal's The Wolf Man (1941) and in fact this film most closely resembles Fox's own The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), with the excellent soundstage moors and craggy rocks, and another ancient family curse of a creature that bays in the night.

George Sanders was supposed to be in this (probably as the Scotland Yard inspector) but refused because he needed a break, having done something like seven films in the previous few months. The studio fined him.

First film for tough guy Charles McGraw, age 28, uncredited.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. Writer Tom Weaver assembles two non-stop commentary tracks and provides most of the text, sometimes erupting in uncensored yelling at the movie. It's actually only one track but the film is so short he had to break it into two parts.

He thinks this might have been intended as the start of a series for the sleuthing couple, but it was not to be.