In what was probably Twentieth Century Fox’s answer to Universal’s THE WOLF MAN, THE UNDYING MONSTER is the story about a family curse of lycanthropy. John Howard (Bulldog Drummond himself!) stars as Oliver Hammond who, along with another man, gets attacked by a mysterious creature. He calls Robert Curtis (James Ellison, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE) a scientist who works at Scotland Yard to investigate along with his partner Christy (Heather Thatcher, GASLIGHT). Many of the townspeople label the attack as part of “The Hammond Curse”. Curtis thinks it’s something deeper than a family curse. When Oliver Hammond’s friend—who was attacked—dies, Curtis looks for clues to find out who the murderer is and discovers the hairs of a wolf. This later leads to another attack by the creature, which is indeed a werewolf. The werewolf kidnaps Helga Hammond (Heather Angel, who had been also paired with John Howard in several BULLDOG DRUMMOND films) and gets chased by the police. Anything else mentioned would be a spoiler, but we learn that “The Hammond Curse” revolves around male members of the family being werewolves. Dr. Jeff Colbert (Bramwell Fletcher, THE MUMMY) has a key role in trying to protect the family curse.
THE UNDYING MONSTER is an entertaining, if short (63 minutes) film. The best parts are the thrilling beginning and the climactic chase scene. Admittedly, the middle act of the film, where it’s mainly heavy in dialog (lasting over forty minutes) slows the film down and detracts from the suspense and horror elements. However, the use of fog and scenery makes it very atmospheric; a vital ingredient in horror films of this type. It was actually the first of a few "B" horror movies Fox produced in the 1940s, with DR RENAULTS SECRET also being shot at the same time. A few years later, THE LODGER and HANGOVER SQUARE would be the next wave of Fox horror movies.
The cast of THE UNDYING MONSTER gives fine performances. John Howard does a credible job as Oliver Hammond, which is a small but pivotal role. James Ellison, who played Robert Curtis, was mainly known for being a Western movie star, appearing in over a dozen of them. According to the commentary, George Sanders was supposed to play the part of Robert Curtis, but he refused and was suspended by Fox. Director John Brahm, who also directed THE LODGER and HANGOVER SQUARE (and both getting Blu-ray releases from Kino Lorber as well!) keeps the film moving along, despite the slow build-up to a terrific climax.
THE UNDYING MONSTER, to a lot of people’s surprise, including my own, makes its debut on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber, easily surpassing the DVD release from Fox released nearly a decade ago. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:33:1, in 1080p with an MPEG 4 - AVC encode and the results are splendid. The image is just superb, boasting a very clear image; the higher contrast has made the outdoor scenery appear much more clear, sharp and detailed than previous releases. The grayscale is excellent, blacks look solid, film grain is present and no apparent DNR has been applied. The audio quality for this film is the usual Kino DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0. The dialog, growls and other sound effects are perfectly fine. There is the option for English subtitles.
Kino has provided us with a good amount of extras for THE UNDYING MONSTER. First there are a few ported-over features from the DVD release, such as the “Concerto Macabre: The Films of John Brahm” featurette, and the 2007 restoration comparison. The biggest inclusion to the supplements for this release are TWO brand new audio commentaries by film historian Tom Weaver. The two separate commentaries incorporate Weaver’s information, one with Sumishta Brahm (she mainly discusses her father) and Dr. Robert J. Kiss. The other commentary incorporates Weaver with David Schecter who compares the music of THE UNDYING MONSTER to the music of the Universal horrors of the same period.
Weaver provides great, funny and entertaining commentaries, discussing the history of the film, the actors, and the behind-the-scenes stories of the actors and director Brahm. He also compares the opening scenes of THE UNDYING MONSTER to another film, FACE OF MARBLE, pointing out the parts with the butler. As it turns out, the opening scenes were quite similar as the co-writers for THE UNDYING MONSTER also co-wrote FACE OF MARBLE. He also compares the film to the Sherlock Holmes adventure HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES as well as the earlier novel under the same name as the movie (and that the novel was duller than the forty minutes of dialog in the film!).
Rounding out the extras of the supplements are an animated image montage, trailers for THE UNDYING MONSTER, THE LODGER and THE BLACK SLEEP, and an alternative title sequence. Kino Lorber has given THE UNDYING MONSTER a great release which makes myself and others really look forward to future releases of THE LODGER and HANGOVER SQUARE. Let’s hope Kino can license more classic horror films from Fox down the road such as THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE, HAND OF DEATH and SPACEMASTER X-7. (David Steigman)
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