Movie Review: How to Make a Monster (1958)

Synopsis: A talented makeup artist with a knack for making movie monsters is fired by a pair of executives who believe monster movies are on their way out. Angry at their decision and unwilling to go without a fight, he and his assistant hypnotize a pair of teenaged actors and convince them to kill the executives while dressed as a werewolf and Frankenstein's monster.

Who's in it? The movie stars Robert H. HarrisGary ConwayGary ClarkePaul Brinegar and Morris Ankrum.


Review: I was scrolling through movie options while waiting for my daughter to take her driving lesson and, after reading the description for this one, added it to my library. I wound up watching it yesterday evening and found I really enjoyed it.

I think the thing I enjoyed most about this movie was how it gradually revealed the depths of Pete Dumond's (Harris) insanity. At first, his violent actions and the way he carried them out seemed like an almost logical reaction to learning he was losing a job that had been his life for 25 years. But, as the movie progressed, it became obvious he might not have been completely sane to begin with.

His decision to have the murders committed by teenagers in costume was also an intriguing one. On one hand, it allowed him (with the help of chemicals in the makeup) to hypnotize the actors into committing the crimes without knowing it but, at the same time, if there were any survivors or witnesses, you would think he would know it would lead back to him, especially since that Frankenstein's monster costume was both unique and extremely creepy.

One character in this movie that I was intrigued by was Pete's assistant, Rivero. The movie doesn't give him much of a backstory, other than he's been helping Pete for years, and I thought it was both intriguing and a little creepy he was so loyal to Pete, even as he was obviously becoming a bit shaken by the actions his boss was taking. I thought of him as a bit of a wildcard and wasn't sure if he would remain loyal or would find a way to betray Pete at the last second.

The movie's decision to go from black-and-white to color toward the end, when Pete reveals his biggest secret, was kind of cool, especially since it happens as he lights a candle in his house. I thought it added something a little extra to a suspenseful scene.

My only real complaint about this movie is how it ends, which is a common complaint I have about movies from this era. It just sort of comes to a conclusion while leaving a lot of things still up in the air, including what was going to happen to the actors he duped into doing his dirty work. At minimum, the film could have tacked on three additional minutes to give some sort of summary. However, since the rest of the film was entertaining, I'll give that a pass.

Final Opinion: This is an entertaining movie with a unique plot and memorable characters. I would recommend taking the time to watch it if you have an opportunity to do so.

My Grade: A

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