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Universal Horror Collection Volume 4 Main

Universal Horror Collection Volume 4: Night Monster Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Universal Horror Collection Volume 4 Large

Directed by Ford Beebe
Written by Clarence Upson Young
1942, 72 minutes, Not Rated

Bela Lugosi as Rolf
Lionel Atwill as Dr. King
Leif Erikson as Laurie
Irene Hervey as Dr. Lynne Harper
Ralph Morgan as Kurt Ingston
Don Porter as Dick Baldwin

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There is something spooky going on at the Ingston mansion and surrounding slough. With the recent death of Mr. Ingston’s physician Dr. Kramer and the increasingly neurotic behavior of Ingston’s sister Margaret some of the staff are getting nervous. Ingston is in poor health and has grown bitter with his doctors whose treatments have left him confined to a wheelchair. Three of the old man’s surviving physicians – Dr. King, Dr. Phipps and Dr. Timmons – are summoned for an audience and are joined by Margaret’s psychiatrist Dr. Harper and a writer covering the case, Dick Baldwin. Ingston introduces them to a mysterious yogi named Agor Singh who demonstrates his powers of tissue regeneration through meditation (?!).

One of the maids is found strangled on the property and before the night is over there are more victims. Someone or something begins targeting the doctors and as the murders continue, the local constable arrives to investigate. Dr. Harper is convinced Margaret has vital information, but efforts to question her are frequently rebuffed by Ingston and the staff. There is no shortage of suspects, starting with Laurie, the chauffeur who is a sexual predator and all-around asshole. Other people of interest include Sarah Judd, the domineering housekeeper, and Rolf, the mysterious butler. Rolf and Singh are suspicious because they are both foreigners. Dick Baldwin teams with Dr. Harper looking for clues and they find that anyone could be responsible, including Ingston himself.

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Night Monster is a traditional Old Dark House story filled with familiar tropes, including strange characters, long shadows, foggy nights, secret passages and a generous touch of the supernatural. Released during the height of World War II, the film caters to audience fears of outsiders and one of the characters is a multiple amputee, resembling many of the wounded soldiers returning from battle. Director Ford Beebe (The Invisible Man’s Revenge) does a great job with the material and the script by Clarence Upton Young (The Strange Case of Doctor Rx) contains a fair number of twists and one shocking reveal. It is interesting to see the limitations of what could be shown of the murders and Beebe proves inventive as a storyteller.

Bela Lugosi (The Return of the Vampire) and Lionel Atwill (Man Made Monster) receive top billing to add marquee value, but Lugosi is relegated to a supporting role as Rolf the butler, while Atwill’s Dr. King dies in the first act and is little more than an extended cameo. The supporting cast members turn in respectable performances, particularly Irene Hervey (A Cry in the Night) as Dr. Harper. Night Monster is better than expected despite its xenophobic undertones and is worth checking out for its visual style and atmospheric setting.

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