Monday, 1 June 2009


Roland West was a technically inspired director working during the silent era and in the early days of sound. Most of his films are lost but luckily his three most famous films, THE MONSTER, THE BAT and THE BAT WHISPERS, the ones his reputation rests on are all preserved. Thanks to my good friend Cerpts I finally get to see THE MONSTER starring the great Lon Chaney. Lon plays mad surgeon Dr.Ziska who takes over the lunatic asylum where he has been incarcerated and kidnaps travelers to try a little cross gender soul transference. It's all nonsensense and knows it. West is playing it for laughs and keeps the pace rattling along - helped by not having to insert the usual dreadful comedy relief that bogs down most old dark house films. West's comedy comes from his three talented "victims" - Johnny Arthur, Gertrude Olmstead and Hallam Cooley - who play it for all its worth without becoming irritating. Chaney is terrific as the mad doctor - bearing a strange physical resemblance to some of the mad doctors later played by Karloff with the likeness being quite startling at times. The film is continually inventive with some great stuntwork and some engaging slapstick. The disc also contained an interesting documentary from the TV series THE FEARMAKERS that discusses director West's contribution to the horror genre and his involvement as a suspect in the possible murder of his lover, the actress Thelma Todd. Rating ****

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