Il Monstruoso Dottor Crimen aka Monster (1955)

Description (from the DVD sleeve):
Beautiful young journalist Nora (played by haunting Miroslava) gets a very cool job: she must interview the mysterious Dr. Ling (Linares Riva).  She gets the shock of her life when she finds out that the brilliant scientist actually is a deranged and misshapen madman who is instantly obsessed by her beauty.  Refused by Nora, Ling loses all control on what little sanity he’s got left.  So he resuscitates a handsome young man by transplanting a new brain in the corpse and orders the zombie to kidnap Nora.  But not even an undead man can resist Nora’s beauty and the lovelorn zombie falls desperately in love with the girl.  Their ungodly romance, though, is doomed to come to a bloody halt…

Mexican cult director Chano Urueta directs his very own take on the immortal myth of Frankenstein’s monster.  Filmed in 1955, this film single-handedly started the Mexican horror new wave.  Eerie settings, deranged characters, over the top storylines, all this and much more is featured in Monster, an unmissable classic of crazy creativity gone berserk.  Monster is here to stay!

Major Cast:
Miroslava as Nora, José María Linares-Rivas as Dr. Herrmann Ling

Special Features:
Poster Gallery, Italian Photonovel (DVD-ROM), English Subtitles

Written and Directed by Chano Urueta

Just fair warning: IL MONSTRUOSO DOTTOR CRIMEN, aka MONSTER, is a bit out of my comfort zone.  I am a cinephile for sure, but my area of expertise really begins in the early 70’s, or late 60’s at the very earliest.  Sure, I’ve seen some older stuff.  I like noirs.  I like Hitchcock.  I still think THE KILLING is one of my favorite Kubrick films.  In general though, I’m really not that much into movies pre about 1972 or so… which makes MONSTER really a bit outside of what I generally watch or enjoy.  But let’s give it a shot.

MONSTER is a warped take on Frankenstein, with this version including a doctor that is the deformed one and a monster that is pretty to look at.  Nora is a journalist who is tired of boring stories and looking for something different.  Her editor points out a personal ad that has run for at least a year, for someone looking for a connection.  As a chance to find something interesting, she answers the ad, and comes face to face with a man in a mask.  The masked man immediately takes her back to his place… how things were different in the 1950’s!  Long story short: he’s a brilliant plastic surgeon hell-bent on revenge for all those people that have made fun of his horrible visage, and she has softened his hard heart and made him feel he could be loved.  Unfortunately, he finds out pretty quickly it was all for a nice story for the paper, and becomes even more hardened, and then shit really goes haywire.  I’m not going to go too much more into it from there, but you probably get the idea.

"I want to show you my laboratory... it's not a pick-up line, I swear..."
“I want to show you my laboratory… it’s not a pick-up line, I swear…”

If I were a Classic Monsters fan, I think MONSTER would be an awesome fit.  It has a ton of moody set pieces, dark brooding lighting – almost to the point of looking like a noir in certain shots – and it has that classic, well, monster.  However, as sacrilegious as this may be, I’ve never been much of a Lon Cheney / Boris Karloff kinda guy.  The classic monster movies were always laughable for me, and that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I really cut my teeth on the horror of the late 70’s and the early 80’s (I saw a bit of THE THING when I was probably 6 or 7: “Look, a puppy!” and then NIGHTMARES), and in comparison the older stuff is really tame.  There is a lot of atmosphere, a lot of feeling that the newer films would do well to take note of, but in general the older horror of the 50’s and 60’s is just, well, tame. MONSTER is pretty tame.  Sure, there is a pretty horrific make up… sort of.  But in today’s world of Iraq veterans and IED’s, the makeup in MONSTER is incredibly tame in comparison to just the sort of things you can easily see in real life.

Before and After: Dr. Ling does good work.
Before and After: Dr. Ling does good work.

The picture quality on MONSTER was pretty decent overall.  Obviously it has been cleaned up, but it’s far from crisp.  There is many a moment with stutters, scratches, and just the age you would expect from a 1955 film that does not have tens of thousands of dollars behind restoring it.  The sound is similar; it’s not bad, but there is a prevalent hiss throughout MONSTER that is noticeable.  The filming style is a part of why the older films have a lot less appeal for me; it’s just kind of boring.  There is the occasional camera pan or move, but overall it is in line with the story: slow.  I completely understand this is a product of the time and place that MONSTER came from, but this goes back to what I generally chose to view, and why I generally chose to avoid films of this vintage.  It’s just not my bag.

The story is interesting, and a semi-warped take on the standard Frankenstein story.  Unfortunately the subtitles do not seem to be translated too well, and at times the weirdness of what is displayed on screen takes away from the story.  I really did like the plot though: bored journalist tries something new, finds a brilliant albeit disfigured (physically and emotionally) scientist, and offers her love.  The love is partially because she wants a good story, and partially because she wants to dissuade him from his plans for revenge, but her folly is telling a co-worker of these plans when she is expecting (and of course, he is in the wings, listening) to meet up with the good (mad) doctor.  He only sticks around to hear the bit about the story, not the part with the redeeming values, which drives him mad(der), and then he goes off on a killing spree between his own, and his reanimated puppet’s hands.  It’s a fun spin on an old tale, and I think in today’s film world, MONSTER could actually make for a decent remake.

The best looking "Frankenstein's Monster" ever!
The best looking “Frankenstein’s Monster” ever!

Overall, MONSTER had some redeeming bits, but was just not my cup of tea.  It had some brooding set pieces, interesting plot bits, warped characters, and strange takes on a standard mythos, but it was just too much outside of what I enjoy for me to get much into.  For a fan of the classic monsters, I think MONSTER would be a really fun film that shows how other countries saw those standard archetypes, but for me it was just a bit too slow, too often, to be something I’d be much into watching again.

Overall 6 / 10

MONSTER is not on the IMDb.

MONSTER for sale:

MONSER site:

Monster (1955)
Monster (1955)

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