October Horror Movie Challenge: HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958)


Films of a certain vintage sometimes carry with them homilies that modern eyes and ears are generally prone to view at best quaint and at worst corny. American-International’s metafictional affair HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958) is at times a bit too on the nose when it comes to relaying its narrative of the little guy rallying against the machinations of studio groupthink and the lengths he will go to to preserve a dying art. It’s really an old horror formula decked out in Hollywood duds: makeup artist Paul Dumond (Robert H. Harris) is really a retainer of the Old World conjuring up monsters in his alchemist’s dressing room, while the company figureheads are the type of modern, scientific crusaders who combat the sorcerer’s creations with ungainly-choreographed rock musicals. The thrust of Dumond’s vengeance is deliciously loopy: using a foundation laced with Novocaine in addition to his own hypnotic powers, Dumond commands the stars of his project Werewolf vs. Frankenstein to throttle the big suits into submission to stop the regime that would render his role obsolete. The film follows the low-key police procedural investigating the murders for the majority, with just a few spurts of mild gruesomeness squirted into the proceedings. A surprising transition occurs in the final reel when the screen’s previously drabbish monochrome transforms into vibrant–if not exactly rich–color. More than likely a marketing ploy used to make the cheapie look a little more prestigious, it ironically points the way toward the Poe films that Roger Corman would be making for the studio in a few short years, proving Dumond’s dying assertion that the world had still not drunk its fill of that old horror magic.

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