Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: Night Monster (1942)

"Night Monster" (1942) is one of the horror movies I remember seeing as a teen, and it scared me silly at the time!  It has all of the classic horror movie essentials -- an eerie old mansion in a spooky swamp setting, a rich invalid patriarch and his unstable sister, the sinister butler and devious housekeeper, a mysterious foreigner with an unusual influence in the household, a series of unexplained murders, and something strange that roams after dark.  And then there is the curious incident of the frogs -- why do they suddenly stop croaking at odd times of the night?

Wealthy Kurt Ingston (Ralph Morgan) has invited three prominent physicians to stay at his mansion, hinting at a generous donation to their various causes.  Dr. Phipps (Francis Pierlot), Dr. Timmons (Frank Reicher), and Dr. King (Lionel Atwill) just happen to be the doctors who were unable to halt the crippling disease which made Ingston an invalid.  Psychiatrist Lynn Harper (Irene Hervey) is thrown into the mix when Ingston's sister Margaret (Fay Helm) asks the doctor to come and evaluate her sanity.  On her way to the mansion, Dr. Harper's car breaks down, and she starts to walk.  She hears a terrified scream and hurries back toward her car, but fortunately the Ingstons' neighbor and friend, mystery writer Dick Baldwin (Don Porter), happens to drive by and offers her a ride.  They are admitted to the house by butler Rolf (Bela Lugosi) and meet wheelchair-bound Ingston, his insolent chauffeur Laurie (Leif Erickson), and the enigmatic Agor Singh (Nils Asther).  On the way to dinner, Dr. Harper is accosted by housekeeper Miss Judd (Doris Lloyd) in a less than friendly manner.

Dinner proves to be a rather uncomfortable affair as otherwise affable host Ingston subtly reproaches the three doctors he invited to the house.  Events become even more complicated after the meal when Kurt Ingston reveals that the recipient of his donation will be Agor Singh, who employs mystical mental powers to perform unimaginable feats.  Singh even demonstrates his remarkable occult ability to the assembled party.  Meanwhile, a former maid at the mansion goes missing and is found by the town sheriff, dead of strangulation with a puzzling pool of blood nearby.   The stage is now set for the tragedies and thrilling climax which follow.  Suffice it to say that good eventually triumphs over evil, and the hero gets the girl, as is the way in any classic horror film.

Turner Classic Movies channel is currently presenting a series of movies dealing with the topic of disabilities.  I have a feeling that "Night Monster" is not included in their lineup.  What a shame, since this film depicts one of the most unique treatments for a disability I have ever seen!  You can see what I mean by watching the movie yourself on YouTube (see below).

Interesting Fact: Veterans of the horror genre Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill are given top billing in this movie, even though both have only minor roles.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0

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