Man Made Monster (1941)


Man Made Monster is directed by George Waggner and stars Lionel Atwill, Lon Chaney Jr & Anne Nagel. It’s adapted from an original story titled “The Electric Man” which is co-written by H.J. Essex, Sid Schwartz & Len Golos. It is notable for being the first horror venture for Chaney Jr who would make his signature horror movie “The Wolf Man” the same year. Plot sees Chaney as “Big Dan” McCormick, the sole survivor of an electric train wreck. That all the other passengers were killed by electrocution fascinates the sci-fi boffins, particularly diabolic Dr. Paul Rigas (Atwill), who coerces Dan into a series of tests. The outcome of which will spell disaster as Dan absorbs huge levels of electricity and becomes immune to it. Soon Dan will become the unstoppable Electric Man.

Universal’s “Man Made Monster” has no pretence what so ever, it is what it is, a short sharp shock shocker that plugs itself into the mains and lights up the screen for the 1 hour running time. Which in the case of the excellent Chaney Jr is actually the case, as he is transformed into a hulking, walking light bulb head that garners sympathy in the way that Universal’s other man made monster did. The photography (Elwood Bredell) is moody and atmospheric, Hans J. Salter’s musical score delightfully oozes familiar Universal values, while Waggner and his team, when one considers the short running time, do very good work on the characterisations – with Atwill given full license to be bonkers – real bonkers…

It’s all very conventional in the grand scheme of Universal horror. Monster elicits sympathy, a foxy lady in the mix (Nagel), mad scientist, dashing hero type (Frank Albertson) and here we even have the intelligent pet. There’s some smarts in the writing as the makers observe capital punishment and note man messing with things he probably shouldn’t be. But really just don’t go too deep with it and enjoy a solid little chiller that’s boosted by John Fulton’s first rate special effects.