Friday, September 4, 2020

THE MONSTER AND THE GIRL (1941) Blu-ray Review

The Monster and the Girl (1941) d. Stuart Heisler (USA) (65 min)

After her brother Scot (Phillip Terry) is framed for murder, small-town girl Susan Webster (Ellen Drew) pleads with the court to show mercy, explaining her hard-luck story of being tricked into a life of prostitution by crime boss W.S. Bruhl (Paul Lukas). Unfortunately, due to some fancy talk by the District Attorney (Onslow Stevens), Scot is tossed in the clink and sentenced to death. On the eve of his execution, the hapless prisoner is visited by a mysterious Dr. Perry (George Zucco) who asks if he can have Scot’s brain for his radical experiments; frustrated and afraid, the condemned man grants permission – and wakes up with his brain inside of a gorilla! Instead of bananas, however, this particular ape now has a burning hunger for... revenge.

A Paramount production later acquired by Universal, The Girl and the Monster is an immensely enjoyable if curious combo of gangster tale and mad scientist yarn, turning neatly from one to the other around the halfway point. Following the flashback-within-flashback courtroom proceedings (which follows Susan’s direct address introduction, making the whole thing a flashback!), Scot-turned-simian metes out vengeance on the various players in his untimely demise, a hairy hit list that includes Lukas (two years away from winning Best Actor for Watch on the Rhine), Stevens (House of Dracula, Them!), Gerald Mohr (The Angry Red Planet), and legendary character actor Marc Lawrence (The Man with the Golden Gun, Diamonds are Forever, Dream No Evil).

Drew, who would prove most memorable opposite Boris Karloff in Val Lewton’s Isle of the Dead, tenders a fine performance as the “fallen woman,” while Zucco puts his patented sinister charisma to excellent use.

Appearing (uncredited) as our titular brute is Charles Gemora, whose makeup credits include such varied projects as Island of Lost Souls, The Ten Commandments, Dr. Cyclops, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake. In what has to be some sort of record, Gemora also played a gorilla 53 times between 1927 and 1961 (along with a few bears and creatures along the way, such as the memorable alien from I Married a Monster from Outer Space).

Trivia: Academy Award-winning (amid nine nominations) cinematographer Victor Milner shot this the same year as The Lady Eve for Preston Sturges!


NEW 2K scan of a fine grain film element

NEW audio commentary with film historians Tom Weaver and Steve Kronenberg

The Monster and the Girl is available now on Blu-ray (along with Captive Wild Woman, Jungle Woman, and Jungle Captive) from Shout! Factory as part of their Universal Horror Collection Volume 5 and can be ordered HERE:

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