Sunday, January 29, 2012

Playing with Acromegaly

This will be the last reminder about the contest (see rules) before it ends on Tuesday, January 31. Become a public follower of this blog by then, and you have a chance to win my book, Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films. Welcome to those who have joined this month.

I am always looking for good horror movies I have not already seen, and I found one this week: a little known PRC quickie from 1944 called The Monster Maker. It stars veteran character actor J. Carrol Naish, who is best known to horror fans as mad scientist Boris Karloff's hunchbacked assistant in House of Frankenstein, released the same year. Here Naish is himself a mad scientist, Dr. Igor Markoff (good name). He is playing around with an actual disease, acromegaly, a glandular disorder that causes distortion of the face and hands, and that afflicted real-life B-movie player Rondo Hatton, who used it to look menacing on film. Markoff has a more sinister use for the disease.

It seems that Markoff has fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of a famous concert pianist, Anthony Lawrence (Ralph Morgan). To make things more twisted, Markoff desires the daughter because she reminds him of his dead wife, whom he drove to suicide by injecting her with acromegaly in a jealous rage (he made her hideous so no other man would look at her). Markoff injects Lawrence with acromegaly, turning him into a hideous monster and ruining his piano career. Markoff promises to cure Lawrence if he will get his daughter to marry the mad scientist--presumably so he can inject her with acromegaly too.

All this and I haven't even gotten to the gorilla. That's right, there's a fierce gorilla locked up in a cage for some reason, and when it gets loose...

The Monster Maker is 62 minutes long, and it moves right along at a nice pace. Naish's performance is typically good, the support is competent, the agromegaly makeup is well done, and though the sets are few, the maximum is made of them. From the point of view of deformed destructive being (DDB) theory, The Monster Maker is interesting because this mad scientist has dedicated his life to generating deformity that results in destructiveness. Markoff is himself a DDB (his mind is deformed and destructive) whose madness is precisely in wanting to make more DDBs (these acromegalics are not only deformed but, it turns out, destructive). Even when he gets a hold of beauty, he wants to turn her into one of his beasts. This is a low-budget film that is both entertaining and philosophically suggestive.

George Ochoa

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