Movie Review: "The Monster and the Girl" (1941)
By John Roberts
Los Angeles, California
March 7, 2016 8:23am CST
The title "The Monster and the Girl" suggests being a Universal horror picture. Rather the 1941 film is a low budget B Paramount picture that is a curious blend of crime story and mad scientist at work. The brisk 64 minute picture was directed by Stuart Heisler who would do some A pictures in the 1950s and television in the 1960s. Though boasting no major stars, "The Monster and the Girl" features an impressive cast of B picture stars, horror stars, Hollywood heavies and other familiar character actors. The movie begins with a film noir touch as Susan Webster (Ellen Drew) emerges from the fog to address the audience, "I'm Susan, the bad luck penny. I brought a million dollars worth of trouble for everybody." This dissolves into the murder trial of her brother Scot (Philip Terry) where events are related via flashback during testimonies. Susan and Scot are from a small town but she set her sights on the big city where all she gets is unemployment. One day at the unemployment office, she meets handsome charmer Larry (Robert Paige) who sweeps her off her feet and into matrimony two weeks later. You know something is amiss when Justice of the Peace Deacon and guests Sleeper and Deacon are played by Joseph Calleia, Marc Lawrence and Gerald Mohr, all actors known for villains. Susan wakes up the following morning to discover all was a ruse and informed there is no Larry. There is a steep hotel and party bill and only one option to pay it off available. The film ventures into tricky ground concerning the then in place production code. Munn informs Susan she will work as a B-girl entertaining gentlemen at a sleazy cabaret. This is a veiled reference toward white slavery though not quite prostitution. Being a B-girl is enough to soil a woman's reputation states Susan. The operation is run by smug gangster Bruhl (Academy Award winner Paul Lukas). Scot arrives to help Susan and his search for Larry runs him afoul of Bruhl. He is at the wrong place at the wrong time and set up for a murder committed by Munn. The prosecutor McMasters (Onslow Stevens) is in Bruhl's pocket and Scot is found guilty sentenced to execution. He vows somehow to get revenge on all of them. The film now takes a 180 turn into monster fare. Dr. Perry (George Zucco) speaks to Scot on death row and asks he donate his brain to science. So what does the good doctor do? Transplants Scot's brain onto a gorilla! Now Scot has the means for revenge. There is obviously a man in a gorilla suit but it is convincing and manages to convey sympathy for the creature. That is B western star Rod Cameron as a reporter befriending Susan. The film is well made and acted and not as silly and hokey as anticipated. "The Monster and the Girl" accomplished more in just an hour than today's overblown nonsense in two.
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