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Blu-ray Review

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Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror


Starring: H.J. Essex, Grant Williams and Arthur Franz
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £29.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 11 April 2022

Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror is a trio boxset of black and white Universal B-movies – one from the 1940s and two from the 1950s – each making their debut on Blu-ray in the UK courtesy of the Eureka Classics. The first 2000 copies feature a Limited Edition O-card Slipcase & a Collector’s Booklet featuring new writings on the films by film scholar Craig Ian Mann...

In Man-Made Monster (1941) – a model coach skews all over the road and crashes into an electricity pylon. Everyone is immediately electrocuted to death apart from one survivor: carnival performer Dan McCormick (played by Lon Chaney Jr. – best known for playing The Wolf Man). In order to offer the man a home Dr Lawrence gives Dan a job in his laboratory to discover why and how he survived the accident. Lawrence’s assistant is Dr Rigas (played by Lionel Atwill who was in Son of Frankenstein), an unscrupulous man who is prepared to use Dan’s easy-going nature to prove his theory of making humans creatures of pure electricity. As Dr Lawrence’s health deteriorates Rigas takes advantage of the situation by pushing his experiments beyond the limits of morality. At first, Dan feels no ill effects, as he is used to working with electricity as part of his carnival act. However, as time goes on he is subjected to extreme levels whereupon he actually glows.

I have no idea how this makes Dan more susceptible to hypnotism, but when Dr Lawrence threatens to reveal what Rigas is up to, the latter orders Dan to kill him. The order also prevents Dan from revealing the truth to the police and the courts, to the point he is sentenced to death… by electrocution! So, of course – like you do – he becomes a powerful glowing electricity monster. How the gradual metamorphosis changes his character is portrayed through the eyes of Lawrence’s dog, who initially loves the man but then acts more guarded but still curious. That was a very well-trained dog, who displayed more character and mixed emotions than most of the cast. For its time, Man-Made Monster is an enjoyable romp which puts in place many of the clichés for the 1950s B-movies which followed. Extras include a brand new Audio Commentary by author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman.


In The Monolith Monsters (1957) - A meteor falls to Earth, somehow failing to attract anyone's attention. When a geologist working for the Department of the Interior finds a glassy rock he returns to his office in the town of San Angelo to study it in the lab. The next day his colleague Dave Miller arrives to find his partner has been turned to stone (with no Medusa in sight!). Furthermore, the lab is half-wrecked and there are fragments of the rock everywhere. Dave’s love interest is teacher Cathy Barrett. When she takes a group of small children on a field trip in the area of the meteor crater, Ginny, one of her charges, takes a fragment of the rock home. Afterward, the farmstead is found wrecked and two stone-like bodies discovered. Their child, Ginny, is in a catatonic state of deep shock. A specialist doctor puts her on an iron lung, as she is dying and the stone-effect spreading up her arm. The race is on to find an antidote or cure. Dave teams-up with Professor Flanders and between them they learn that silicone has been drained from the bodies.

But how are the rocks becoming animate? Well, it seems to make a Monolith you just add water, and to make matters worse (isn’t it always the case?) there just happens to be torrential rain outside. The rocks absorb the water and grow in mere moments into great monoliths, which then topple over and smash into a thousand pieces, starting the cycle yet again. Thus the movement of the Monoliths comes from the widespread fragments growing and shattering – and they’re heading for the town. As the little girl is injected with silicone and begins to recover, the new problem is to find a way to halt the progress of the Monoliths before the town is destroyed. A series of experiments reveals that salt in a saline solution renders them inert. Dave has this plan to blow-up a nearby dam, allowing the escaping water to flow across the path of the encroaching Monoliths. The only worry is that there is enough salt present to do the job. It works; the Monoliths topple and fragment but cannot grow again. The town – and probably the world – is saved.

The logic is far from airtight but, nevertheless, this is a solid science fiction story, which gains credence by avoiding the organic alien invasion trap. These are just rocks which have a very different nature; there is no preconceived plan. The Monolith Monsters is a film which tries to do something different with this period’s subject matter.  Many of the same names – from both in front of and behind the camera – returned several times to the Science Fiction Monster B-Movies of the 1950s and beyond. Jack Arnold was involved in many films from this era, either in a writing or directorial role. Grant Williams was a regular leading actor, his most famous role being The Incredible Shrinking Man. Includes a brand new Audio Commentary by author Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby.


In Monster on the Campus (1958) - When a frozen but rapidly thawing large prehistoric fish is delivered to a scientist and lecturer at a university, it instigates a series of horrific events. A normally friendly and docile dog turns temporarily feral. The scientist's female assistant is found dead during a period in which he himself blacked-out. The police initially suspect the scientist, but outstanding hand prints found seem to exonerate him. But the dog had turned after drinking some of the melted ice from the new arrival, and the scientist had cut his hand on the fish's teeth.

This is a Jekyll and Hyde story... of sorts. For a learned man, our hero/villain is a little slow on the uptake. When some drops from a specimen fall into his pipe, he lights it and, even though it doesn't smell or taste right, he smokes it anyway. This turns him into what I think is supposed to be an earlier form of man, but looks more like an early movie werewolf. He grows hair over his body (at least from the waist up; I don't think the make-up department fancied the prospect of removing his trousers!), his hands become misshapen, and he springs-off on the prowl. He doesn't realise he's the monster at first, but then he sets up an experiment to catch it on camera and we witness the full horror of the transformation: a floppy gorilla mask and shoulders the like of which haven't seen the light of day since the era of Dynasty and Dallas. After emitting an "Arrgghhh!" or two - and loosely swinging an axe - he finally does the noble thing before anyone else is hurt. It seems the fish had been bombarded with gamma rays to slow its degradation prior to transportation, but as the film is in black and white I'm unable to confirm if it is green and angry!

Monster on the Campus is a little far-fetched, as you would expect. Pseudo-science is the order of the day in these films. What makes movies like this one fun is the fact they are played straight; that is part of what makes the creature so ludicrous and lovingly hilarious. The acting is pretty okay in this one... All except the scientist's fiancé. Her reaction to every event is wooden to the point of blasé - like she doesn't care about anything except her actor's pay cheque (and I use the word 'actor' advisedly). This was directed by Jack Arnold, who made many much better movies around this time, such as The Incredible Shrinking Man and Creature From the Black Lagoon.

The mask and make-up for the monster was originally much better, and can be seen in publicity photos. However, for some reason it was decided to change the design to something more lacklustre. Strange are the ways of man - especially prehistoric man. Includes a brand new Audio Commentary by author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman.


It’s great to revisit these films. I’m a big fan of this era’s monster B-movies; their faults and ultra-low budgets are very much a part of their charm. It’s so easy for modern viewers to condemn them out-of-hand as derisible, but at the time of their cinematic release audiences accepted them at face value and were even chilled by the storylines. However, these films should be enjoyed on a new level, as they are primarily fun. So, sit back with tongue firmly in cheek and enjoy some pure escapism.


Ty Power

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