(…Delayed…) Saturday pizza and bad movie night. Started adding salad. Not a bad idea. Saw the movie with Svengoolie.
In one troubling early scene, emotionally troubled Margaret Ingston (Fay Helm) comes across the imperious housekeeper, Sarah Judd (Doris Lloyd), trying to clean blood stains out of the carpeting on the stairs. She tells her that’s the maid’s job. She also tells her to let her know when an expected visitor, a psychiatrist, arrives. Mrs. Judd tells her to go to her room as if she were ill or an unruly child.
Secretly watching this exchange is Agor Singh (Nils Asther), whose motives and place in the household are yet unclear. It’s creepy, but not as creepy as the next scene, when the poor maid, Milly Carson (Janet Shaw), tries to call the Constable about all the “funny business” going on in the house. Butler Rolf (Bela Lugosi) hangs up to the phone on her. She pulls off her maid’s hat and quits. Chauffeur Laurie (Leif Erickson), chewing on a toothpick and ogling her, tells her to never mind Rolf. He’ll drive her to the train station. He has to go there anyway.
Laurie’s first attempt at finding the train station is to drive the car off the road and into some trees. He then accosts Milly. She objects, gets out, and walks. Into the fog. She screams.
At the train station, Laurie meets three doctors, (Lionel Atwill, Frank Reicher, and Francis Pierlot), whose treatment paralyzed (… or did it?) his boss, wealthy Kurt Ingston (Ralph Morgan). The three have been invited to Ingston’s isolated country home, Ingston Towers. They arrive, with varying degrees of discomfort over the part they played in their former patient’s becoming disabled. The year before, another doctor was murdered in a nearby marsh, but let’s not talk about that. The same night the three arrive, Ingston’s emotionally troubled sister Margaret is expecting a psychiatrist (Irene Harvey) to visit her at the house as a patient.
Also in the company are neighbor Dick Baldwin (Don Porter), a writer of whodunits.
Back at the creepy Ingston Towers, Agor Singh gives a demonstration of how he can materialize matter through concentration.
That night, the first of the doctors dies a horrible death.
There is a lot of creepiness to this flick but also a lot of confusion. I spent more time than I wanted to thinking, “How does this guy fit in?” and “What is this person doing here?”
As each grisly body turns up, the viewer ponders who was where. Sure, the housekeeper is a mean old witch, but why would she kill all those people? And Laurie is a grabby sleazeball, but why would he commit those atrocities? What about the neighbor, Dick Baldwin? He has a lot of time on his hands. Bela Lugosi as Rolf is officious and menacing, but would he kill? As an aside, it’s nice to see him in a tux and not have him turn into a bat. And why would he do such a thing? Is Margaret nuts or just chaffing under the thumbs of her brother and the charming Mrs. Judd?
Confusing, creepy, funny business. It was a little hard to sort out at first, primarily because there are so many people, but once the viewer gets their bearings, this is a fair-to-middling horror flick.
Title: Night Monster (1942)
Clarence Upson Young…(original screenplay)
Cast (in credits order)
Lionel Atwill…Dr. King
Leif Erickson…Laurie (as Leif Erikson)
Irene Hervey…Dr. Lynne Harper
Ralph Morgan…Kurt Ingston
Released: October 20, 1942
Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes