Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

The Monster Maker (1944)



Notes: Commonwealth Pictures, 66 minutes.

Dr. Igor Markoff: J. Carrol Naish
Anthony Lawrence: Ralph Morgan
Patricia Lawrence: Wanda McKay
Maxine: Tala Birell
Steve: Glenn Strange
Bob Blake: Terry Frost

Written: Pierre Gendron & Martin Mooney
Directed: Sam Newfield

Summary: During a piano concert by a Chopin virtuoso, Dr. Igor Markoff is distracted by a woman, the daughter of the pianist. It’s “just like seeing the dead return to life.” The woman he’s with, his research assistant Maxine, is perturbed by the lack of attention she receives. Markoff afterwards goes to the dressing-room of the pianist, Mr. Anthony Lawrence. He apologizes to the girl, Patricia, in the presence of her father and her boyfriend Bob, but she’s the image of his late wife Lenora. A departing “auf Wiedersehen” makes us realize with Bob that he’s a “foreigner” (and it’s 1944).

Markoff keeps sending Patricia flowers and, when a poem shows up too, she begs her father to make Markoff stop pestering her. As Markoff works on formula X-54, dad reads a blood experiment article in Markoff’s outer room. A caged gorilla watches Maxine show affection to a dog. Markoff gives her orders to slow-boil his concoctions while he meets with Mr. Lawrence. He insists he’s going to marry Patricia, knocks out the pianist, injects him, and calls Patricia to come fetch him, with a story of vertigo.

Markoff is working on the cure for the “acromegaly” virus, which causes enlargement of the extremities. He is able to arrest the glandular disease with X-53, but that’s all. He hopes X-54 will work better, but Maxine cries, “You’re not even a doctor!” He apparently killed the real Markoff, who had taken off with this guy’s wife. The wife had the disease. Markoff’s identity has been stolen. “You are going noplace,” says “Markoff” to Maxine and the former dean of the College of Liberal Arts to us non-tenure instructors.

Dad has workaholism and insomnia. He botches his piano attempts, with fingers feeling thicker and shoes tighter. Doctors diagnose acromegaly and recommend seeing Markoff as the expert. Instead, dad locks himself in a dark room. The music is not him playing after weeks, but a record. Patricia and Bob catch a glimpse of dad’s distorted face and aged hands. “His head! It was so large!” A scarved dad eventually visits Markoff and knows all, while Maxine overhears through the dictaphone. Markoff injected dad with an accelerated form of the infection. “You have set yourself up as a Frankenstein!” And dad knows he is a monster. Servant Steve restrains dad. Maxine confronts Markoff and threatens him with exposure, but he slaps her and hypnotizes her out of her hysteria.

That night, Markoff releases the gorilla, who oddly wanders upstairs to Maxine’s room, which Markoff has unlocked. She screams and the dog rushes to her aid.

The gorilla is caged the next day as Maxine comes to work. The dog drove the gorilla back. The pig treated with X-54 is better. “It means I can ask my own price,” says Markoff, unimaginatively. He sends Maxine away so he can call Patricia regarding her father. “Oh. I didn’t know you had a sanatorium too.” Markoff promises dad the cure if he urges Patricia to marry him. No.

Markoff explains to Patricia that the disease is “fatal” to dad’s career, including his “uninviting” appearance. He’s acting very impatient too, becoming “mentally incompetent.” Maybe Patricia can persuade him to be cooperative. Dad is declared “ghastly” by Patricia, while Maxine is held away by Steve. Dad is enraged and straining at his restraints as Markoff invites Patricia to become his wife. No. “Never is a long time.”

Bob hits Steve. Dad kills Markoff. Maxine can cure dad. Dad plays Chopin.

Commentary: Since it’s 1944, the one or two hints of Markoff’s German origins are to be expected. In this regard, the unacknowledged predilection for Chopin also aligns.

One suspects that the crew had the gorilla suit rented for one more day and so a gorilla-on-the-loose bit was added in here. The gorilla does not seem to function at all in the experimentation, nor is even acknowledged in that potential regard.

What’s with the superfluity of Lenores and Lenoras in these third-rate horror movies of the early 1940s?

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