For my first contribution to ItsJustAwesome’s 31 Days of Horror series, I was tasked with watching 1925’s silent classic, The Monster.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I am not typically the most enthusiastic watcher of silent films. I’m more of a 1930s and 1940s gal, as you may have gathered from previous, non-horror reviews (or listening to me sing the many praises of Barbara Stanwyck in The Good, The Bad, and The Podcast). I think it has a lot to do with my love of witty banter and well-crafted dialogue. When you’re limited to what can be read from a title card, that delicious element is removed, and I have a hard time getting invested in the story. That being the case, I was intrigued by the presence of Lon Chaney, but wasn’t necessarily awaiting this film with bated breath. I did, however, keep an open mind going in.
Unfortunately, The Monster did nothing to dispel my “blah” outlook on silent films. It embodies all the qualities I was hoping it would lack: it’s cheesy, the characters are very cartoonish, and it is S-L-O-W. I hate to say it, but it was really a chore to make it through this movie at times.
To give you an idea of the plot, the movie begins with the mysterious disappearance of a beloved local farmer. The townspeople learn that he has been involved in an auto accident, but nobody knows what has become of him–foul play is immediately assumed. Enter our spirited, doofy protagonist, Johnny. Johnny is a lovestruck underling who works at the general store (with aspirations of being a detective), and let’s just say it: he’s a huge boob. It feels like the writers expect us to view him with pathos and be charmed by his Wannabe Charlie Chaplin antics, but it just didn’t work for me. He was a little too silly, and frankly he got on my nerves. All the characters did! The lone bright spot was Lon Chaney, who is always fantastic and didn’t disappoint here. Most of the time he just walks around smiling creepily, but the man knows how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
As the story progresses, Johnny attempts to unravel the mystery of the farmer’s disappearance. In so doing, he ends up spending the night in Chaney’s spooky sanitarium with Betty (his love interest) and Ol Whatshisname (the fancypants romantic rival for Betty’s affections) who is so forgettable that I sincerely cannot remember what he’s called.
I could go on, but honestly, this movie is skippable. Find clips online of Lon Chaney slinking around in his robe and candelabra a la Vincent Price, and you’ll feel like you’ve seen the whole thing. That is my advice to you where The Monster is concerned.
Let’s hope for better luck tomorrow, when I’ll review F.W. Murnau’s Faust (1926)! Stay tuned, and keep coming back for more 31 Days of Horror!!