Monster of the Day #117

“You have a civil tongue in your head!  I know, I sewed it there!”  Herman Cohen had a running theme of corrupt father figure scientist who turn vulnerable young men (generally, although there was a distaff version and a chimp!) in their care into murderous tools.  I explicated this a bit in my Konga review, where I also noted the fact that American actor Whit Bissell and Brit thesp Michael Gough were pretty exact analogues for each other.

Cohen’s two biggest monsters then joined up, sort of, in the wonky How to Make a Monster.  Sans Landon, of course.

  • BeckoningChasm

    Whit Bissell’s been in more important (in all manner of respects) films than most people know. I wonder why he’s never gotten his due?

  • Just one of those background guys, I guess. Familiar face to certain generations for appearing in a zillion movies and TV shows, but one of hundreds (at that time) of busy character actors. I wonder if he’s ever had a Whit Bissell Day at TCM?

  • BeckoningChasm

    It’s funny how some of those guys like Dick Miller become gigantic cult people, while folks like Whit Bissell don’t. I wonder what the difference is? Miller tended to be a bit funnier, I guess.

  • Corman’s stuff (which Miller mostly appeared in) featured very early examples of a certain style of sly satiric tone–like the early Mad, because it started sucking–that would come to define the baby boomer generation. Bissell was more of the old school, very serious style of actor. So I guess Miller had a ‘hipness’ quotient that Bissell lacks.

  • GalaxyJane

    Ken, not to be pedantic,(Eh, who’m I kidding, of course it’s to be pedantic) but I think you meant BEFORE it started sucking, not BECAUSE.

  • I finally got my copy of this film in the mail yesterday. I’ve been pining to see it ever since I was a little kid and saw pics in FMOF. But I’d never managed to pull it off. Soon I will actually watch it. So I am in that evanescent moment between anticipation, excitement, and bitter disappointment.

    We all share it.

  • Rock Baker

    Do you mean I Was a Teenage Frankenstein or How To Make A Monster?

    Has the American print of Teenage Frankenstein ever turned up? Or am I to be forever stuck with the British print?

    I think Bissell was one of the first actors I could recognize by name because of the steady diet of 50s Universal and AIP pictures. It strikes me sad that modern Hollywood has no similar actor. Though Edward Norton might look a little like him when he gets a little older.

    I’m not sure how an uninitiated viewer might take How To Make A Monster. I loved it, but then I was just happy to see it when it surfaced during my monster-fueled early teens. You don’t get the fight between the monsters, but you do get a steady parade of character actors like Morris Ankrum and Thomas B. Henry, a color ending (depending on which version you get ahold of, I saw the color ending on television but it wasn’t included on the RCA video tape I got shortly afterward) that shows a nice collection of monster heads from Paul Blaisdell, as well as several bogus monster heads, and one of those dandy Hollywood Behind The Scenes scripts. I’d sum it up as Cheap But Slick. As I said, I loved it!

  • The horrible thing, though, is that they actually burn up all those irreplaceable Blasidell artifacts for the climax!

  • Rock Baker

    Some did suffer minor damage (not from filming but a premature test of the fire rig!), but most were saved. The ones shown in close-up are mock-ups made for the film, and not up to the usual standards. Paul wore his She Creature mask again, with some slight alterations, the next year in Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow.

  • I disliked How to Make a Monster because as a point of honor my position is to oppose all horror movies in which the monsters are fakes. I hated Scooby-Doo from first to last, and even the Cat and the Canary is in large part spoiled for me by this trope.

    Note that this is an ideological posiition I am taking here, not a rational one. So don’t try to argue me out of it.

  • So do you renounce your own father, Sandy, who was a fan of Shh! The Octopus?

    (Huh, do ya?)

    Also, an odd position for one to take who has lectured me in person several times on how “Mystery on Monster Island is possibly the greatest movie ever made; certainly the greatest to feature Paul Naschy.”

  • My dad was 9 years old when he saw “Ssh! The Octopus”. I think I can cut him some slack.

    Mystery on Monster Island is deathless cinema, I agree, with the brilliant conceit to explain away its hokey, fake-looking monsters by having them be actually fake. In the hellish hierarchy of fake-monster films, I rank it just below Santo vs. the Mummy and just above Iron Man.

  • Rock Baker

    You could look at it as Pete was the monster.