Director: Herbert L. Strock
Writers: Kenneth Langtry and Herman Cohen
Cast: Robert H. Harris, Paul Brinegar, Gary Conway, Gary Clarke, Malcolm Atterbury, Dennis Cross, Morris Ankrum, Walter Reed, Paul Maxwell, Eddie Marr, Heather Ames, Robert Shayne, Rod Dana, Jacqueline Ebeier, Joan Chandler, Thomas B. Henry, John Phillips, Pauline Myers, and John Ashley
Composer: Paul Dunlap
Release Date: 7/1/1958
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
While working on a werewolf/Frankenstein crossover film, make-up veteran Pete Dumond (Robert H. Harris) is abruptly fired by the new studio managers. Having devoted his life to the creation of movie monsters, Dumond—aided by a sniveling assistant named Rivero (Paul Brinegar)—employs the power of hypnosis to compel Larry Drake (Gary Clarke) and Tony Mantell (Gary Conway), the young actors hired to portray Teenage Werewolf and Frankenstein’s monster respectively, to murder those responsible for ending Dumond’s career.
This film offers a clever, original twist on the teenage monster theme established by AIP in the late 1950s. Especially worth praising is the performance of Robert H. Harris, who embodies the obsession, determination, and callousness of a compelling and realistic villain.
Unlike the mad scientist characters from Teenage Werewolf, Teenage Frankenstein, and Blood of Dracula, Pete Dumond operates on a clear and understandable motive when conducting his “experiments” on helpless young victims: to take revenge on the studio executives who, after profiting from the talents of Dumond, cast him aside without gratitude or common courtesy. (On a side note, Universal Monster fans may draw certain parallels between Dumond’s termination and that of Jack Pierce—the make-up genius known for his contributions to Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man.)
Though swiftly paced for the most part, How to Make a Monster spends an inordinate amount of time on the investigations of police and security guards.
Also problematic is the lack of atmosphere in this film, which, despite featuring “monsters” who kill on the command of a deranged make-up artist, fails to build and maintain suspense in a captivating manner.
Combining teenage monsters with a premise involving mind control, this film will likely appeal to B-movie enthusiasts and science fiction horror buffs alike. How to Make a Monster should likewise be commended for the acting of Harris, Brinegar, and Conway—reprising his role from I Was a Teenage Frankenstein.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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