Monster (1953) – By Duane L. Martin

To start off this review, I should note that this film is not called Monster. This DVD release of it from One 7 Movies is, but the actual title of the film is El monstruo resucitado (The Revived Monster). This particular print of the film came from Italy, and is titled (in the film itself), Il Monstruoso Dottor Crimen. So if you try to look it up on IMDB, look for the actual name of the film. I had to actually go to the actress Miroslava’s listing to track down the movie on there. More on Miroslava’s tragic life will come later.

Miroslava plays Nora, a bored newspaper journalist looking for a hot story to liven things up. He editor suggests that the best stories are often hidden behind something as simple as a mundane ad. He reads her one from the personals that had been in the paper for about a year now. It was from an older, wealthy man who was looking for a young, beautiful woman for…something. He wasn’t clear about what he was looking for. The editor suggests she contact him and see if there’s a good story there, and boy was there.

The ad was placed by Dr. Herrmann Ling, a renowned plastic surgeon with a problem. He had been born with his face hideously deformed, abandoned by his parents and tormented by everyone, he finally resorted to covering his face at all times, as well as wearing dark glasses and a hat, so that he could blend in with society somewhat. He buried himself in science, learning the art of plastic surgery, in hopes of one day, not only fixing himself, but also to take revenge upon those who tormented him by turning them physically hideous. His hope with the placement of the ad, was to find a woman who could actually deal with how he looked and show him that there was someone out there who could appreciate him for the person he was. When Nora went to his home and he eventually showed her his face, she faints, but then leads him to believe that it’s ok, and that she wants to be with him often, to help him with his goal of fixing himself and feeling like a normal person again. Deliriously happy by her acceptance, he uncovers all the mirrors in his home, determined to not be ashamed of his face any longer, because he’s finally found acceptance. He also swears everything he has and everything he is to her. This delirious moment of joy was to be short lived however, as when he later went to meet Nora at the cafe, he found her speaking with her editor, talking about the fantastic story she was going to write about all this and about how creepy the doctor’s house was and how hideously deformed his face is. Crushed and angered, Dr. Ling swears to kill Nora, and to make everyone who’s tormented him suffer.

To that end, Dr. Ling and his assistant Mischa steal the corpse of a handsome young man, and use the brain of a mongoloid man that he’d been keeping in a cage in the basement to revive the dead man and then mentally controlling him, making him kill, and instructing him to get Nora and to bring her back to his home, where he plans to kill her.

You’ll have to watch the film to get the rest of the sad tale and find out what happens to the doctor and Nora.

Ok, let’s talk about the movie first, and then I’ll tell you what happened to Miroslava, the actress who played Nora.

The movie itself is actually a really great example of a 50’s b-movie, and was the first major film of this type to come out of Mexico, which led to many more in the genre throughout the 60s and 70s. The acting from the entire cast is excellent, and the whole look of the film gives it a very dark and noir like feeling.

The sets are rather simple. A cafe interior, docks that are obviously fake, but look good nonetheless, a cemetary outside the doctor’s mansion, and the mansion itself, which is actually quite nice inside.

The face of the doctor was also very nicely done. Grotesque, but not so far over the top as to be ridiculous. The only thing that could have been done a little better is that if you looked at the mouth, which didn’t move, you could see Linares Riva’s mouth moving inside of it, which is the only way he’d be able to speak normally. Still, with a face that was supposed to be rigid and full of dead nerves, he actually shouldn’t have been able to speak all that normally at all, so a speech impediment would have been in order. Still, it’s not a big deal.

What surprised me about this film, is something that you don’t get a lot of in these old classics. You actually see the doctor as the good guy who’s been emotionally beaten down all his life and only wants someone to love an accept him, and Nora, who’s supposed to be the victim in all this, is actually the victimizer, only using him to get a story. You can’t watch this film without feeling horrible for the doctor, and totally understanding his desire for revenge upon those who have wronged him. He was ready to be happy when she accepted him, and ready to give up his quest for revenge. He was going to use his gifts as the greatest plastic surgeon in the world to help people…but then, she had to go and hurt him again. The whole story is really quite sad, and very tragic.

Speaking of tragic, let’s talk about Miroslava. She was born in 1925, and died in 1955, shortly after turning 30. Cause of death…suicide. She was actually born in pre-war Prague, Czechoslovakia, and was brought to Mexico by her parents in the late 1930s. She won a beauty contest and studied acting in Los Angeles, had a farily standard film career, and even appeared on a cover of Life Magazine in 1950. She actually tried to commit suicide in 1942 when a soldier she was in love with and had planned to marry was killed in action. Then in 1945, she married Jesus Jaime Obregon, an actor whom she quickly divorced after finding out that he was a closet homosexual. This was the final straw for Miroslava, and what many believe was the cause of her suicide. A sad ending for such a beautiful and talented actress.

This visual quality of this release is really quite good. They found a nice print of the film to master it from, and both the visuals and the sound are in great shape. The film itself is in Spanish, but includes English subtitles. For special features, it includes a poster gallery, and an Italian photonovel DVD-Rom feature.

Both well written and beautifully acted, this is a great example of how great these 50’s b-movies can be. Dark, atmospheric and with a villain you can sympathize with and see almost as the hero, this is a film that lovers of great, classic b-movies shouldn’t miss.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of this DVD release for yourself, you can get it from Amazon here, or from any of the other usual outlets.