BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
“But, Miss Hammond... Helga! No Hammond ever ventures into the rocky lane on a foggy night,” is the warning. It’s the siren song of an entire family line. You see, the Hammond family IS cursed. Some might say they are cursed by wealth. Others will suggest it is something darker that has cursed this family since the Crusades. Because when the moon is full and the cool night soaks the skin, a yearning and unnatural howl fills the sky surrounding their seaside castle. While The Undying Monster might play more like a Sherlock Holmes knockoff, there’s no denying the power of its cinematography.
Directed by John Brahm and based on the 1922 novel by Jessie Douglas Kerruish, The Undying Monster is an interesting horror film from the 1940s in that it plays out more like a mystery. Sure, female screams fill the silence of the night, but this film gets its undying mojo from the involvement of a Scotland Yard scientist, Robert Curtis (James Ellison), and his sidekick Christy (Heather Thatcher). Sent to investigate the attacks around the Hammond’s home, they get a bit more than they expected from the property and the stories hidden in its walls.
Apparently, the Hammonds have been dealing with this sort of life and death stuff for decades. Some members of the family have taken their own lives. Others have simply fled in terror from he dark Victorian mansion never to return. With each new attack, Curtis and Christy find themselves thrust further into the family’s history of madness. But who is the current family member responsible for these dog-like attacks?
Co-starring Heather Angel as Helga Hammond, John Howard as Oliver Hammond, Bramwell Fletcher as Dr. Jeff Colbert, Eily Malyon as the housekeeper, and Halliwell Hobbes as Walton the butler, The Undying Monster takes its entertaining monster hunt seriously with a competent cast that knows its way around a b-grade picture. Shadows and secrets are laid on thick and the cast handles their path through the dark with a thick layer of weightiness that gets more than a little dusted by the levity of Ellison and Thatcher in their roles as investigators.
But the film might have slipped into the cracks of b-moviedom if not for a couple of things. First, the opening moments of the film – with a single complicated floor-to-ceiling shot that uses the rhythmic DONG! DONG! DONG! of a clock’s chime to travel the Hammond home and show key items in the mystery – prove just how engaging the camera is going to be in the mystery. Director of photography Lucien Ballard, who shot The Wild Bunch and helped audiences ogle Jane Russell in Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw, was the forward-thinking talent the movie needed to help it rise above the rest. There is a certain level of magic in a lot of the shots.
And then there’s the transformation scene. Wow. We get some long shots of the man-beast loping off in the distance of misty nights and so on, but we never get a good look at him until the very end and, damn, what a reveal. Above a raging sea, the monster clings to the side of a cliff and we see the transformation take place. The film itself might be a little creaky, but the filmmakers pull this time-lapse effect off beautifully. And it ends the picture on a high note, making it an underappreciated werewolf picture that deserves this blu-ray release from Kino-Lorber.
The Undying Monster, ultimately, lives up to its name with this release. The howl of the story might be too familiar, but the performances and the technical skill behind the scenes still packs a most vicious bite. Get lost in the shadows with this 60-minute quickie.
MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime: 63 mins
Director: John Brahm
Writer: Lillie Hayward, Michael Jacoby
Cast: James Ellison, Heather Angel, John Howard
Tagline: HORROR to make you GASP!
Memorable Movie Quote: "But, Miss Hammond... Helga! No Hammond ever ventures into the rocky lane on a foggy night!"
Theatrical Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Release Date: November 16, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: November 27, 2016
Synopsis: Surviving members of an aristocratic English family are threatened by a legendary monster when they venture out on chilly, foggy nights.
Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray - November 22, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: Region A
Kino-Lorber presents The Undying Monster on 1080p with stunning results. This black-and-white horror film relies on atmosphere to carry its suspense and, as it is loaded with deep blacks and white grays, the shadows must be well defined. Thanks to the remastering effort, all shadows are leveled appropriately, making this film a great little mystery. Details are rich and textures are thick. The sea, busy throughout the production with ravishing the coast, is a viscous and vivacious entity on the screen. Skin tones are solid and black levels – never corrupted by the image – are magnified thanks to the fine efforts from the studio in salvaging this underappreciated flick. Kino gives viewers the choice of the original mono track or a slightly widened stereo mix for the release.
Provided by Film Historian Tom Weaver, the hour-long commentary is a welcome addition to the film’s debut on blu-ray.
Kino continues to please genre fans with their release of The Undying Monster. They also don’t skimp on the supplemental material and provide the movie with a fascinating commentary by film historian Tom Weaver. Sumishita Brahm, David Schecter, and Dr. Robert J. Kiss also make appearances on the track. There’s a 2007 restoration comparison and a featurette that looks at the films of John Brahm. Overall, this blu-ray is a quality release from Kino.
- Concerto Macabre: The Films Of John Brahm (15 min)
- Restoration Comparison
- Animated Image Montage
- Trailer Gallery
- Alternate Title Sequence