Thursday, October 22, 2009
31 Days of Halloween - Day 22 - Movie 2
With the success of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" and "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein" it didn't take long for American International Pictures to combine them in one movie. In "How To Make A Monster" (1958) the two monsters are set to square off in a movie being made at the non-existent American International Studios. The studio now falls under new ownership who have determined that this will be the studio's last monster picture. They're passé. People want musicals now. Pink slips are handed out around the studio including a pair for 25-year studio make-up man Pete Drummond (Robert H. Harris) and his assistant Rivero (Paul Brinegar). Pete decides he's not going to go quietly and concocts a method for revenge using a drugged foundation make-up which makes its wearer susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. Applying it to the young actors playing the teenage werewolf and the Frankenstein monster, he sends them out to kill the new executives. As the body count escalates, and suspicions rise, Pete finds himself facing off against the actors who portrayed the very monsters he created.
I've always had a bit of a soft spot for this movie, eventually using it as the basis for a "Scooby-Doo" comic book story. It's by no means a great movie. It's not particularly suspenseful. It's a bit slow in its story structure, and Pete becomes pretty unlikable rather quickly, so there's no rooting for him. I also always thought that it would have been better if he had to face his manipulated young actors at the end in their monster make-up, rather than the ending the movie has.
Like today's other movie, "The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow," "How To Make a Monster" was something of a harsh jettisoning of Paul Blaisdell by AIP. Blaisdell, himself, said that the movie felt almost autobiographical, not in the sense that he'd become a homicidal revenge seeker, but in the way the studio repaid his efforts by tossing him out when the studio turned its sights to import films and higher budgeted gothic horrors instead of the monster pictures which brought them wealth. There's a moment where Pete, in the film, muses on how the studio is showing it's gratitude to him for creating all those monsters which made the studio a success, by throwing him out on the street, which must have echoed how Blaisdell felt when he faced the same scenario.
To add insult to injury, in the color climax of the film, Blaisdell supplied many of his own creations to represent the work of Pete. He also made some masks which were meant to be destroyed at the end. Somehow, while filming, one of Blaisdell's prized masks was mixed up with those to be destroyed. Not only was it destroyed, but its destruction was never filmed.
I'm sure many of Hollywood's special make-up effects artists felt the same way with the advent of CGI, even though CGI monsters usually look inferior to those involving a made-up actor.