El monstruo resucitado [Monster](1953)

(aka The Resurrected Monster, The Revived Monster, The Monstrous Doctor Crimen, Doctor Crimen)

This is a wonderfully atmospheric and often beautiful film which doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Okay, that is a serious exaggeration, and mostly unfair, but El monstruo resucitado exists in a dreamy fog of weirdness all its own, where a mad scientist who lives in a lonely clifftop house on the far side of a cemetery puts a lonely hearts ad in the newspaper.

He is a marvelously sinister figure, with a long black cloak, floppy hat, black mask covering his face and black-lensed, goggle-like glasses.  The general effect is a lot like Claude Rains in The Invisible Man, except that he didn’t get a whip.  However, a closer comparison might be The Phantom of the Opera, as he is horribly ugly (and, in fact, his face bears a strong resemblance to Lon Chaney’s legendary makeup) and there is even a dramatic reveal when he takes his mask off.

Unfortunately, while the beautiful girl reporter who answers his ad, convinces him that she finds him attractive despite his deformity, he overhears her talking to her editor about how horrible he looks and leaps immediately to the conclusion that she lied to him (although she apparently did feel drawn to him).

This, naturally, sends him off on a murder spree, and when he realizes that this is hardly appropriate behavior for a man of science, he then uses the ape-man he’s had conveniently locked up in his cellar to bring the body of a handsome young man back to life (with a lot of talk about his brilliance, a few sparks and flashing lights, and no real details on how he did it).

This might not sound like it has much to do with his desire for revenge, but don’t worry, he’s a brilliant, world famous genius (long believed dead).  He has a sinister plan.  Really.

There’s a lot of talk (although it is always interesting talk).  Many of the sets are badly cramped – particularly the waterfront set (which we see far too often), with its big, blown-up photo of a harbor. And the mask, while strikingly ugly, is all too clearly a mask, with absolutely no movement of any sort.  Yes, they do give us a throw-away line about how the disease that caused his deformity has left him completely incapable of any kind of expression, but we all know that’s in there to excuse the mask, right?.

However, the strangest thing about this movie is a curious series of coincidences:  the actor who played the reanimated corpse Ariel had just received an Ariel award – and Miroslava, who plays our leading lady, would be played in a biopic by an actress named Arielle.

This was the inspiration for the long series of Mexican “medical sci-fi” horror films” and despite its flaws stands out as a minor classic.  It looks remarkably like a Universal Horror from the thirties, complete with lots of fog, excellent settings, and beautiful, black and white cinematography, and it’s full of a lot of strange, often inexplicable details, like the all the extremely lifelike statues of women (yes, we know they’re live models) decorating the mad scientists home.  And what makes it all work is its admirable seriousness and the obvious passion that went into it.

So kick any nitpickers out of the room, turn the lights way down, and pop up a bowl of the creepiest popcorn you can find.  You won’t be bored.

(For a subtitled version, see here)

(My thanks, once again, to Janne Wass of the Scifist for uncovering this goofy gem)

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