AND THE MONSTER
(1965), B/W, 78 minutes
Distributed by Trans-International Films
Presented by Young America Productions
Produced at Soundlab, Coral Gables, Fla.
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Paul Nagel (as “Paul Nagle”)
DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!
THE MAN AND THE MONSTER is a most interesting and unusual part of the Murray horror canon, as it combines elements of gothic horror, murder mystery and psychological drama, overlapping these themes into a broad interpretation of Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde”.
The dynamic opening teaser, in which a cheap blonde cracks up her car and ends up at the house of a musical madman, creates an air of both mystery and terror. She screams, and we cut to the main title, in a most engaging segway.
Abel Salazar is fine doing his patented “Everyman” character, but the real star of this show is Enrique Rambal, whose portrayal of Samuel, the tortured, compromised genius is powerful and believable, dripping with genuine pathos.
He’s more afraid of his mother than he is of the devil (who ain’t?) and his pathetic submission to the hardy, wicked forces that control him is truly touching.
The mother is admittedly a super-bitch: she berates and harasses him, and allows Samuel to keep a dead and decaying piano-chick propped up in a chair, as a constant reminder of crippling eternal loyalties and unquenchable grief.
Soon, we have a marvelous dream sequence/flashback where Samuel summons and propositions the dark one, on a wild, expressionist landscape.
Then, at the half-way mark, it happens: Man turns into Monster! Many have decried the primitive, Werewolfian monster make-up in this film, but it works quite well for the broad Jekyll & Hyde fable that is being told. With a more subdued disguise, this could have easily turned into a forgettable art allegory, like Cocteau’s highly overrated BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. And don’t forget, this is first and foremost, a monster movie!
Aside from the rather buffoonish dubbing of the breathy monster, the beast is essentially convincing. and evokes a fanciful, but not improbable, portrayal of creative madness.
(In all fairness, some long shots of the hairy artisan lurching about in string tie and cardigan DO kinda suggest Mister Rogers with a tequila hangover…)
Anyway, pathos and comic thrills wrestle with each other to form a most interesting little bit of foreign exotica.
A later scene, in which our favorite demonic ivory-tickler goes “ape” in front of a little girl, is alotta fun, and ripe with all sorts of perverse implications.
(The finale, in which our heroine plays the piano in concert, and summons our dear monster as she reaches “that certain passage,” has unintended (?) comic impact, as one cannot help but be reminded of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon, in which Yosemite Sam has wired explosives to a piano, intending Bugs to blow himself up while playing that old stand-by, “Those Endearing Young Charms.” Of course, Bugs consistently hits the wrong note, until Sam butts in and shows him how to play the tune correctly, destroying himself in the process.)
Like many Mexican horror films of the period, TM&TM; has a strange sense of anachronism. Modern clothing and vehicles place it in the present day, but everything else, including buildings and furnishings, as well as the Victorian atmosphere and the Poe-like veneer of creeping dread, seem at least a century older.
The film (almost successfully) tackles such issues as unhealthy compulsions, domineering parents, and the deadly pressures of creative genius, themes covered in many other films, some quite notable. Yet even with the comic book make-up and kooky dubbing, this is a better movie than SHINE! Yuck!