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HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER 1958 TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN & TEENAGE WEREWOLF REUNION + TEENAGE CAVEMAN AIP DOUBLE FEATURE DVD-R!

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How to Make a Monster is a 1958 American horror film drama that is notable for its inclusion of props and studios that created actual sci-fi horror movies.

It was produced and written by Herman Cohen, directed by Herbert L. Strock, and starring Gary ConwayRobert H. HarrisPaul BrinegarMorris AnkrumRobert Shayne, and John Ashley. The film was released by American International Pictures as a double feature with Teenage Caveman.

The film is a follow-up to both I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. Like Teenage Frankenstein, a black-and-white film that switches to color in its final moments, How to Make a Monster was filmed in black-and-white and only the last reel (the fire scene finale) is in full color.

Pete Dumond, chief make-up artist for 25 years at American International Studios, will be fired after the studio is purchased by NBN Associates. The new management from the East, Jeffrey Clayton and John Nixon, plan to make musicals and comedies instead of the horror pictures for which Pete has created his remarkable monster make-ups and made the studio famous. (The new owners show Pete one of their new rock musical numbers on stage which features real-life singing superstar John Ashley.) In retaliation, Pete vows to use the very monsters these men have rejected to destroy them in revenge.

By mixing a numbing ingredient into his foundation cream and persuading the young actors that their careers are through unless they place themselves in his power, he hypnotizes both the unsuspecting Larry Drake and Tony Mantell (who are playing the characters the Teenage Werewolf and the Teenage Frankenstein, respectively, in the picture Werewolf Meets Frankenstein, currently shooting on the lot).

Through hypnosis, Pete urges Larry, in Teenage werewolf make-up, to kill Nixon in the studio projection room. Later, he orders the unknowing Tony, in Teenage Frankenstein make-up, to attack Clayton and choke him to death after he arrives home at night in his 1958 Lincoln convertible. Next day, studio guard Monahan, an amateur detective, stops in at the make-up room. He shows Pete and Rivero, Pete’s make-up assistant, his little black book in which he has jotted down many interesting facts, such as the late time (9:12PM) Pete and Rivero checked out the night of Jeffrey Clayton’s murder. He explains he hopes to work his way up to chief of security on the lot. Apprehensive, Pete makes himself up as a terrifying split-faced Caveman, one of his own creations and kills Monahan in the studio commissary while Monahan makes his rounds that night.

Richards, the older guard, sees and hears nothing of the struggle, but discovers the missing Monahan’s body. Police investigators uncover two clues: a maid, Millie, describes Frankenstein’s monster (Tony, in make-up), who struck her down as he fled from the scene of Clayton’s murder, and the police laboratory technician discovers a peculiar ingredient in the make-up left on Clayton’s fingernails from his death struggle with Tony. The formula matches bits found in Pete’s old make-up room.

The police head for Pete’s house. Pete has taken Rivero, Larry and Tony to his home for a grim farewell party, his house being a museum of all the monsters that he created in his 25 years at the studio. Pete, distrusting Rivero, stabs him to death when they are alone in the kitchen. Learning that Larry and Tony are trying to leave the locked living room, he attacks them both with the knife.

Larry awkwardly knocks over a candelabra, setting the monster museum on fire, and Pete is burned to death, trying in vain to save the heads of his monstrous “children” mounted on the walls. The police break through the locked door just before the flames reach the boys, and they save Larry and Tony.

Many of Pete Dumond’s “children” destroyed in the fire were props originally created by Paul Blaisdell for earlier AIP films, and he actually allowed the props to be destroyed. They include The Cat Girl (1956), “Beulah” from It Conquered the World (1956), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) and the Dr. Jekyll mask from Attack of the Puppet People (1958). Blaisdell also created a brand new monster costume he dubbed “Aunt Esmeralda” which he created specifically to be burned in the fire scene (designed so that as the face melted, a grisly skull was revealed underneath). Blaisdell’s She-Creature mask was also in the scene but miraculously was not destroyed.

Blaisdell had specifically asked AIP not to burn his Cat Girl mask, but it was carelessly destroyed in the fire anyway. (To compound the tragedy, the cameraman failed to film the Cat Girl mask as it was burning.) The whole incident left a bad taste in Blaisdell’s mouth.

Herman Cohen says he cast John Ashley as a singer at the request of James H. Nicholson, who had just put Ashley under a long-term contract with the studio. Ashley was having some minor success as a recording artist at the time.

AIP did not have a physical studio, so the film was shot at Ziv Studios. During production there, a sign was put up that called the studio lot “American International Studios”, which was totally misleading.

Ed Wood‘s widow Kathy claimed in a 1992 interview that her husband always felt that the idea for How To Make a Monster was stolen from him by AIP producer Sam Arkoff. She said “Eddie condemned Arkoff, he really hated him. Eddie gave them a script for approval, and they changed the characters a little bit around. Eddie had written it for Lugosi. It was about this old horror actor who couldn’t get work any more, so he took his vengeance out on the studio. (They changed it to) a make-up man who takes revenge on a studio.” Arkoff denied Wood’s claim was true, stating that Herman Cohen originated the entire project on his own.

Teenage Caveman (also known as Out of the Darkness in the United Kingdom) is a 1958 American independent black-and-white science fiction adventure film produced and directed by Roger Corman, and starring Robert Vaughn and Darah Marshall. The film was released by American International Pictures in July 1958 as a double feature with How to Make a Monster.

Originally filmed as Prehistoric World with some 8×10 publicity stills retaining this title, AIP later changed it. Years later, Corman stated in an interview, “I never directed a film called Teenage Caveman.” Vaughn stated in an interview that he considered Teenage Caveman to be the worst film ever made!

A tribe of primitive humans live in a barren, rocky wasteland and struggle for survival, despite a lush, plant-filled land on the other side of a nearby river. They refuse to cross the river because of a law that evolved from an ancient tale, warning of a god lurking there who brings death with a single touch.

A young man of the tribe challenges the law and is eventually followed by other male members of his tribe, who fearfully cross the river in order to bring him back. They soon encounter the terrible god, a large, horribly burned but strangely human-like creature. Despite the young man’s peace overture to the god, another tribal member, out of fear, lays a trap and stones the creature to death with a large rock; the young man then shoots and kills that tribesman with one of his arrows. The others gather around the now-dead god and discover that the creature is actually a much older man with long white hair. He is wearing some kind of strange, unknown outer garment with a fearful hood. They find another strange thing in the old man’s possession; they are puzzled by this flat, thick object that opens and contains mysterious markings and vivid black, white and gray images that show an even stranger human world unknown to them.

In a surprising denouement provided by the old man after his death, the truth is revealed in voice-over as the tribesmen leaf through his book. He was actually a survivor of a long-ago nuclear holocaust, forced to live for decades inside his now-ragged, discolored and bulky radiation suit (which is implied to have once been covered with deadly radioactive fallout). The old man has wandered the land for decades, while the primitive remnants of a devastated human race have slowly increased their numbers; his frightening outer appearance caused them to fear and shun him.

A final, cautionary question is asked in voice-over by the old man: will humanity someday repeat its nuclear folly after civilization has once again risen to its former heights?

Teenage Caveman was budgeted at $70,000.

Filming took place in May 1958 under the title Prehistoric World.

It was theatrically released in July 1958.

While a number of scripts were considered to meet American International‘s directive to do a historic picture, Corman used Bob Campbell’s idea of setting the movie in the future. Corman and Campbell both disliked the Teenage Caveman title selected by American International, preferring their choice of Prehistoric World as the name of the movie.

Corman thought the film to be pretty good, but felt it could have been “genuinely good” had he had more time and more money. Variety found the film to be a good exploitation item aimed at the teen market. The Hollywood Reporter disliked the film and cited the film’s low budget as a reason. Monthly Film Bulletin said the film tried hard, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

The L.A. Times found it to be a good movie despite its title.

 

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