More than most other companies Kino Lorber seems to release titles that catch me off guard. And I mean this in a very positive way. A number of Kino Lorber titles are movies I’ve never heard of and almost every time I watch them I thoroughly enjoy them. The Undying Monster is the latest film to fall into that category.
The Undying Monster opens with Helga Hammond (Heather Angel) being awakened by her butler Walton (Hallwell Hobbes). Helga had fallen asleep by the fireplace inside her huge family mansion and Walton is concerned because her brother Oliver (John Howard) has not returned home yet. Helga tells Walton not to worry because Oliver is likely just working late, but Walton refuses that answer. To make Walton feel more comfortable Helga places a call to Oliver’s lab and he’s partner and long-time family friend Dr. Jeff Colbert (Bramwell Fletcher) answers and advises Oliver just left for home about two minutes. Walton is still not pleased.
We soon learn that Walton’s fear is the result of a curse that was placed on the Hammond family centuries earlier. As the legend goes an unknown creature or beast attacks members of the Hammond family on clear nights when the stars shine bright. In the attack is not enough to kill the family members they eventually commit suicide under bizarre circumstances. Helga thinks the legend is just hogwash but Walton very much believes it to be true.
As Helga and Walton wait for Oliver to come home they hear the scream of a young woman. They quickly rush to the scene of the scream and find Oliver and Kate (Valerie Traxler), another family friend, have been attacked. By what they don’t know, but it also managed to kill Oliver’s dog and a very brutal fashion. Robert Curtis (James Ellison), a Scotland Yard scientist and his partner Christy (Heather Thatcher), a strong believer in the paranormal, are sent out to investigate.
The Undying Monster feels like Fox taking a stab at the Universal Horror world with a dash of Sherlock Holmes. The entire film takes place on beautiful sets with gorgeous cinematography from Lucien Ballard, the Oscar-nominated DP. The film has that Universal Horror vibe, it’s very mood and heavy on atmosphere. The scenery and locations factor into the story just as much as the cast of characters. The Sherlock Holmes stuff comes from the tools and gadgets Curtis and Christy use to lead their investigation. They have a lot of “modern” technology, testing blood and hair samples. It’s like a really early version of “CSI.”
The story is quite compelling, though it’s likely aided to the quick runtime. At just 62 minutes this one just flies by. The important thing is that it does mange to be very entertaining throughout. It’s a monster film and mystery rolled into one and succeeds on both fronts for the most part. They mystery aspect works much better as little hints are dropped throughout and we see Curtis and Christy piece the evidence together one by one. The monster side is good, but we just don’t get much of it. If this movie was about ten minutes longer with all that timed dedicated to the creature I’d probably give this movie an extra half skull at least.
The monster is a werewolf by the way. Normally I’d consider this a spoiler but it’s on the very front of the Blu-ray artwork so you kind of expect it going in.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks fantastic. This is a movie that is that is 74 years old and you certainly wouldn’t know it when judging the quality of the Blu-ray. The picture quality is top-notch. The special features even come with a very cool restoration comparison that gives you a split screen of the film before and after the restoration. This is a great opportunity to see how the detail improved and is a special feature that I’d love to see on future releases.
The special features also include two commentaries – one with film historians Tom Weaver and Robert J. Kiss as well as director John Brahm’s daughter, Sumishta and then a second commentary with Tom Weaver and fellow film historian David Schecter. Plus there’s a featurette on the work of Brahm, an animated montage of images from the film and the film’s trailer.
The Undying Monster was a very pleasant surprised. If you like moody horror along the lines of the Universal classics you’re likely to really dig this.
The Undying Monster is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
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