Yet another version of Curt Siodmak's novel about an honest scientist who keeps the brain of a ruthless dead millionaire (Donovan) alive in a tank. Donovan manages to impose his powerful ... See full summary »
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Erich von Stroheim
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An alien agent from the distant planet Davana is sent to earth via a high-tech matter transporter. There he terrorizes Southern California in an attempt to acquire blood for his dying race, the result of a devastating nuclear war.
Five individuals from five nations, including the "Superpowers," USA, USSR, and China, suddenly find themselves on an alien spacecraft. An alien gives each a container holding capsules. No ... See full summary »
Star Vera Ralston was an ice-skating champion from Czechoslovakia who had made a few skating pictures for Republic. Studio chief Herbert J. Yates--who was also her boyfriend--decided she could be a star and put her into the lead in this film. Unfortunately, she spoke very little English and--according to longtime Republic director Joseph Kane--spoke all of her lines phonetically, without having any idea of what she was actually saying. See more »
Prof. Franz Mueller:
What do I know about the brain itself? Nothing. Can it think? Remember after its body is dead? Could it be made to feel, to hear perhaps, or to express itself in some way? To contact the living?
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After four nights of trying to decipher a transfer from actual film to a home-made DVD, with dark lighting and noir-styled settings, my adventure into the world of "The Lady and the Monster" was finally complete. This suddenly became a very difficult film to discuss. With nearly 20% of the film being lost to a dismal transfer (actually a decent transfer for what was available, but difficult to experience the film as a whole), would I be able to fully understand the filmmaker's tones, themes, and characters to the fullest extent? Continuing my horror/mystery binge, the basis of this 1944 sleeper begins very simply with a mad scientist and a plan, but then, as the paranormal begins our story goes from the strange to the confusing. As our characters are asked to do more than just turn knobs and scream, their strengths and weaknesses become more prevalent on the screen. As our story becomes more sinister, the ability to contain opportunity slowly gets devoured. "The Lady and the Monster" then transforms from an original sci-fi storyline, to a chaotic mess, leaving you eager to see how the 1953 remake "Donovan's Brain" may have learned from these mistakes.
Perhaps it was the way films in the 40s were made, or maybe it was just the filmmaker's way of attempting to move the plot forward, but instances occurred in this film that seemed to carry no consequences. Easily our limpy mad scientist and his assistance were able to find a brain, confuse the local medical practitioner, keep the brain alive, hear thoughts, and perhaps solve a five year crime. Consequences were handed down at the end, but instead of reason it felt rushed and foolish. What begins as a film based on science fiction and horror, easily changes to this CSI-style of storytelling. "The Lady and the Monster" teeters on the border of noir and B-grade film-making. It felt like a hybrid, or a mistake by science gone horribly wrong. To begin, the hints given by Donovan's brain to help Patrick Cory (played devilishly by Richard Arlen) are executed well, making the viewer strain to hear what or where these planted words may take Cory. The switch from right to left handing writing seemed kitschy, but ultimately effective in witnessing the transformation. Alas, these were the only two "special effects" within the whole story, so they were used over and over and over again, making it fun to guess which of the two tricks would be used in each scene. It became tedious and boring to see any plot hurdles crossed by merely these two tricks. If it weren't for Arlen, his menacing face, this would have taken another four days to plow through. Secondly, the addition of Vera Ralston as not only the love interest, but also the damsel in distress was out of place. Perhaps Ralston couldn't control her character, discover her true-self, or maybe she just didn't feel like memorizing her lines, but each scene she walked into was dry and emotionless. Even as the tension builds, she is unable to give us a glimpse as to who Janice Farrell was; how she fell into this world, and why love conquered all. Finally, the ending was absurd. Stringing together several different ideas, none of which were developed at all, to give us a climax that was more based on the first half of the film than the second seemed random.
Despite my gruff nature towards Ralston and the repetitive nature of the film, the science behind this feature was actually quite fun. The idea that a brain could be kept alive has been used in dozens of sci-fi films over the ages, and this was a uniquely new way to see it. Thinking of the infamous "The Brain that Wouldn't Die" made in 1968, one should question the originality of that story penned with the concept behind this one. The notion that, with a blank slate (aka mind), that the brain could control another person was exhilarating. While the execution wasn't up to par, it was enjoyable to see the science behind it. I also liked the cliché mad scientist known as Franz Mueller (played diabolically by Erich Von Stroheim), who fit into every mold created since this film. There were fun parts to this film, elements that were conceived as a good idea, but failed because ill-development and lack of detailed story forced it to go south. Parts were enjoyable, but "The Lady and the Monster" as a whole seemed to fail.
Overall, I liked certain elements to this film, but others just failed completely. The repetition of one idea failed, and the introduction to the millionaire's world as a "who-dun-it" instead of a straight forward sci-fi felt cheap. There were also huge bombs of twists dropped on us near the end without any warning to excitement. There were two moments I had to rewind to make sure that I didn't miss something earlier, because these plot twists came out of nowhere. "The Lady and the Monster" was enjoyable to watch once, but a second viewing would be overkill.
Grade: * ½ out of ****
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