Atomic Frankie

When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, it came from fear of her times – fear of unholy experiments, going against God, and the coming electrical revolution. Universal brought that back in the early ’40s, but with modern tweaks. Man Made Monster employs electricity, but it’s radiation-infused electricity. That’s paired with an electrically-vaccinated man, this after a slew of new vaccines throughout the 1930s. Man Made Monster is a scientific catch-all.

Compared to Universal’s notable anti-science horror style, Man Made Monster offers balance. Lionel Atwill is the undeniably crazed scientist seeking discovery without empathy. His partner Samuel Hinds represents the properly rational, slow-paced methodology. Their victim is a willing participant, shocked until he can longer be shocked.

The latter was the role that began Lon Chaney Jr.’s genre ascent, a sympathetic circus performer with a natural resistance to voltage. He’s a nice guy too. After surviving a bus crash, Chaney looks for something to do, and is drawn to the scientists who find his case interesting in their electrobiology studies.

There’s definite routine to Man Made Monster

What Chaney doesn’t see is Atwill in his purest form. He looks down on the poor. With an indirectly racist rant, Atwill suggests he will make lesser people “useful” to society via his research (and when fully transformed, under his direct control). Released in early 1941, Atwill sees wartime potential too, churning out these invincible monsters in droves.

There’s definite routine to Man Made Monster. It’s lower-tier Universal, plucked from leftovers and cobbled together to match their typical chiller formula. Science spawns monster, monster kills, monster dies. Like Frankenstein, Chaney’s character asks for compassion, forced to murder and then sentenced to death. The courts choose the electric chair despite knowing Chaney’s resistance, and that goes as well as expected, setting up the small scale rampage.

In a prophetic finish, Atwill’s notes are discovered. Handed to a journalist (Frank Albertson), he dreams of the Pulitzer. Then he’s reasoned with. The notes end up in a lit fireplace, ensuring no one can use those tactics on anyone else. Even in the pre-Hiroshima/Nagasaki period, Man Made Monster speaks with anxiety toward such possibilities. That’s sobering, and likely with more an ear toward German trials, as America had yet to enter the war.


A so-so Blu-ray debut for Man Made Monster, lacking the firmness of a modern, high-res scan. Grain shows a thickness typical of transfers made for DVD rather than Blu-ray, although Scream/Shout Factory’s encode does enough to keep things natural (minimal banding aside).

From the scratch & dent section, damage spreads across the print. Specks appear along with various marks. It’s probably time to restore this one in full, even if the faults feel appropriate for the period. No detail is lost, and there’s fidelity gain over previous discs.

The winner though is contrast, stellar in producing shadows. A final monologue by Atwill casts flawless, focused light onto his face. Pure black and pure white reach their peaks here, without clipping or crush. All of Man Made Monster sustains this depth.


The small undercurrent of static signals the aging evident in this DTS-HD track. That’s okay as purity is held, especially with the score, an important one since these cues were recycled frequently in the ‘40s. The violin section even digs into the low-end.

Sharp dialog brings a small, light hollowness. That’s standard, but pure.


The always great Tom Weaver adds a commentary, his time split with Constantine Nasr who recently discovered new materials on Man Made Monster. A short image gallery follows.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Man Made Monster
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Lon Chaney Jr.’s stint as an electrically-imbued mutation in Man Made Monster follows the Universal formula, but with updates for a contemporary time.

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