Foggy Comfort

Bela Lugosi greets visitors as they arrive to Kurt Ingston’s (Ralph Morgan) home. Or mansion. This is a Universal horror film, so smaller dwellings won’t do. They need to be surrounded by a persistently foggy swamp too. Night Monster gets that all correct.

Inside? Murders, of course. Weird doctoring too. Night Monster entered Universal’s lineage during World War II, bringing a tale of outside cultures to a morbid story. Ingston’s servant is Hindu and practices yoga, things too extreme for visiting doctors. The local constable is quick to place blame on this outsider who dares to belie western medicine.

It’s an extreme fantasy, seeing Swedish-born Nils Asther summon a bloody skeleton with yoga power. That’s enough to raise ire and suspicion when Night Monster begins to pile up corpses. That fear swells as this non-American defies science, an easy culprit.

Night Monster discovers an identity, and one beyond Lugosi’s forever exotic presence

Night Monster’s story involves creative ideas like bionic arms, long before sci-fi used them for futurist purposes. Ingston lives crippled, baffling doctors as he moves despite being paralyzed. It’s machinery, he says, an excuse readily believed by manufacturing-minded doctors. They never consider yoga legitimate, or a possibility.

To its credit, Night Monster doesn’t treat Asther as a villain (partial spoiler for this nearly 80-year old film, sorry). Rather, the misuse of such culture and techniques become evil, done so with fantastic shadows, cribbed library music, and suggestive (rather than gory) death scenes. For an otherwise stock Universal creepy house story, Night Monster discovers an identity, and one beyond Lugosi’s forever exotic presence; he’s but a background character.

Casting fills Night Monster with memorable parts, especially Robert Homans as an inspector tracking the killer through rooms. He accepts no backtalk, no excuses. He’s a mere step behind Basil Rathbone’s turn in Son of Frankenstein in terms of entertaining genre constables. Better still, Irene Harvey who overcomes a sexually aggressive Leif Erickson to stand on her own as the psychiatrist called to the house. It’s unusual in Universal’s horror line for a woman to avoid victimhood – or not faint.

The mystery sustains tension over the brief runtime. Swerves and potential suspects toy with the viewer, capable with enough lingering doubt. Add in those evocative horror elements and Night Monster admirably stands out from the studio’s b-tier wartime offerings.

Video

At times, Night Monster degrades, likely put together from surviving elements. A real around 23-minutes loses total luster, while notable flicker and occasional damage creep in too.

That said, the majority looks sublime. Scream Factory’s new scan captures grain, resolves it, and preserves Night Monster’s texture. Fidelity maintains consistency, holding up against natural softness at the source.

Superlative gray scale (again, aside from brief scenes where clipping occurs) keeps Night Monster firm. Key shadows reach spectacular black levels, helped by excellent contrast. The depth in this image betters many modern films, capable in dimensionality.

Audio

But one scene (around 53-minutes in) gives in to a tinny, harsh quality. That’s soon over. From there it’s pure vintage audio. Even the library score sounds superb. Dialog nicely settles, easily discerned and balanced against the natural aging.

If there’s a concern, that’s popping. There’s far too much, at times even loud and intrusive. Static is one thing, but this popping happens with notable frequency.

Extras

Gary D. Rhodes jumps in for commentary duties, laying out history and interesting critique. A trailer and image gallery follow.

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Night Monster
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Formed by Universal’s lineage, the old house murder mystery in Night Monster proves fun, capable, and entertaining.

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