The Monster Walks
Year of Release: 1932
Also Known As: The Monster Walked
Running Time: 63 minutes (1:03)
Director: Frank R. Strayer
Rex Lease ... Dr. Ted Clayton
Vera Reynolds ... Ruth Earlton
Sheldon Lewis ... Robert Earlton
Mischa Auer ... Hanns Krug
Martha Mattox ... Mrs. Emma 'Tanty' Krug
Sidney Bracey ... Herbert Wilkes
Willie Best ... Exodus
Ruth Earlton and her fiance Dr. Ted Carver arrive at her old family home, joining her uncle Robert for the reading of her late father's will. Ruth remembers old fears when she discovers an ape, the subject of her father's medical experiments is still alive in the basement.
The Monster Walks, remindin' us that stranglin' your porque wrench ain't the only thing that'll lead to a serious need for palm electrolysis. Yeesh, this Hanns guy in the movie's goin' all Hairy and the Handersons on us ain't he? Cept he only gets the metacarpal mullet just before he's about to strangle unconscious women so it's kinda confusin'. For those of you that might not know, this kinda situation is what scientists call a "transient effect", which basically means that it's a phenomenon that happens purely at random an has no place to live once it's done showin' off. So essentially, this guy develops male patternless baldness, cause you never can tell when his palms're gonna look like Lon Cheney's an so there's no way to set up some kinda experiment to test what really causes 'em to sprout/lose hair. These kinds of situations crop up all over the world an sometimes there's just no gettin' to the bottom of it. For instance, this one time when I'd stopped by the Land of the Rising Son tabernacle over in the Japanese district to repent for some sins that I didn't particularly want Reverend Dollarhide to find out about (like everybody's just supposed to know that the whole "through Jesus all things are possible" thing doesn't extend to usin' your J-man dashboard bobble-head doll to try willin' officer Prudence Jigglesworth to go out with you an waive the fine for lettin' your muffler drag on the asphalt so bad that all the neighborhood kids gather 'round when you leave the house to enjoy the fireworks display).
But anyway, I went into the confessional to get that incident off my conscience, only to find the preacher wasn't answerin' after I'd knocked, even though I could hear this sound like somebody on the other side was stirrin' macaroni an cheese with a wooden spoon. So I figured what the heck, I'll just go over the guy's head an apologize directly to the big guy, only while I'm tellin' 'im about what happened an how I was misled this noise's gettin' faster an louder an pretty quick the walls started shakin' like Kim Jong Un's chins in a vibratin' recliner, which I interpret to mean that I'm forgiven an that I needa get the heck outta there cause I'm takin' up too mucha God's time. But on my way out I notice this gal that everybody in the congregation calls "the organist" (even though she can't so much as play Chopsticks on it), step outta the other side of the confessional lookin'/walkin' like she'd been in a laundromat dryer for about 20 minutes before headin' out the back door. So then I got kinda interested in checkin' in periodically to try figurin' out what in the name of Leviticus' logicless list of ludicrously loathsome laws was goin' on over there but there was no rhyme or reason as to when it'd happen an when it wouldn't, or what exactly you'd hear on the other side of the confessional. I'm certain I distinctly heard; in addition to the mac 'n cheese noise, what I'm pretty sure was an electric razor, extremely enthusiastic applause, an somethin' that sounded like somebody peelin' one of those dolls with suction cups offa the back of a car window. Of course, I tell people about this an they just kinda roll their eyes an act like I'm some kinda moron an so this's sorta stonewalled my investigation for the time bein', but I'll get to the bottom of this even if I have to infiltrate the "Let Jesus In" gospel choir to do it.
But gettin' back to the flick, The Monster Walks is one of those moldy oldies from back when people were still scared of apes on account of how much they look like us an're able to sling sphincter sludge at will, so I figured it might be a good idea to go over a few of the things I learned about monkeys before this brief sub-genre in horror history gets its head out of its ass an starts makin' its ape movies comedic. First, old guys aren't shy about showin' off their monkey. So be sure to brace yourself, cause sometimes the little guys get a tad bit spirited an try pokin' you in the eye. Second, large monkeys love human women, an will do everything in their power to impress an woo them. A small monkey, on the other hand, tends to resent and hate women, an may occasionally rise to power an go on a rampage of dictator displacement an reproductive rights annihilation. An third, a monkey can only take so much abuse before it snaps. But if I can be serious for a minute, an I don't wanna hear any jokes about savin' the whales or the spotted owl or any of that crap neither, I feel that after havin' watched this one, we've really gotta cut it out with our cruel an inhumane treatment of animals, particularly our closest relatives. I mean, did the people who made this thing have any idea what they were doin' to this cute little guy's career? There's no way he ever worked again after gettin' the stink of The Monster Walks permanently embedded in his fur, we're talkin' Bog of Eternal Stench here. This is exactly the kinda mistreatment that caused Roddy McDowall to rebel an trounce our Armani suit wearin' hinies in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. An I dunno about the rest of you, but I'd say the poor little monkey that got shanghaied into this one deserves to have this title postchimpously expunged from his resume so his family can regain their self-respect an personal dignity. Do you have any idea what it must be like to be walkin' around the primate house in the San Diego Zoo an have some old chimpanzee codger come saunterin' up to you an ask if you're really the grandbaby of ole Bombo from The Monster Walks? That's pretty much the end of you, cause within six hours the whole troop knows an everybody suddenly starts Macaquelin' atchu like a witch with a German kid in the oven an any dignity you may've had up to that point is completely destroyed, leavin' you permanently on the bottom of the dog pile in the barrel fulla monkeys we call life. So lets all try doin' our part to end this cruel an unusual punishment against our furry brethren, at least this way they might show some mercy when they take over an lock us up with Linda Harrison. Actually, that don't sound that bad at all... forget everything I just said.
The movie begins with Nana Von Braun (Mrs. Krug) an this dude who looks like Bill Nye the Science Guy (Mr. Wilkes) inspectin' a body under a sheet to see if the cracker they wedged between its butt cheeks'll snap when rigor mortis sets in til Nana gives Bill this look like if he don't get the heck outta there an let 'er dust she's gonna hafta go Aunt Jemaimya on his keister. But about that time Bitey Joe Young (the deceased's pet chimpanzee) starts screamin' like Universal just pitched a versus movie with King Kong to his agent an Bill gets this look on his face like he's about to go all Charlton Heston an start screamin' about how the place is a mad house. Elsewhere, this old cripple (Robert) asks the help (Hanns) what the heck Bubbles' problem is an Hanns explains that he's been P.O.'d ever since he found out his owner died an that Michael Jackson was the highest bidder on 'im durin' the estate sale. Then Bill comes downstairs an tells Rob he wants to see his monkey an fortunately Rob's crippled enough that he can't get his pants off an so Hanns takes Bill downstairs to look at Cheeta who's happy as a clam an jumpin' around his cage like Kris Kross in a bounce house. But Hanns explains that he's just tryin' to mask his sorrow over the recent death of his mate as result of one of the previous owner's experiments an that he really is a menace to society an not just a lovable furball an cites the departure of the corpse's daughter as proof. So once they get done gawkin' at the monkey they go back upstairs an Rob tells Nana to fix up a room for Ruth (the dead man's daughter) an Bill cause somebody musta started whinin' to God about missin' the rains down in Africa an now it's pourin' like a bartender durin' happy hour. Then Ruth shows up an blubbers on Rob's suit a little bit an introduces Dr. Ted Clayton, her fiance who makes 'er introduce 'im as Dr. Clayton cause it makes 'im feel like a big shot. Meanwhile, Hanns is outside with the chauffeur (Exodus) who asks 'im why they've got Sam Kinison locked up in the house an what they did to get 'im so P.O.'d an once Hanns explains what's really goin' on the guy tells 'im to carry his own damn bags an that he ain't goin' in there unless Gorilla Monsoon settles down. Back inside, Ruth scopes out the corpse an tells Nana she's got the willies like nobody's business an Nana promises to tuck 'er in an read 'er some Boxcar Children so she won't hafta change the sheets in the mornin'. But once the family leaves the room, Hanns tells Nana he wants to "tell them" about some secret an she tells 'im to wait til the readin' of the will is over so he don't spoil all the fun of listenin' to the final wishes of a dead man. Then Ted goes outside an tells Exodus to quit bein' such a tar baby an get his backside into the house an promises to use his white man pull to get Rob to overlook his social standin' an let 'im sleep way down at the other end of the house so the neighbors won't get any funny ideas.
So once that's settled, they head back inside an Bill blows through the will in about 18 seconds since it basically just says that Ruth gets everything an that if the servants wanna keep workin' there for minimum wage until they kick the bucket that's fine with the dead guy, though if somethin' was to happen to Ruth, his brother, Robert, gets to be the one to fritter away his fortune on bar floozies an opium. Hanns is P.O.'d, an now he really wants to spill the beans about whatever it is he knows, only Nana won't let 'im cause she's too old go back to workin' in the Kaiser's munitions factory. Then Rob whines at Hanns til he carries 'im up to his room an once he gets 'im alone Hanns asks 'im why he's too chickenshit to tell Ruth what he really thinks of 'er an Rob gets about a half an inch offa his armchair before rememberin' his legs're about as reliable as a Wikipedia entry after a U.S. congressman gets through with it. A little while later, Ruth starts absorbin' the overall excitement level of the audience an decides to hit the sack like mosta the people watchin' at this point, cept then Ted comes into 'er room an she tells 'im she's sure somethin' awful's gonna happen an Ted gets this look on his face like maybe this is her way of tellin' 'im she's pregnant til he remembers she won't let 'im touch 'er an proceeds to promise that she's completely safe so long as he an his masculine smoking jacket have anything to say about it. But round about midnight Ruth's in bed slobberin' all over 'er pillowcase like Cujo eyeballin' a side of baby back ribs til Chewbacca starts reachin' for 'er jugular through the secret crawl space behind 'er headboard where she used to hide 'er boyfriends after 'er Dad'd start poundin' on the door wantin' to know why she always chose 2am to talk to God an why she couldn't just use 'er inner monologue to do it like everybody else. Unfortunately, she wakes up before Chewy can get the rear nekkid choke on 'er an so she starts screamin' like Ted saw 'er ankle before they were married an after he hauls buns over there she demands to leave cause she's afraid Hugh Jackman's hidin' in the wall. Everybody assumes that Cheeta musta busted out of his cage an gone all Makilla Gorilla, so Rob sends Hanns an Bill down to check the cage which's still sealed up tighter'n Nana's sphincter while Exodus's upstairs tryin' to figure out why all the crazy white people won't let a brother sleep til he gets his foot caught in the dentition of a bear skin rug an starts beggin' Jesus not to let 'im die in this stuffy old mansion at the hands of Donkey Kong. Course, about that time Bill an Hanns come back upstairs an find Exodus an tell 'im to get his hiney offa the floor an back over to the promised land before they revoke his manna rations an head back up to Rob's room where they explain that the Crass Monkey's still in his cage.
So once Ruth apologizes for bein' an ignorant hysterical female, Nana says she'll stay with 'er so she'll quit wakin' up claimin' to have seen that thing that Shatner kept seein' on the wing of the plane in that Twilight Zone episode, while Bill an Ted go downstairs to see if they can't figure out why their excellent adventure's gettin' so god damned complicated. Only once they get downstairs, Ted notices the cigar that Bill was supposed to be smokin' at the time of the alleged Wookie maulin' has been sucked on about as much as he has after no less than TWO YEARS of engagement to Ruth, an so he hasta interrogate Bill for awhile an thoughtfully rub his chin til he gives 'imself a chindian burn. Then they both go lookin' for Hanns an find 'im playin' Lullaby on his violin cause apparently it wasn't already hard enough for the audience to stay awake, an after they bust in an demand to know if there're any secret passages near Rafiki's cage, Hanns tells 'em that the house has more bolted up entry ways than a nunnery an that there's no way the Legend of Sloggy Creek coulda gotten up to Ruth's room. Course, Ted's still got this look on his face like he's noticed about a half dozen rat traps under the counter at a hot dog stand an so he starts askin' Bill how long Rob's been eligible to join the local murderball squad an Bill tells 'im it's been long enough that if he were fakin' it his legs woulda atrophied to the point that he wouldn't be fakin' it no more. Meanwhile, Nana's fallen asleep at the switch up in Ruth's room, an pretty quick Ludo starts reachin' through the passageway again an ends up stranglin' Nana to death cause she don't wanna make a big fuss about dyin' while Ruth's tryin' to read. Eventually, Ruth finally realizes Nana's gone to the big Oktoberfest in the sky an backs out into the hallway where Ted finds 'er an runs back into the bedroom to get the time of death on Nana. So Ted determines that the assassin can't tell a sour old Kraut whose waddle's danglin' down so far she hasta tuck it into 'er bra from a supple young American an that it musta been a screw up. Then Rob starts ringin' his jingly cat toy an everybody goes into his room an the moment he sees Ruth he gets this look on his face like he went to sit down on the crapper in the dark an realized too late that the seat was up. Ted decides not to tell Rob about Nana since he won't possibly figure it out on his own after a couple weeks of not gettin' his sponge bath an while everybody else heads downstairs, Hanns peeks into Ruth's room an sees Nana (his mama) layin' there purpler'n a coupla boobs in a bondage outfit an starts blubberin' like he's wishin' everybody'd just leave Britney alone. But before too long he pulls 'imself together an by now he's real P.O.'d about this recent development an heads for Rob's room with his stranglin' arms outstretched to either side lookin' like he's carryin' an imaginary keg under each of 'em. Gonna end your suffering here, though this one's in the public domain and can be viewed on Youtube.
Alright, well, as old as this one is, you can usually assume that a title from this era that claims to be horror is probably just a who dunnit that adds one of a few touches to up the ante slightly, things like a slightly higher body count, blood that actually makes it onto the screen, or a monster. This one doesn't really do any of those things, so I dunno why it's classified as a horror title, other than the presence of the chimpanzee. It's rather amusing to think, now, that a standard sized primate, without some kind of behavioral/genetic modification could ever be perceived as threatening enough to even approach something akin to a monster, but back in those days it was a "monster" that got a surprising amount of mileage. Most of that comes from the fact that the gorilla had only been known to science for about 30 years at that point, and the notion of evolution was scoffed at even harder than it is today, if you can believe that. So with an animal of this seemingly fearsome nature, and an audience not yet ready to accept the fact that we're their descendants, it makes for a fairly decent "monster," and has the added bonus of being a real animal. You can also imagine that at the time, there weren't as many zoos, and certainly not as many that had primates, so people hadn't become so accustomed to them by that point and were still able to view them as intimidating and potentially dangerous. But these days, a movie like this one that portrays a standard sized, biologically normal ape as a villain or evil creature is laughable. Even if it is just a red herring. And really, it wasn't even all that long after this movie had been released that people, for the most part, got over their fear of the great apes. Heck, by 1949 even the giant ape, Mighty Joe Young, was written as a sympathetic character. So in that regard, these "horror" flicks that utilize apes as monsters stand up worse than just about any other horror gimmick of the era. The other big problem I've got with it is that it drags worse'n the tailpipe on my Mercury Topaz, and it's got very little atmosphere to help keep it interesting. I especially liked where they were tryin' to sell the idea that there was a terrible storm outside, despite the fact that there were about three scenes outdoors with nary a drop of rain. Which is made all the more embarrassing when one of the characters tells another that they "can't walk to the village in this storm", as they stand around completely dry, without so much as a leaf blowing by in the background. Something else that didn't particularly impress me, though I suppose it's probably typical of the time, is the black character (Exodus) who's there entirely for comic relief. Which in and of itself is fine, cept that all the comedy is at his expense, as his part is written to be that of a complete dolt and a coward. It comes off as deliberately racist, mostly because the character has no real purpose to be in the movie. So you can imagine then, that somebody went out of their way to add this character, just to humiliate him for cheap laughs, which is pitiful regardless of their skin color, and rather mean-spirited.
Okay then, lets anally evacuate this turd an sling it against the wall to see how much of it sticks. The plot is tired even for 1932, and plays out as more of a murder mystery than any horror flick, and comes complete with its share of cliches from the time period, including; the old dark house, a storm outside, the reading of a will, an extremely obvious motive for anybody who might want to bump off the heir(s), the red herring plastered in your face right outta the chute, and of course, the pompous jackass who takes it upon himself to unravel the mystery. This kinda plotline just doesn't do anything for me, be it 1932 or 2014. The acting isn't too bad, although there's only one performance that stands out and really adds something to the movie. That would be Mischa Auer, as the creepy, Lurch-like Hanns who kinda resembles Kramer from Seinfeld. Auer brings to the movie a genuine sense of menace and discomfort that no other aspect of the movie even comes close to bringing. Otherwise, pretty underwhelming. Here's who matters and why: Rex Lease (Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, Calling Dr. Death, The Mummy's Tomb), Sheldon Lewis (The Phantom, Seven Footprints to Satan, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1920), Mischa Auer (Condemned to Live, Murder at Dawn), Martha Mattox (Murder by the Clock, Murder at Dawn), Sidney Bracey (The Monkey's Paw 1933, Freaks). Any normal people out there that enjoy classic cinema might recognize Mischa Auer as Kolenkhov from You Can't Take it With You, as well as Carlo in My Man Godfrey. Generally speaking though, the acting needed to contribute a lot to compensate for a pretty boring plot, and it doesn't deliver. The special effects... yeah, you probably know by now, the movie's from 1932, and doesn't have any. Well, that's not true, there is the hairy Chewbacca arm that's stranglin' people, which is fair for the time. Neither good or bad, just fair. Otherwise, there aren't any special effects to speak of. The shooting location is pretty weak, even beside the fact that when you've seen one old dark house, you've seen them all. And this one really doesn't even hold up as a spooky old house, it's just a large house. Nothing really creepy to speak of, so that's another big flopola for the movie's point total. The soundtrack, such as it is, plays for a grand total of maybe 40 seconds, and only over the opening and closing credits. It's not horror themed, nor is it in any way atmospheric or appropriate for the content; though silly, short little tracks like this show up frequently in these old films, particularly over the opening credits, so it's not exactly unusual. I suppose there are the two scenes where Mischa Auer is playing "Lullaby" on the violin, though it doesn't add anything. As is often the case for movies of this era, it relies more upon sound effects than an actual soundtrack, but it falls pretty flat on that front as well, since the only real sound effects are the thunder outside and the monkey's incessant caterwauling. Overall, when you make a movie that feels like it drags on and on, but only clocks in at 63 minutes, you've done numerous things very wrong. Serious snooze fest, which I recommend to no one.