The title of this set is slightly misleading and probably oversells the contents a little but this new three-disc release from Eureka, scrubbing up and repackaging three forgotten/lost genre titles from the 1940s and 1950s, is a very welcome addition to any classic sci-fi/horror fan’s physical media collection. Two of the three films here are Frankenstein/Dr Jekyll knock-offs depicting the perils of puny humans tampering with the forces of nature and evolution and the third – and best – delivers a clever and fascinating spin on the traditional ‘alien invasion’ story.
1941’s Man-Made Monster is horror legend Lon Chaney Jnr’s first full entry into the fantasy genre and it’s a hokily enjoyable tale of over-ambitious scientist Dr Paul Rigass (Lionel Atwill) pumping Chaney’s simple-minded Dan McCormack with so much electricity that he becomes little more than a zombie – Rigass dreams of creating an army of mindless zombiemen powered by electricity. Running for just 60 minutes, Man-Made Monster bounces along affably enough – the ‘glowing’ effect that depicts Dan’s condition is quite nicely realised – but the story runs out of steam when Dan gets tangled up in barbed wire and short circuits himself. 1958’s Monster on the Campus has some interesting, if slightly barmy, ideas; a palaeontology professor is infected by the blood of a dead coelacanth which turns him into a shirt-tearing werewolf monster. The film is one of the last fantasy films directed by Jack Arnold (Creature From the Lost Lagoon, Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man) and it’s clear that its heart is not really in it as this is a laboured, stagey, talky affair scuppered by a 'monster' that’s clearly a man in a ghastly ill-fitting gorilla mask. There are a couple of startling images though; one of the monster’s female victims is hung from her hair on a tree and a pursuing cop gets an axe to the head. Fun but forgettable. Best of the bunch by far is 1957’s eerie Monolith Monsters in which a very unusual threat – black rock brought to Earth on a meteorite that, when exposed to water, grows into great towering obelisks, which fall and shatter and reproduce themselves and petrify any humans unfortunate to cross their path. More intelligent and considered than many sci-fi cheapies from the era, The Monolith Monsters sees Mankind facing off not against irradiated insects or animals but something remorseless and faceless that demands more of humanity than the simple expedience of army firepower and dynamite. Terrific fun.
All three films look crisp and sharp on Blu-ray and they’re supported by informative, if competitive, commentaries by historians Kim Newman and Stephen Jones and Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby (Monolith Monsters) the usual trailers and stills galleries and souvenir booklet. Monolith Monsters apart, they may not be classic ‘tales of sci-fi terror’ but they’re all great fun and hugely entertaining and in an era of exhausting limb-numbing overlong blockbusters, a reminder of a time when Hollywood could knock out a decent adventure story in little more than an hour.
Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror Is out now on Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment!