Retro Review: ‘The Monster and the Girl’
There have been many emotional and action-packed films of a wronged antihero seeking vengeance for an injustice they suffered. The 1941 crime/horror thriller the Monster and the Girl, takes this familiar plot into a bold direction by putting the brain of their protagonist into the body of a gorilla. This is one of those films you find hard to believe actually exists until you watch it and find that it is far more entertaining than you could imagine. Those who have read my past Retro Reviews know I love silly fun movies, and the Monster and the Girl is one of the silliest and most fun movies I have ever come across.
Scot Webster wants nothing more than to save sister, Susan from her life as an implied prostitute for a powerful crime boss. For his troubles, Scot is framed for murder and given the death penalty. Enter Dr. Parry, played by B-movie staple George Zucco, who once Scot is dead, removes the man’s brain and places it into the body of a gorilla. Now with his cute dog sidekick, Scot/gorilla sets out to have his murderous revenge on the criminals who took everything away from him and rescue his sister from the mob’s machinations.
For a B flick with no budget, director Stuart Heisler should absolutely be applauded for the ambition with which he tackled this project. He handles this movie with a seriousness which is both unexpected and welcome. Undoubtedly confined to a few sets on the Paramount backlot, he truly uses all his meager resources to their full extent. The killer gorilla of the flick, climbs and clambers over everything truly giving the immersive feeling of a city even though everything is taking place on a tiny set. All of it is shot in a great moody and atmospheric style. Even though the threats come in the form of two-bit gangsters and a killer gorilla, there is a palpable sense of suspense in the Monster and the Girl. The cast delivers performances far superior than one would expect for a movie such as this. The exception being Phillip Terry as Scot, but considering he is offed and replaced with a man in an ape suit fairly quickly, it is not that huge of an obstacle.
To say this is a unique film is a bit of an understatement, but therein lies the joy of it all. It may be a low budget sci-fi/crime thriller, but the Monster and the Girl is a strange and wonderful film. Whenever you think the movie has reached a new level of weirdness something new is thrown into the fray. However there is a certain endearing quality to it all. If you love B-movies or weird cinema in general, the Monster and the Girl is a film well worth seeking out.