A wealthy recluse becomes a quadriplegic after three doctors botch a surgery. The crippled millionaire invites the doctors to his house for a demonstration of an Indian mystic’s power of mental materialization. The doctors get bumped off one by one in the night and the police are called in to investigate. While the detectives question the suspects, the hired help starts dropping like flies too. In the end, we learn that the old timer could walk around on “materialized legs” to murder his victims.
Night Monster is nothing more than a middling B movie murder/mystery whodunit, but since it’s a Universal production, the budget allowed for a slicker appearance and more atmosphere (love those foggy Universal backlot scenes) than you might expect. The movie earns points for progressive thinking as the role of the prominent psychiatrist is played by a woman, but ultimately the film is too muddled and features way too many supporting characters to be satisfying on a whole. The subplot about the millionaire’s sister being slowly driven insane goes nowhere and does nothing to advance the plot. And try not to piss yourself laughing when the Indian dude hopelessly tries to explain everything in the end.
Bela Lugosi may have received top billing, but this was just another throwaway butler role for him. He isn’t given a whole lot to do, but he makes the most out of his smallish part, which adds up to about ten minutes of screen time. Lionel (Son of Frankenstein) Atwill co-stars as a skeptical scientist, and like Lugosi is thoroughly wasted in a minuscule role. Director Ford Beebe also was behind the camera for Bela’s memorable serial, The Phantom Creeps.
The crusty cripple gets the movie’s best line when he says, “Nobody’s going to make a slaughterhouse out of my home and get away with it!”
AKA: House of Mystery.