The Monster Walks
the monster walks | frank r. strayer | robert ellis | mischa auer | martha mattox | rex lease | old dark house | ape | mystery | based on | united states | vera reynolds | sheldon lewis | sidney bracey | willie best | short story
Film: The Monster Walks
Director: Frank R. Strayer
Writer: Robert Ellis
Starring: Mischa Auer, Martha Mattox and Rex Lease
This is a movie that I never heard of until looking through Letterboxd for ones that were released in 1932. I’ll be honest, this was the next one on the list I’m working through which is why I watched it. I didn’t look anything up in this until sitting down for this view. Something else was that I didn’t recognize anyone from the cast, aside from Sheldon Lewis.
The synopsis is: people in an old dark house on a stormy night are menaced by a killer ape.
I did see that synopsis ahead of the movie starting. Seeing that this was falling into that odd subgenre of this era where we had killer apes intrigued me. This movie is an ‘Old Dark House’ film as well. We are in the house that belongs to the Earltons. The father has passed away. At the house is his brother, Robert (Lewis), who is paralyzed from the waist down. The staff that took care of the place is Mrs. Krug (Martha Mattox) and her son Hanns (Mischa Auer). There is also Herbert Wilkes (Sidney Bracey) who is a lawyer and the executor of the will. They cannot read it until Ruth arrives.
There is a storm approaching, which causes Wilkes to stay the night. Ruth (Vera Reynolds) shows up with her boyfriend, Ted Clayton (Rex Lease). They also come with Exodus (Willie Best) who is the valet for the couple.
Backstory to events leading up to this point is that Ruth fled due to the ape that her father had. This animal’s name is Yogi. It seemed to be jealous of her and would scare the young woman. The ape was to be disposed of, but that wasn’t the case. Hanns takes care of it. Learning that the ape is still there, Ruth’s fears return. She asks Ted to stay the night, not wanting to be left alone. He doesn’t think he should, as it is a family matter. His mind is changed and room is made up.
After the will is read, there are some upset individuals here. Everyone goes to bed and we learn there are secret passages. They were supposed to be locked up, but we see a beastly arm come through a hole in a wall, trying to attack Ruth. There are also peepholes behind pictures. Ted tries to get to the bottom of what is happening. There are secrets that will come to light and there are individuals harboring hatred. It also seems that despite Yogi being locked up, is this creature able to get free and stalk Ruth?
That is where I’ll leave my recap as well as introducing the characters. When I was settling in to write this, I saw that Robert Ellis is credited with the story and the adaptation. It makes me believe this started as a short story or something along these lines. Going from there, this movie is taking two subgenres that were popular in this era. We are mixing the ‘Old Dark House’ with the ape film. I was wondering how this would mesh. I should also include that also becomes a murder mystery as well.
Where I’ll go from there would be the set-up. The movie does well in giving us information we need for each character. I also like the subtle information that is introduced as well. Mrs. Krug tells Hanns to not reveal something that he knows. If he does, it could get them kicked out of the house. Robert has a secret as does Wilkes. This made me wonder who the villain could be here. They also include the ape. We learn there is a history where Yogi dislikes Ruth and feels jealousy. I will be honest though; I did guess who was behind this. There was more to it, so I will give credit for that. There isn’t a lot to the story. It is also early into cinema so there is that. As a heads up, it runs 59 minutes so there is that.
There isn’t anything else I need to flesh out with the story so I’ll go over to the acting. Auer is solid as Hanns. We learn early on that he has a secret that he wants to reveal. He is a bit of a hot head which I think portrays well. Mattox was good as his mother who tries to keep Hanns in check. Lease is good as our lead who tries to solve the mystery. I like that he investigates things and works them out logically. Reynolds is fine as Ruth. I did like Lewis as Robert and Bracey works as Wilkes. They both seem to be hiding things as well, which helps build the mystery. Someone I haven’t brought up is Best. I like him as an actor as I think he is funny. He is in this movie as comic relief. I don’t like that he is a caricature that the movie doesn’t take seriously. That is more of the times though.
The last things to go into would be the filmmaking aspects. I like the setting. I’m just a fan of the ‘Old Dark House’ films with secret passages and stuff. Going from there, I would say that the cinematography is fine. It is stationary. They don’t do anything that we haven’t seen before, even for the era. We don’t get a lot in the way of effects. I was glad to see they had an actual ape. From the quick shots of it, it did look to be a chimpanzee. I was waiting for a guy in a suit, but that is not the case. Other than that, the soundtrack was fine without standing out as well.
In conclusion, this movie is fine for what it does. I will give credit to combining the ‘Old Dark House’ with the ape film and the murder mystery. The acting is fine. They fit the characters without necessarily standing out. I didn’t fully guess the reveal, which I give credit to the movie for. The setting is good. The cinematography is fine, much like the soundtrack. After this viewing, it is over average for me. It just lacks elements for me to go higher than what I’ve given credit for.
My Rating: 6 out of 10