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The Monster Maker

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The Monster MakerIn "The Monster Maker" (1944), a pianist's daughter catches the eye of a mad doctor, thanks to her resemblance to his late wife. In a misguided attempt to capture himself a new bride, the doc injects the pianist with the same serum he'd used on his wife when he'd caught her cheating—a monster-making concoction that induces acromegaly, a disease that causes physical disfiguration and often death.

The film was directed by Sam Newfield, a prolific filmmaker whose credits include "Dead Men Walk" (1943) and "The Black Raven" (1943), both UEN SciFi Friday features starring Bela Lugosi. Some critics have pointed out that the role of the evil Dr. Igor Markoff of "The Monster Maker" seems to have been written for Lugosi, and that J. Carrol Naish comes across as a Lugosi wannabe in this role. Regardless, it's worth mentioning that Naish himself had a substantial stage and film career, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor two times and won the 1943 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for "A Medal for Benny".

As you watch "The Monster Maker", you may want to consider these questions: Who is the real monster and what is the real monster maker? As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that mad Markoff is really an impersonator who has stolen the identity of his wife's lover—the man he murdered when the wife's disfigurement failed to cool the affair. Does this suggest that the real source of monstrosity in this film is the faux Markoff's jealousy and inability to appreciate that love is more than skin deep? Or is such inquiry reaching too far for meaning in a flick that depends on a killer gorilla for a climactic scene?

Dev Abraham
Endocrinologist Dev Abraham of the University of Utah discusses Acromegaly and the film “The Monster Maker.”

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