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The Monster Walks

Series info on UEN-TV

Frank R. Strayer directed more than 80 films including a handful of horror titles such as "The Monster Walks" (1932), which falls squarely into "The Big Old House" category of scary movies. Big Old House movies feature a collection of folks holed up in—you guessed it—a big old house during a storm. There's always a murder and, quite often, a will to be read or some other communication from an absent (in this case, dead) character.

"The Monster Walks" fulfills these criteria while providing today's audience the delights of unintentional comedy. A scientist has died suddenly (we're told this a number of times). His daughter, Ruth, her fiancé and their chauffer, Exodus, have arrived at the house to join Vera's paralyzed uncle, the housekeeper, the housekeeper's creepy son Hanns and Yogi, a crazed chimpanzee. A fiendish plot to liberate Ruth of her sizeable inheritance via murder by chimpanzee ensues, but it isn't just the whacky storyline that makes this movie fun: it's the somber, even lugubrious delivery of the actors punctuated by random chimpanzee shrieks that sends it over the top.

Willie Best plays Exodus, the chauffer, whose role seems intended to inject the film with comic relief. Best appeared in more than 100 films in the 1930s and 1940s, and was sometimes credited as Sleep-N-Eat if he was credited at all. The pseudonym testifies to the racism that limited the actor and singer-songwriter's opportunities to demonstrate his talent in Hollywood. Confined to playing butlers, porters and other servants, he sought to bring as much depth as he could to his roles. In a 1934 interview, he said, "Most of [these roles] are pretty broad. Sometimes I tell the director and he cuts out the real bad parts. But what's an actor going to do? Either you do it or get out."

The Science

Kalyn MacKenzie and Brad Parkin

Kalyn MacKenzie and Brad ParkinKalyn MacKenzie and Brad Parkin of Utah's Hogle Zoo discuss primate behavior and the film “The Monster Walks.”

More Science to go with the Show

Related Resources

Utah's Hogle Zoo

School of Biological Sciences - University of Utah

Careers in Zoology

Association of Zoos and Aquariums

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