The Monster and the Girl (1941) starring George Zucco, Ellen Drew, Phillip Terry, Robert Paige, Paul Lukas
The Monster and the Girl is a very good “B” movie, well acted, with a cast that the audience cares about. It begins as a courtroom drama, only to pivot to a horror movie. It begins by telling the story of a small town girl named Susan Webster (Ellen Drew) who yearns for the sights and sounds of the big city. Over the objections of her protective brother, Scot (Phillip Terry). What Susan finds in New York isn’t what she bargained for, as she is romanced by smooth talking Larry Reid (Robert Paige) who’s intentions are not as sincere as they first seem.Going through a sham marriage to Larry, she is forced into a prostitution ring run by gangster W. S. Bruhl (Paul Lukas).
Rather a harsh setting for 1941, but things get worse for Susan. Scot tries to come to her rescue, stumbling onto the gangster’s headquarters just as the gangster removes “My favorite thorn in my side”. The man is shot just as he opens the door for Scot. Scot proceeds to pick up the murder weapon — leaving his prints on the gun. Scot’s soon framed for the murder, and sentenced to death, literally for a crime that he didn’t commit. And the story would end there, except for a strange spectator in the courtroom, Dr. Perry (George Zucco) — who visits the condemned man with a bizarre request …
Dr. Perry is the cliched mad scientist, who wants to take Scot’s brain, after the execution, and transplant it into the brain of a live gorilla, in order to confirm some bizarre evolutionary theory. Now, how transplanting a human brain into a gorilla would have anything to do with evolution is beyond silly, but it’s an ongoing excuse for mad science in the 1940’s … and gives the movie an excuse for letting Scot return from beyond the grave for revenge … and to protect his sister.
Scot Webster: [Screaming to Dr. Perry] You want my brain after I’m dead?
[He laughs hysterically]
Scot Webster: Help yourself, mister! Help yourself!
At first, Dr. Perry isn’t sure that his experiment worked, but one day a glint of intelligence shows in the gorilla’s eyes … and a murderous gorilla-fueled revenge is underway. Scot/Gorilla begins with the politically ambitious District Attorney, who convicted an honest man — and didn’t care that Scot might actually be innocent. And then, the gangsters. Along the way, Scot/Gorilla makes sure to protect his sister, who begins to suspect something …
And it needs to be mentioned, one of the things that most humanizes the murderous Scot/Gorilla is … his dog. Seriously. The dog is loyal to Scot before his transformation, and somehow senses his master after, and is truly loyal, kind … and heartbreaking. Anyone who has ever owned a dog will feel the emotional pull. And, in truth, the audience’s sympathy lies with the Scot/Gorilla, who isn’t madly killing random people, but people who have evaded — and deserve — the death penalty. Not that we agree with him, but we certainly understand his motivation. And his ongoing desire to protect his sister certainly strengthens the audiences’ bond with him. In short, in The Girl and the Monster, it’s up to the audience to decide who the monster truly is …
Trivia for The Girl and the Monster
- Originally titled D.O.A. This was later the title of a successful film noir about a “dead” man solving his own murder
- Bud Jamison, a regular with the Three Stooges, has a cameo appearance as Jim, the doorman at the hotel