The Lady and the Monster

The Lady and the Monster ★★½
Vintage Horrors in a desert setting

This film is the first stab at adapting Curt Siodmak's Donovan's Brain to the Silver Screen. The results were mixed but it will not be without interest to some.

The impressionistic photography is commendable and the sets were relatively lavish for a Republic Studios film. The windswept castle in the desert is novel and a treat for the eyes. Grand character actor/director Erich von Stroheim is featured as the story's antagonist and Richard Arlen (Island of Lost Souls) and Vera Ralston are the love interests. It should have been better than it is but then again, considering Republic Studio's spotty record upon entering the horror market in the 1940s, this is not the worst of their output.

Viewer displeasure over the years has often centered on Vera Ralston's performance. Though this thought may have merit, her role was poorly written and her character lacks agency. She is just a pretty girl to be rescued. Besides Stroheim, the characters in the story lack color and flavor. There is just not anyone to really identify with.

Ralston was a Czech figure skater in the 1930s who immigrated to America in the wake of WW II. Her English was never strong but some fans have discounted her because she was the lover (and later wife) of Republic studio head Herbert Yates. Yates was eventually forced out of his role by stockholders who claimed that her 20 films at Republic were unprofitable vanity projects pushed by Yates (allegedly 18 of them lost money). Ralston is not a good actor but she is certainly not the first pretty girl sponsored by a smitten older Hollywood figure to failed stardom. (Think Howard Hughes).

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