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how to make a monster

Sequels are the bastard children of movies. Even on the rare occasion the second movie equals or surpasses the first in a series, there is always that one (or more) ‘last’ cash grabs to suck every cent out of an already desiccated corpse. It usually isn’t pretty, and often the willing suspension of disbelief has been pushed beyond the point of credulity. This effect is even more glaring with Psychotronic films, were the sequels appear to be more reactions to box office rather a plan of any kind.

That is why when I find a quality sequel I tend to treasure that movie. How to Make a Monster is the best kind of sequel. Original and self-sustaining, it can be removed and enjoyed apart from the series it continues.

Following the success of I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, AIP avoided the easy paths and gives us something, in context of the series, is unexpected. True, the plot could have been lifted from an old George Zucco or Bela Lugosi film, and there are the puzzling ‘bad decisions to move the plot’ which too many movies, Psychotronic or mainstream, rely on, but overall this is not just a good 50s horror movie, it is a good movie period.

This isn’t the shallow end of the pool, it is surprisingly deep. The dialogue comments on the studio system, media influence on kids, the power plays between all those involved in movie making and the cold heart driving personnel decisions in the movie business. The actors, especially the lead Robert H Harris, actually can project nuanced and subtle emotions. Yes, all these facets could have been developed more but then it wouldn’t be the joy it is. AIP knew what the kids wanted: instead of even more depth, we get a song from Attack of the the Eye Creatures’ John Ashley.

So how do you make a monster? There are so many in this movie, made in so many different ways. There doesn’t need to be a Wolfman or Frankenstein, the real scary monsters are in the mirror.

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