HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER
How to Make a Monster is a fairly routine monster movie. You could almost imagine it having been made as a postmodern horror film of the 1990s a la Scream (1996). A director like Joe Dante who makes genre films that constantly refer to other films with the likes of The Howling (1980), Explorers (1985), Matinee (1993) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) or screenwriter Kevin Williamson of Scream and The Faculty (1998) fame would have had a field day with the material. Indeed, How to Make a Monster is a modern in-referential horror movie well before such ever existed. It makes reference to other Herman Cohen films like I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, and even mentions how they are making what would be Cohens next picture Horrors of the Black Museum. The film also shoots on the AIP backlot and refers to the company by name. In the temple at the end, we see creature makeups from other AIP films such as It Conquered the World (1956), The She-Creature (1956) and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957). In some ways, How to Make a Monster looks forward to a film like Wes Cravens New Nightmare (1994), which follows on from a series of horror films but plays a game that they were just movies while it is set in the real world.
The idea of a makeup man as a mad scientist creating monsters out of the makeups he has created for movies is one rich in potential metaphor, even if How to Make a Monster is too prosaic to ever tap into this. There are certainly many points of connection with mad scientist cinema mind control, monsters being created and, of course, the laboratory going up in flames at the end although, as mad scientists go, Robert H. Harris is unusually sympathetic. He seems only an ordinary guy rather than especially deranged. The basic premise does become stretched with Harris having to create a new monster makeup every time he needs to kill another victim. How to Make a Monster holds a considerable affection for horror movies. Robert H. Harriss makeup artist has several lines expressing the psychological harmlessness and necessity of horror movies.
Unfortunately, How to Make a Monster is a film where the basic idea is more interesting than any of the delivery. Herbert L. Strock, the director of Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula, had a technical competence but is pedestrian the film comes with no surprises or tension. It does turn from black-and-white to colour in the last ten minutes during the scenes in the temple.
The film was later remade as How to Make a Monster (2001) as part of the Creature Features package of cable tv movies, which used the titles of old AIP films to make modern films. However, this version was about an amok AI motion capture suit and has nothing at all to do with this film beyond the title.
Director Herbert L. Strock made a number of Herman Cohens other films including I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957) and Blood of Dracula (1957). Strock also made a number of other low-budget genre films including Gog (1954), The Devils Messenger (1962), The Crawling Hand (1963) and uncredited work on Monster (1979).
Full film available online here:-