How to Make a Monster (1958)

How to Make a Monster (1958)

See the Ghastly Ghouls in Flaming Color!

Acclaimed monster make-up man Pete Dumond has worked for American International Film Studios for years and loves creating new monsters to scare people. But he is soon sacked when new bosses take over and tell him that they are not making any more monster movies, focusing on musicals instead. Pete decides to extract his revenge using the very monsters they have condemned to the scrapheap.


I first saw the‘re-imagined’ version of How to Make a Monster as part of a modernised collection of some of Samuel Z. Arkoff’s most famous B-movies. Despite not being great, it made me want to go back and check out the original films to compare the two. This was the first of those films I decided to check out and to date, the last one! The similarities between the two end in title only. Surely a case of a story which sounds better on paper than it does in execution, How to Make a Monster is a cult film but one which is hardly exciting or entertaining.

What we have here is clearly a story that was conceived and made whilst other films were being filmed. Saving on sets, props and even actors it seems, How To Make a Monster contains so many things ‘borrowed’ from other films it almost becomes a ‘guess the film’ piece where you have to name the film from where the items have been taken. Spot one of the aliens from Invasion of the Saucer Men. Or the creature from It Conquered the World. I can understand the logic behind it – Hammer used to do it in the UK and shoot two films back-to-back using the same sets and principally featuring the same actors. Financially it makes perfect sense. But from a critical point of view, it gets annoying to the point where you wonder how many more references they’re go throw towards their films and whether or not this is just a long plug for some of their more famous work.

How To Make a Monster is pretty rubbish. It’s got a feeble running time of seventy three minutes which means that the film is over almost as soon as it gets going. Not a great deal happens in that time and, although the idea of Pete’s creations killing people off is novel, you have to remember that in reality it’s just a couple of hypnotized teenage actors wearing his masks strangling people. The monsters don’t come to life or anything. They don’t go on a bloody rampage. It’s all very low key and very dull. This is what I mean about the story sounding better on paper than in reality. A couple of murderous teenagers with cheap Halloween masks on does little to scare the viewer.

Robert R. Harris is good as Pete Dumond but his sudden transformation from mild-mannered make-up artists to a snarling, devious psychopath is a bit unbelievable and it spoils the final act in the film. You never buy this character change for a second. There are a lot of unnecessary characters floating around the film too and the police investigations are pointless – it wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to spot the link between a disgruntled ex-employee and murdered old bosses. Another point is that around an hour into the film, it suddenly bursts into glorious Technicolour! There seems to be no point to this whatsoever except to sell a few more tickets with colour stills from the film gracing the promotional posters.


How to Make a Monster is pretty poo but given that it was 1958 and garbage like this sold seats back then, I can tolerate it to a certain degree. Almost.





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