Directed By: Walter Summers
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Hugh Williams, Greta Gynt
Tag line: "Based on 'The Dark Eyes Of London' By Edgar Wallace"
Trivia: The first film in Britain to receive the 'H' (for Horror) certificate
The Human Monster opens with two very potent images. The first is that of London Bridge, slightly concealed behind the transparent eyes of the film's star, Bela Lugosi. The second, a dead body floating face-down in the Thames, and while the appearance of the body sets the story in motion, it's Lugosi's eyes that reveal just how entertaining The Human Monster is going to be, with the noted actor delivering yet another charismatic performance.
Scotland Yard Detective Larry Holt (Hugh Williams) is assigned to investigate a serious of deaths that have occurred in London over the course of several weeks. At first glance, the deaths appear to be accidents, but when Holt discovers each of the deceased had recently been issued life insurance policies by a man named Orloff (Lugosi), who, as it turns out, was also the beneficiary of each policy, he suspects foul play. Holt's suspicions are further confirmed when a man named Stuart (Gerald Pring), also insured by Orloff, is found drowned, nothing in his pockets but a broken cufflink and a message written entirely in braille. With the help of a visiting American cop named O'Reilly (Edmon Ryan) and Stuart's only daughter (Greta Gynt), Holt hopes to put together a case strong enough to lock Orloff away for good.
In The Human Monster, Bela abandons his trademark black cape to play a fiend in a 3-piece suit, but the performance is still pure Legosi. Shortly after loaning Stuart a large sum of money, Orloff signs him to a sizable life insurance policy, with himself as the beneficiary. He then writes out an address for Stuart to visit the next evening, that of the Dearborn Home for the Blind, where Orloff supposedly spends a great deal of his 'charitable' time. He smiles while handing the address over, but Orloff's smile quickly disappears as he stares into the unsuspecting Stuart's eyes, hypnotizing him to ensure he shows up at the Dearborn Home the next day to meet his doom.
One gets the feeling that the monster of the title, as seen in the film's promotional materials, is Jake (Wulfred Walter), the blind manservant who assists Orloff at the Dearborn Home. Jake, whose hunched back, protruding teeth and large stature give him the very appearance of a hideous freak, is the man Orloff enlists to carry out the murders, yet there's little doubt in the end that it's Orloff, and not Jake, who is The Human Monster's true creature. And honestly, that's exactly how it should be. As was often the case, The Human Monster became a better film the moment Bela Lugosi was cast as the heavy, and is a bit more interesting to watch whenever he's on screen.