Man Made Monster

Man-Made Monster

theatrical release poster
Directed by George Waggner
Produced by Jack Bernhard
Written by Harry Essex
Len Golos
Sid Schwartz
George Waggner
Starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
Lionel Atwill
Music by Hans J. Salter
Cinematography Elwood Bredell
Edited by Arthur Hilton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
March 28, 1941 US
Running time
59 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Man-Made Monster (1941) is a science fiction horror film released by Universal Pictures. The film stars Lon Chaney, Jr. in his horror film debut. Man-Made Monster was re-released under various titles including Electric Man and The Mysterious Dr. R. In 1953, it was re-released by Realart Pictures under the title The Atomic Monster on a double bill with The Flying Saucer (1950). 1956's Indestructible Man, also featuring Chaney, is considered a loose remake of this film.


A tragic accident occurs when a bus hits a high power line. The incident has claimed the lives of all on board, except for one Dan McCormick (Lon Chaney, Jr.), who survives because he is, surprisingly, immune to the deadly electricity. McCormick does a sideshow exhibit as Dynamo Dan, the Electric Man and is taken in by Dr. John Lawrence (Samuel S. Hinds), who wants to study him. Dr. Lawrence's colleague, mad scientist Dr. Paul Rigas (Lionel Atwill) has something else in mind, though. He wants to create an army of electrobiologically-driven zombies. He gives McCormick progressively higher doses of electricity until his mind is ruined and left dependent on the addicting electrical charges. This temporarily gives McCormick the touch of death, making him capable of killing anyone he touches by electrocution. After accidentally killing Lawrence, Rigas insures McCormick's conviction to see what will happen if he is sent to the electric chair. McCormick survives, and with a super charge in his glowing body he kills several people, including Rigas, before running out of electricity and dying.[1]



Theatrical poster for the reissue. The film was renamed The Atomic Monster.

Back in 1936, Boris Karloff was originally selected to play the role of Dan McCormick with Bela Lugosi to appear as Dr. Rigas. This earlier version of the film, which was titled The Electric Man, ended up being scrapped by the studio because the concept was too similar to another Karloff/Lugosi movie, The Invisible Ray.[2] The script was then shelved for the next four years before being revived in 1940 under new management at Universal.[3]

When Man-Made Monster finally went into production, it was considered by the studio to be a quick, low-budget affair. Shot in three weeks and with an estimated budget of only $86,000, it was one of the cheapest films made by Universal of that year. However, despite these limitations, the filmmakers were still able to achieve some impressive effects, including one that made Lon Chaney appear to glow in the dark.[4]

Even though it was only a minor box office success, Man-Made Monster proved to be instrumental for Lon Chaney's career, as his performance in the lead role helped him win a contract with Universal.[5][6] While promoting their new star, Universal's publicity department hinted that history was possibly repeating itself, noting that Chaney's first major horror movie role was shot on the same set that was used for his father's well-known production of The Phantom of the Opera.[7]

In the 1950's, Realart Pictures re-released the film, changing the title to The Atomic Monster in order to take advantage of the latest craze in science-fiction and atomic-age story lines.[8] This new title, according to writer-producer Alex Gordon, was taken from a spec script he submitted to Realart which had the same name. He sent his attorney Samuel Z. Arkoff to meet the Realart representative James H. Nicholson to discuss the matter. The meeting netted Gordon a quick $1,000 settlement for copyright infringement, but more importantly, the meeting led Gordon, Arkoff and Nicholson to form their own film company that eventually became American International Pictures. [9]


  1. Internet Movie Database
  2. Forrest Ackerman, The Frankenscience Monster Ace Books 1969
  3. Mank, Gregory William (2009). Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff : the expanded story of a haunting collaboration, with a complete filmography of their films together. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., Publishers. p. 314. ISBN 978-0786434800. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  4. Hantke, ed. by Steffen (2004). Horror Film: Creating and Marketing Fear (Print on demand ed. ed.). Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 200. ISBN 978-1578066926. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  5. Clarens, Carlos (1997). An illustrated history of horror and science-fiction films (New ed. ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0306808005. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  6. Mank, Gregory William (2001). Hollywood cauldron : thirteen horror films from the genre's golden age. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. xix. ISBN 978-0786411122. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  7. Smith, Don G. (2004). Lon Chaney, Jr.: Horror Film Star, 1906-1973. McFarland & Company. p. 35. ISBN 978-0786418138. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  8. Jones, edited by Darryl; McCarthy,, Elizabeth; Murphy, Bernice M. (2011). It came from the 1950s! : popular culture, popular anxieties. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 59. ISBN 9780230272217. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  9. Weaver, Tom (2014). Earth vs. the sci-fi filmmakers : 20 interviews. Jefferson: Mcfarland. p. 116. ISBN 978-0786495726. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
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