The Monster (1925)


The movie The Monster (1925) is an American silent horror comedy film directed by Roland West, based on the stage play of the same name by Crane Wilbur, and starring Lon Chaney and comedian Johnny Arthur. The screenplay was written by Willard Mack and Albert Kenyon. The film is remembered as an early prototype “old dark house” movie, as well as a precedent to a number of horror film subgenres such as mad scientists with imbecilic assistants¹.

The plot of The Monster (1925) revolves around a wealthy farmer, John Bowman, who is kidnapped one night after two mysterious men lure his car off the road. When the wreckage is discovered the next day, constable Russ Mason forms a search party with Amos Rugg and Johnny Goodlittle. Johnny, who has just graduated from crime school as an amateur detective, and Amos both work at the general store in Danburg. They are both in love with Betty Watson, the storeowner’s daughter. Attempting to woo Betty, Amos invites her on a drive in the country. Meanwhile, Johnny follows a mysterious stranger to the country. The strange man lures Amos’ car off the road and kidnaps the couple. Johnny accidentally enters a hidden tunnel, and all three end up at Dr Edwards’ sanitarium¹.

Once inside, they are greeted by Dr. Gustave Ziska, who introduces Rigo, Caliban, and Daffy Dan, his three patients. Ziska explains that he took control of the asylum after it had closed. They are captured and sent to a dungeon, wherein Johnny finds Dr. Edwards and John Bowman have been kidnapped by Dr. Ziska and his cronies¹.


  • Lon Chaney as Dr. Gustave Ziska
  • Johnny Arthur as Johnny Goodlittle, amateur detective
  • Gertrude Olmstead as Betty Watson
  • Hallam Cooley as Amos Rugg
  • Charles Sellon as Russ Mason, a constable
  • Walter James as Caliban
  • Knute Erickson as Daffy Dan
  • George Austin as Rigo
  • Edward McWade as Luke


The Monster is generally considered to be one of the first films in the “old dark house” genre, and the first with a mad scientist who has odd minions doing his bidding.

The original play opened in New York on 9 August 1922 at the 39th Street Theatre, 119 W. 39th St. and had 101 performances.

Walter James originated his movie role as Calaban in the play.

In the 1933 revival that had 38 performances, DeWolf Hopper Sr. played Dr. Ziska. [2]


“While lacking the charm of Wilbur’s film, The Bat, and indulging in a host of hoary horror cliches and such period groaners as a nefarious character in blackface (and torso) and a depiction of mental illness that would not earn a thumbs up from the APA, The Monster has certain things to recommend it. Most obviously, there’s Lon Chaney as the title character, not a supernatural beastie but a mad scientist with a penchant for torture and the kooky scheme to transfer souls between his captives.” [3]

“I have to agree with Leonard Maltin’s assessment that comedic relief is a bit overused here. It leads to the film feeling somewhat uneven, when it could have struck a fun balance between the real chills of the “mad scientist” story and the more humorous moments. ” [4]


[1] Wikipedia

[2] IMDb



Last updated byCody Meirick on November 27, 2023