As soon as Bela Lugosi turned down the role of the Monster in Frankenstein (1931), his career followed a new path that would be in dark contrast to that of Boris Karloff. By 1939, Karloff was a major star while Lugosi became relegated to B pictures and Poverty Row flicks. However, many of those lesser-known movies are quite enjoyable and The Human Monster (1939) ranks among some of the better efforts Lugosi found himself associated with.
Lugosi stars on Dr. Orloff (yes, clearly a take on the name “Karloff”), a gentleman who, despite dreams of helping others, finds himself rejected by those in control. He is forced to run an insurance agency that loans money to those in need in exchange for their life insurance benefits. Of course, the bodies begin to pile up thanks to a huge brute who serves Orloff. Orloff doesn’t count on a daughter of one of his victims finding out what is going on. With Scotland Yard on the case, Orloff finds himself in a web that is closing in closer and closer.
Better known as The Dark Eyes of London when released in the UK, production was swift and, as common with these Poverty Row flicks, the budget was quite small. Lugosi clearly rises above the material and is the only reason this film is known today. Unfortunately, the only known print of this public domain flick is in pretty rough shape. However, I find it adds a certain measure of charm. Check it out on archive.org or buy the DVD. It’s always fun to watch some Lugosi and October makes these flicks even better.