Welcome back to my “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” marathon! We’ve reached the second-last episode I’ll be looking at, as tomorrow will mark the final one. Why not stretch this marathon to Halloween like last time? Well, I’ll be going away during that time for a small mother-daughter trip. So, you’ll be getting back-to-back blogs as a result.
When an actor’s popularity declines, they often become less marketable to movie makers. This sometimes leads actors to take any role given to them in the hopes of making a comeback. Today’s episode focuses on that period of time when cheap B-horror movies ran rampant and aging or bad actors were easy to come by. This is “The Greatest Monster Of Them All.”
Hal is a producer of cheap horror movies hoping to cast someone in his upcoming vampire flick. He hires a washed-up actor named Ernst von Croft for the role. von Croft was once considered a great actor and “The Greatest Monster Of Them All” (think in the vein of the Universal Monsters stars). Will his dream of making a comeback be realized with the role, or is von Croft really past his prime?
I was expecting this episode to take place mainly over the making of the film. However, it’s paced out to cover the idea of it, the making of it, the release of it and the aftermath as well. There’s also the usual Hitchcock spin at the end. The pacing was jarring at first and felt off, but overall the episode was a good look at the movie-making process.
Besides von Croft, who I’ll get to momentarily, the main cast consists of Hal, Morty the director and Fred the writer. I also thought Hal would be the main protagonist of the crew, but it turned out to be between Fred and Morty. Hal was a bit of a sleazy producer and a definite cheapskate, which is brought up a few times through the episode. We don’t get much time with him so I was pretty neutral about him, as I also was with Morty. Morty has a bigger role to play in the plot, though the major part of this is revealed during the movie’s premiere. I would easily say Fred was the best character of the three, as we learn a little about him near the beginning (his job literally drives him to drink) and he’s the most caring one of the bunch toward making films.
However, even he is dwarfed by Ernst von Croft who, while not having a lot of screentime, was my favorite character. He reminded me a bit of the classic guys like Bela Lugosi, who tried to keep up his career despite his age and waning popularity later in life. von Croft was a take on that, and he’s also the most passionate about making movies. It made a good contrast between him and Hal/Morty, showing that they cared only for making a quick buck and being cheap with sets than putting love into what they’re making. von Croft was a bit tragic and his actions near the end were understandable.
The acting did feel a bit rough at times, mostly due to how hammy it could get. I’m not sure if it was intentional considering the subject matter, but thankfully it didn’t grate on me too much. Also, there’s an event that happens during the premiere that I won’t spoil, but needless to say I was surprised to hear the voice talents of Bugs Bunny aka Mel Blanc in this. It was weird and kinda jarring, but also pretty neat.
Overall, “The Greatest Monster Of Them All” felt like a pretty good take on the B-horror movies of the past. While it’s definitely dated and can be hammy at times, I found this episode enjoyable. Definitely not the best Hitchcock has to offer, but if you like those classic schlocky movies, this episode should keep your attention.