Sunday, 30 October 2011


During the PCASUK video interview Milton Subotsky is asked what was his thinking behind the title of I MONSTER and the changing of the central characters names. He gleefully answers 'Because I liked the idea. I also want to make a 3D film of the Lord Mayor of London procession, Alice in Wonderland too!'

Having played with the idea of making a 3D Amicus film for many years, Subotsky decieded I MONSTER was the perfect vehicle. But being an Amicus production, budget always a major consideration it would not be the conventional 3D. Lucky for Subotsky, during the production of his 'JUNIOR SCIENTIST' education films in the 50's he had experimented with a process that didn't require expensive cameras, a process that was pretty much produced on the studio floor. The 'Pulfrich Effect', named after Carl Pulfrich, instead depends on camera movement and layers of action orchestrated to give the 'illusion' of a three dimensional image. The viewer still needed to wear glasses to experience the effect, a variation the conventional red and blue, a pair of transparent specs with only the right lens slightly darkened. The brain processes the image with the darker lens slower than the neutral lens. The brain fuses the two images in a stereo image.

However, when time came to view the daily rushes, mumbles started in the ranks as no one with the exception Subotsky could actually see the effect. The truth was the Pulfrich effect is more of an optical trick then a true stereoscopic image. In later years Subotsky laid the blame on young and inexperienced shoulders of director Stephen Weeks. Another problem was that the sets had not been constructed in accordance with the needs of the camera. For the process to work, characters or objects must move from left-to-right across a static background. The sets made some of the action impossible to film. Watching I MONSTER can be like trying to read a book on a fair ground ride. The camera hardly ever is static. Everything from test tubes, pillars, horses and plant foliage is placed between the subject matter and the camera. No doubt it would have looked great in 3D, as a 'flat' viewing it becomes frustrating.

Much of the footage shot using the Pulfrich effect still exists in the DVD releases of the film today. But without the effect they lookstaged and awkward. Whilst talking to a busty wench, Mr Blake the rowdy pub revellers push and shove them along the bar...from left to right. During many scenes actors and action take on a strange and deliberate pace in order to accommodate the demands of the 3D process.

In scenes where the camera circles action from right-to-left, in day light, the Pulfrich effect works well. Best examples of the is the scene with Mr Blake in a park shot through a huge bird cage and Marlow's lab, a long table stacked high with lab equipment between the actor and the camera. It's worth having a look, if just to see Subotsky's 'vision'.

On the whole, I MONSTER was a missed opportunity. Not even the teaming of Lee and Cushing, who are both excellent throughout, could save it. Director Weeks was a stickler for period detail and paid more attention to set trappings than keeping scenes tight. Pace is lost and the film is slow, very slow. It's claim of being probably the most faithful film adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson classic novel, name changes permitting, may be true, but it also one of the few movies where the camera has more action than the performers. Christopher Lee as Mr Blake dances everyone off the screen, a top drawer performance. Peter Cushing is given little to do, but in his controlled and measured manner, does what there is with authority and style.

As a Halloween movie for today and by todays standards it would have had much to offer. Two great and very capable actors, a monster of the old school and the spectacle of 3D.  I MONSTER, a great idea, but it could have been an outstanding one.

Here's a short interview with Peter Cushing talking about I MONSTER and the PULFRICH EFFECT!


  1. Nice piece on a film that i think is much better than its reputation.

  2. Try watching it in 3D - the camerawork makes much more sense. Pulfrich glasses are available online, or try an old pair of sunglasses with the left lens popped out!



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