‘Genius – or fiend?’
The Mad Doctor of Market Street is a 1941 [released 1942] American science fiction horror feature film directed by Joseph H. Lewis (So Dark the Night; Invisible Ghost) from a screenplay written by Al Martin (Invasion of the Saucer Men; Invisible Ghost). The Universal Pictures production stars Lionel Atwill, Una Merkel, Claire Dodd and Nat Pendleton.
The movie will be released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory on June 23, 2019, as part of the Lionel Atwill-focused Universal Horror Collection: Volume 2 box set along with Murders in the Zoo, The Strange Case of Doctor Rx and The Mad Ghoul.
Doctor Ralph Benson (Lionel Atwill), a chemist who was “experimenting with suspended life” is forced to leave San Francisco when his human volunteer dies.
The passenger ship Benson escapes on catches fire and sinks. He lands on a tropical island, is celebrated as the “God of life” and takes control.
However, the other survivors of the shipwreck determine to free the natives from his rule…
“The main problem with Mad Doctor of Market Street is the inclusion of youthful Una Merkel as the heroine’s aunt, a role obviously intended for an older, less prominent actress. Obliged to radically alter and “beef up” Merkel’s part, the screenwriters were forced to shortchange the rest of the picture…” Hal Erickson, All Movie
“Lewis uses tight close-ups and shadows to hide the budget limitations, and almost (but not quite) succeeds. The opening scene in Benson’s office is probably the spookiest, but once we get to Universal’s backlot island things go steadily downhill. Lewis does employ a neat trick of having Atwill’s ether-soaked cotton pressed directly into the camera to transition from scenes…” Gary Loggins, Cracked Rear Viewer
” …it’s a pretty forgettable entry in Universal’s horror output, being more of a jungle adventure movie than anything else. You know you’re in for it when not only does one of the comic relief characters gets higher billing than the mad scientist, but both of the comic reliefs get higher billing than the romantic leads.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings
“It does start to get interesting towards the end, as Dr. Benson plans to set up his own little Island of Doctor Moreau, but by that time there just isn’t enough film left to develop it into much of anything. And his final, inevitable end is ridiculously tame…” Mark Cole, Rivets on the Poster
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“Beyond Atwill and Lewis and the mutant fusion of horror, comedy, romance, and South Seas island picture (and it’s as messy as it sounds), The Mad Doctor of Market Street is sort of entertaining in a goofy, Poverty Row horror kind of way.” Shock Theater
“Certainly, Atwill is one of the underrated players of 1930s and 1940s horror […] On the downside though, the suspense in Mad Doctor is low burn at best, Merkel overacts to the hilt, and spunky Dodd seems woefully underused as a result.” The Terror Trap
“The film is so threadbare and haphazard it has a lot more in common with a Poverty Row product than the Hollywood B-unit sausage factory. That said, The Mad Doctor of Market Street isn’t lacking in verve thanks to Lionel Atwill’s irrepressible hamming and a director who has more on the ball than the average Monogram hack.” Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931 – 1946, McFarland, 2007 (second edition)
Cast and characters:
- Una Merkel … Aunt Margaret Wentworth
- Lionel Atwill … Mr. Graham / Dr. Ralph Benson
- Claire Dodd … Patricia Wentworth
- Nat Pendleton … Red Hogan
- Anne Nagel … Mrs. William Saunders
- Hardie Albright … William Saunders
- Richard Davies … Jim
- John Eldredge … Dwight, Ship’s Officer
- Mala … Barab (as Ray Mala)
- Noble Johnson … Native Chief Elan
- Rosina Galli … Tanao- Chief’s Wife
- Al Kikume … Kalo
- Milton Kibbee … Hadley
- Byron Shores … Crandall
- Tani Marsh … Tahitian Dancer
- Billy Bunkley … Tahitian Dancer
- Wade Boteler … Crewman (uncredited)
- Al Bridge … Ship’s Officer on Bridge (uncredited)
- Boyd Davis … Ship’s Officer (uncredited)
- Lester Dorr … Crewman (uncredited)
- Bess Flowers … Ship Passenger (uncredited)
- Dave Willock … Band Leader (uncredited)
Filmed over three weeks in July 1941 at Universal Studios. Released on 27 February 1942.
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