THE MAD MONSTER (1942) Reviews of George Zucco mad doctor movie

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The Mad Monster is a 1942 American science fiction horror film about a mad scientist who transforms his gardener into a murderous wolfman. He uses the monster to kill his ex-colleagues one by one…

Directed by Sam Newfield (Fight That Ghost; The Flying Serpent; White Pongo; The Monster Maker; Dead Men Walk) from a screenplay written by Fred Myton (Dead Men Walk). Produced by Sigmund Neufeld (The Flying Serpent; Nabonga; The Black Raven).

The Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) production stars Johnny Downs, George Zucco, Anne Nagel (The Mad Doctor of Market Street; The Invisible Woman; Black Friday) and Glenn Strange (House of Dracula; House of Frankenstein; The Mummy’s Tomb).


“Neither Zucco nor Strange would win any awards for their performances here, but they never fail to hold your interest. Miss Nagel is quite all right, too, in her limited role, and although he certainly doesn’t deserve star billing, Johnny Downs is mostly painless as the typical “gee whiz” Hollywood reporter.” AllMovie

“When not a monster, Strange seems to be parodying Lenny from Of Mice and Men. It’s so cheap that most of the action happens off-screen and what you do see is poorly done. It’s pretty typical of cheap monster movies of the time, but it has long dull stretches, with just a few silly moments.” Down Among the “Z” Movies


” …creaks beyond the usual programmer’s endurance level in credibility and production values […] Glenn Strange makes his horror debut as Zucco’s handyman-turned-wolf man all in the cause of bringing Hitler to his knees with an army of werewolves. What an image! Even on paper, this must have been a mind-boggling read-through for an actor of Zucco’s training and ability.” DVD Drive-In

“Some of PRC’s poverty row horrors are quite creative if you take into account the lack of money or polish that went into them; this one, however, is just dull. Glenn Strange plays the monster, but he really doesn’t act much different when he’s the monster than he is when he’s not. This leaves George Zucco to carry the movie, and he gives it his best shot…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings


The Mad Monster contains some ridiculous stuff (sorry Dr Cameron) and its standard, familiar story wasn’t exceptionally well told by writer Fred Myton and director Sam Newfield, but it perfectly fits the bill as a low budget B-movie. There’s nothing particularly great about it, but it’s entertaining, and 75 years after it was made its 77 minutes still make for a fun viewing experience.” Life Between Frames

“Sociologically, Cameron’s motive for making werewolves is the film’s most interesting touch: he has the idea that he’s going to create an army of werewolves to hurl against the Axis enemy. Unfortunately, though Zucco gives a crisp and well-mannered performance, he doesn’t have the chutzpah to sell the idea that Cameron’s crazy enough to consider his idea a sound military strategy.” Naturalistic! Uncanny! Marvelous!


“Even some of the (small) stylistic touches, like the way Zucco’s strangulation–death is seen as a shadow cast upon a wall, were already rapidly hurtling toward clichédom […] Tired clichés to the cynical, these hoary touches are, again, just part of the charm of Poverty Row films. The Mad Monster trundles them all out so enthusiastically, and everyone seems so starved for approval, that it becomes one of those uniquely bad films but it is difficult to dislike.” Tom Weaver, Poverty Row Horrors!, McFarland Classics, 1993


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” …PRC was actually fairly accomplished as Poverty Row filmmakers went, and the film looks reasonably good. It is actually longer than most of these […]  There are worse 40s mad scientist movies out there.  But you still pretty much know what you’re getting.” Rivets on the Poster

” …director Sam Newfield managed to turn in a very creepy picture, one that continued to build the suspense and eeriness within, scene by scene.  It helped that the players involved put in some decent performances including Anne Nagel and Johnny Downs, along with the previously mentioned Strange and Zucco.  The script was a little hammy at times, but overall not as bad as some B pictures…” The Telltale Mind

Choice dialogue:
Doctor Cameron [George Zucco]: “Now dear, you know there’s no such thing as being possessed by a demon. That’s ignorant superstition.”
Tom Gregory [Johnny Downs]: Doctor Cameron! So, you’re the owner of this haunted castle.”
Doctor Cameron [George Zucco]: “I can inject into your veins a substance that will give you the strength of ten men. Or, following the line of evolution, how would you like a pair of donkey’s ears? [laughs] That’d go well with your type of mentality.”


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Cast and characters:
Johnny Downs … Tom Gregory
George Zucco … Doctor Cameron
Anne Nagel … Lenora
Glenn Strange … Petro
Sarah Padden … Grandmother
Gordon De Main … Professor Fitzgerald (as Gordon DeMain)
Mae Busch … Susan
Reginald Barlow … Professor Warwick
Robert Strange … Professor Blaine
Henry Hall … Country Doctor
Ed Cassidy … Father (as Edward Cassidy)
Eddie Holden … Harper
John Elliott … Professor Hatfield
Slim Whitaker … Policeman (as Charles Whitaker)
Gil Patric … Lieutenant Detective

Technical details:
77 minutes

Filming began on March 19, 1942, for five days.

Released on May 8, 1942. The movie was re-released by PRC in 1945 as a double feature with The Devil Bat. The film is now in the public domain.

According to British film historian Phil Hardy, the film “shocked the British censor enough to ban it until 1952, and even then to insist that it should be accompanied by a disclaimer on the matter of blood transfusions”.

Fun facts:
Producer Sigmund Neufeld and director Sam Newfield were brothers. Sam “Anglicized” the family name while Sigmund didn’t.
The estate set was redressed as the crypt set in Dead Men Walk (1943).
At 77 minutes, the film is the longest “B” picture made on Poverty Row in the 1940s.

Some image credits: The Telltale Mind

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