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The Monster Maker Glenn Strange

From the DVD case: George Zucco portrays Dr. Lorenzo Cameron, a discredited mad doctor who believes that injecting wolf blood into humans will create an invincible army of werewolves to defeat the Axis. But instead of unleashing his monster on the Nazis, he turns his creation against the scientists who had engineered his professional downfall. Despite his liberal use of a whip, Cameron finds himself unable to control his creature as it escapes on a murderous rampage. (1942, b&w)

Mark says: If The Mad Monster actually used the premise of “an invincible army of werewolves to defeat the Axis,” it may have been an interesting film. Unfortunately, this is just another PRC Poverty Row production and it struggles to hold our interest. The Mad Monster was obviously produced to cash in on the success of Universal’s The Wolf Man, released just the year before.

George Zucco (The Mummy’s Tomb, House of Frankenstein), in the role of Dr. Lorenzo Cameron, is given the burden of carrying most of the picture. Sadly, he’s not given much to work with. He’s your average mad scientist out for revenge. In this case, revenge against his old colleagues who discredited him as a scientist and labeled him a charlatan.

The Mad Monster ZuccoAs I watched The Mad Monster, I was constantly put in mind of Bela Lugosi as Dr. Carruthers in The Devil Bat. Lugosi could have played Dr. Cameron in his sleep, but Zucco does as fine a job as can be expected. In fact, it is refreshing not to see Lugosi in such a stereotypical role.

Glenn Strange (House of Dracula, House of Frankenstein) plays Petro, the poor brute used as Dr. Cameron’s guinea pig. Petro is reminiscent of Lenny from Of Mice and Men. He’s big, strong, and as dumb as a tree stump. We are supposed to feel sympathy for Petro, but he is so frustratingly ignorant that our feelings border on something closer to contempt.

Petro is one of the least frightening werewolves in cinematic history. After each transformation (achieved through blood transfusions with a wolf), Petro wanders around calmly as if he is taking a midnight stroll. Sure, he looks hairier, but he still acts like Petro. We are a little shocked when he kills a little girl (off-screen), but even that does not make him a menacing presence. It’s just not that easy to be frightened by a werewolf wearing a hat.

Anne Nagel (Man Made Monster, The Invisible Woman) plays Lenora, Dr. Cameron’s daughter. Lenora is also devastatingly dimwitted. She’s not on the same scale as Petro, but she certainly can not put two and two together. She has such a blind spot when it comes to her father that she refuses to believe he is involved in the killings even after he laughs in her face like a mad man and consistently swears vengeance on his old colleagues (who are dropping off one by one). His maniacal outbursts against Petro seem to have very little affect on her.

The hero of our story is Lenora’s boyfriend, Tom Gregory (Johnny Downs). Tom, a soft-nosed reporter, is the first to tie the murders to Dr. Cameron. However, because he is dating the doctor’s daughter, he is reluctant to accuse Dr. Cameron outright. Instead, he bides his time while the evidence mounts.

The Mad Monster FinaleThe film’s finale is as silly as the rest of the story. A bolt of lightning stikes some drapes in the doctor’s house, which starts the mansion ablaze. During the ensuing chaos, Dr. Cameron is forced to confront the monster he has created. Like the other attacks, we don’t see any actual onscreen violence, but we do witness (through shadows) Petro strangle the doctor from behind. It’s thoroughly disappointing, but no more so than the rest of the movie.

The Mad Monster‘s greatest sin is that it is dull. Bad movies can still be entertaining, but this film fails even on that level. It does offer some camp appeal, but not enough to justify its 77 minute running time. A completest will want this film in his collection, but everyone else will be satisfied with the free download from The Internet Archive (offered as a link below).

The Mad Monster is directed by Sam Newfield (The Flying Serpent, The Monster Maker).

Scene to watch for: A werewolf wearing a hat; it just doesn’t seem right.

Line to listen for: “Just picture, gentlemen, an army of wolf men, fearless, raging, every man a snarling animal!”

Trivia: The Mad Monster was banned in the UK until 1952. Even then, it was given an X certificate, and could only be exhibited with this disclaimer: “The public would be quite mistaken to think that any personal characteristics could be passed on by blood transfusion. Animal blood is never used for transfusions in the treatment of disease.”

Bonus: Download The Mad Monster for free at the Internet Archive.

Mark’s Rating: ! ! out of 5.

IMDB Link

4 Comments

  1. The best quote in the movie is from the image of one of Dr. Cameron’s critics with whom Cameron is having an argument.

    “And I suppose that it would be an easy matter to round up a million wild animals and administer an antidote.”

    Dr Cameron replies; “I am not interested in your imbecilic mouthings. You have all demonstrated your lack of vision…”

    After the first experiment Dr Cameron’s daughter asks what Petro was doing in the laboratory. Cameron says “He was just lifting heavy things”. Then the wolf howls. The daughter asks about this and he says, “It’s just a dog in the neighbourhood”.

    Dr Cameron tells Petro after Petro remarks that it’s good to have “book knowledge”. “You don’t need any education or intelligence for your part”.

    Then there’s the opening quote, when Cameron is talking to a caged wolf: “I know you’d rather run around with your brothers and howl at the moon”.

    Quotes like these and the incredible musical score (PRC horrors have great scores) make this better than described in most reviews. It is silly all right, and that’s what makes it good.

  2. Hey Z,

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    Yes, there are certainly some laughable quotes that make this film bearable, and it is indeed quite silly. My biggest complaint is that the silliness is not enough to sustain the film for 77 minutes. Genre fans, such as myself, and I’m guessing, you, can appreciate the film at a certain “camp” level, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone outside the hardcore enthusiast.

    To be honest, I didn’t really pay too much attention to the musical score; I’ll have to go back and give it a closer listen. Thanks again for dropping by!

  3. i really wanted to like this film. it has zucco and glen strange. i think you pretty well hit the mark dead on in your review. your review was much more enjoyable than the actual film.

  4. John: I sure would have liked to see an army of wolf men, though.


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