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.
As 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 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.”
Mark’s Rating: ! ! out of 5.