Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's all downhill after a strong start for
'The Mad Monster'

The Mad Monster (1942)
Starring: George Zucco, Johnny Downs, Glenn Strange and Anne Nagel
Director: Sam Newfield
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

After being mocked by his collegues and pilloried in the press for his outlandish theories, Dr. Lorenzo Cameron (Zucco) retreats to an isolated estate to continue his experiments. Unfortunately, Cameron's theories--that if he injects a serum created from wolf's blood into a human, that human will turn into a violent wolfman--were workable, and he he uses them to turn his simple-minded gardener (Strange) into a tool of revenge against those who destroyed his career.

"The Mad Monster" has one of the strongest openings of the many old-time mad scientist movies that I've seen. The complete and utter madness of Cameron is established effectively as he discusses his scientific discoveries in an increasingly heated fashion with four men who appear and dissapear from chairs around the table he is at. It's a scene that's well-written, well-staged, and well-acted.

Unfortunately, everything that follows is badly written, poorly staged (with the exception of where the wolfman kidnaps and kills a little girl (!)), and over-acted--even George Zucco who often hammed it up in films like, this is so far over the top that one can't help but groan at the performance. (Only Anne Nagel, who plays Cameron's daughter, doesn't embarrass herself... but that might be due to the fact that she her role really doesn't require much in the way of acting from her.)

The final blow to this movie is the wolfman make-up, as the creature looks more like a beatnik or a hippie than a menacing monster. Rediculous is too mild a term to describe what it looks like.

While "The Mad Monster" is worth seeing by fans of the "mad scientist on a rampage" horror subgenre for its opening scene, there really isn't enough here to make it worth seeking out on its own. However, it's included in a number of those low-cost DVD multi-packs, and if there are other movies in a set that interest you, then this makes for a nice bonus.

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