October 8th, 2015
|10:25 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: The Mad Monster|
Man, people in the '40s sure liked their men-turning-into-monsters movies.
I'd never thought about this before, but the Wikipedia entry for The Mad Monster has a section on "Other 1940s man-into-animal films". Wikipedia--unlike other publicly edited encyclopedias (Project Galactic Guide, h2g2...)--has stringent formatting guidelines, and this section definitely doesn't belong in this article. Some editor is going to delete it sooner or later, so I've copied it here:
Anyway, I have really been thinking about the Wolf Man movies recently, and I know I'm supposed to have seen Cat People by now, so we'll probably talk about those later in the month if I can dig up copies. Pinocchio has its moments, but...
Other 1940s man-into-animal filmsMan-into-animal stories were popular in the 1940s. They include Pinocchio (1940), which showed boys turning into donkeys, Cat People (1942), and Captive Wild Woman (1943). Werewolves were featured in several films that were released during the 1940s, such as The Wolf Man (1941), The Undying Monster (1942), The Return of the Vampire (1943), Cry of the Werewolf (1944) and She-Wolf of London (1946).
In the meantime, the last couple of nights' films have not been particularly satisfying, so I think it's time to retreat back to the '40s. I want to get into the '80s at some point here, too. Really, I do.
None of that is the point of this poist. Tonight's selection is The Mad Monster which is another George Zucco movie, written and directed by Fred Myton and Sam Newfield, who made Sunday's Dead Men Walk. It's not quite as good as that film, but it was still fun.
Zucco plays Dr. Lorenzo Cameron, a scientist who was forced to leave his post at the university over a controversial theory that a transfusion of wolf blood might give a man the characteristics of a wolf. He has continued his work in his own home, eventually developing a formula which he tests on his gardener, Petro. The man becomes a bloodthirsty beast; the formula is a success.
In one of the stranger moments of the movie, Cameron addresses a empty table, around which are arranged several empty chairs. As he turns to each chair, it fills in with the wispy specter of one of his colleagues who haughtily tells him what a poor scientist he is. He vows to prove himself to each of them. Cameron is not a well-adjusted guy.
After that point, The Mad Monster becomes more or less a straightforward--if unsuspenseful--revenge movie. Cameron maneuvers each of his rivals into a private meeting with Petro, who then transforms and awakens later with no memory of the events. Unfortunately, the frequent use of the transformation formula is making Petro's transformations unpredictable, and soon a toddler is murdered. A newspaper reporter comes in to investigate, and the simple swampfolk of the area (imagine the Clampetts in their natural habitat) organize a search party for the wolf that walks on two legs.
The Mad Monster isn't a bad movie, but it isn't well-regarded, either. I think the problem is that it's pretty pedestrian; it's well-enough executed, but it doesn't break any new ground. Apparently Mystery Science Theater 3000 did this one way back in 1989, so if you're going to watch the movie, I think I'd recommend their version, just because it's more likely to hold your attention. In the meantime, here's the original version which is in the public domain: