“Doctor Cameron has succeeded in his experiments with a serum which will turn a man into a wolf-like monster, and is ready to avenge himself on the men who caused his professional failure. He uses it on his gardener Petro and one after the other is killed by his creation. His daughter, Lenora, grows suspicious and confides with newspaper reporter Tom Gregory.” (courtesy IMDB)
This week I have a rare film for you, the 1942 relic The Mad Monster (1942), starring George Zucco and Glenn Strange and…that pretty much tells you all you need to know. There’s a monster in it, he’s mad. George Zucco is the mad scientist and Glenn Strange is the mad monster. Though, if I was treated like Glenn Strange, I wouldn’t be just mad, I’d be absolutely livid! I think you’ll find out why the monster is mad. But which monster does the title refer to, hmmm?
George Zucco was famous for playing mad scientists – or villains – or detectives – or anyone you need, really. He made a lot of films and wasn’t particular about the quality of his choices. The Mummy’s Hand (1940), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), The Mad Ghoul (1943), The Monster And The Girl (1941), Scared To Death (1947), Voodoo Man (1944), Return Of The Ape Man (1944) – you get the idea. He did, however, play Professor Moriarty in the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes series of films. When I think of Mad Scientists I often think of George Zucco, I don’t know if it’s because he plays the role of a mad scientist so well, or because I laughed my head off watching him in My Favourite Blonde (1942) opposite Bob Hope.
I only worked with George once and, ironically, it was on the same film – House Of Frankenstein (1944). I only had a day’s work, so I really didn’t have a chance to catch-up, not until he was institutionalised. George had a hard time separating his real life with his work, and became convinced he was actually a mad scientist. Still, it was Hollywood and he could continue to get work. It wasn’t until he tried to graft the head of a dalmatian onto the body of his wife that they committed him. I went to visit him in the asylum but apparently that was a little counterproductive.
Glenn Strange plays the were-janitor, and he’s pretty much known for playing Frankenstein’s monster when Boris Karloff was too expensive…I mean, unavailable. He played Frankie in House Of Frankenstein (1944), House Of Dracula (1945) and Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). It’s this film where he gets to stand-in for Lon Chaney Junior and play a wolf man. In fact, The Mad Monster appears to be a cheap knock-off shot to cash-in on the popularity of The Wolf Man (1941) made the year before.
Born in Boston Massachusetts, Anne Nagel‘s film career began in 1932 with a bit part as a ballet girl in Hypnotized (1932). She appeared in Here Comes Carter (1936) with Ross Alexander. Her early roles were in such films as Footloose Heiress (1937), Three Legionnaires (1937), Torchy Blane (1937), and The Adventurous Blonde (1937). The following year she was in Mystery House (1938), Unexpected Father (1939), and Legion Of Lost Flyers (1939). She hit the big time when she appeared with W.C. Fields and Mae West in My Little Chickadee (1940). Then began the sad decline, appearing in Man-Made Monster (1941) and The Mad Monster. By the fifties Nagel had turned to television in shows like The Range Rider and Circus Boy. Working with a young Micky Dolenz proved too much for the dear, and she passed away in 1966.
The story is obviously ripped straight from the news headlines – creating a race of super-soldiers to fight a war against fascism? I’m sure Dick Cheney is rubbing his hands right now, wondering where he can get buy some Lycanthropy. It’s interesting to note how werewolves tend to be middle-class, or skilled workers, people who have undergone some form of higher education. Vampires are the ones who went to private schools, and Zombies never left school. The Vampires are the upper-class, the Werewolves the middle, and Zombies are the I’m-in-a-shopping-mall-in-the-middle-of-the-day-class. With this in mind, that the film you are watching is a thinly-veiled metaphor for the endless class struggle.
And it’s with that thought that I politely ask you to please join me next week when I have the opportunity to inflict upon you the tortures of the damned from that dark, bottomless pit known as the Public Domain for…Horror News! Toodles!
The Mad Monster (1942)