Haunted Honeymoon

Film Review: The Mad Monster (1942)

SYNOPSIS:
“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)

REVIEW:
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)

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About Nigel Honeybone

Wee Willie"Nigel Honeybone's debut was as Hamlet's dead father, portraying him as a tall posh skeleton. This triumph was followed in Richard III, as the remains of a young prince which he interpreted as a tall posh skeleton. He began attracting starring roles. Henry VIII was scaled down to suit Honeybone's very personalised view of this famous king. Honeybone suggested that perhaps he really was quite skeletal, quite tall, and quite posh. MacBeth, Shylock and Othello followed, all played as tall, skeletal and posh, respectively. Considering his reputation for playing tall English skeletons, many believed that the real Honeybone inside to be something very different, like a squat hunchback perhaps. Interestingly enough, Honeybone did once play a squat hunchback, but it was as a tall posh skeleton. But he was propelled into the film world when, in Psycho (1960), he wore women's clothing for the very first time. The seed of an idea was planted and, after working with director Ed Wood for five years, he realised the unlimited possibilities of tall posh skeletons who dressed in women's clothing. He went on to wear women's clothing in thirteen major motion pictures, including the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Star Wars (1977), heartbreaking as the remains of Aunt Beru. With the onslaught of special effects came the demise of real actors in these sorts of roles. After modeling for CGI skeletons in Total Recall (1990) and Toys (1992), the only possible step forward for a tall posh skeleton was television, imparting his knowledge and expertise of the arts. As well as writing for the world's best genre news website HORROR NEWS, Nigel Honeybone is currently signed to star in a new series for television presenting the finest examples of B-grade horror. THE SCHLOCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is seen on Friday nights at 10.30pm on TVS Television Sydney, and where ever good Youtube downloads are available." (Fantales candy wrapper circa 2007)

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