During the past hundred years of cinema, there have been numerous films about werewolves. Some were good, some were bad and some managed to be iconic. The Mad Monster falls into that area which can be categorised as good. Much of what made it so hard to do with originality of story by writer Fred Myton. Released by Producers Releasing Corporation, a studio not known for spending money, the film would feature some pretty sound special effects when it came to the monster which in itself was quite surprising, though at times you had to snicker at how ridiculous the creature sometimes looked. That combined with the performances, especially from George Zucco, made the film end up being fairly engrossing. While all of it made for a good package, it was the monster’s origin that would make it memorable.
Most werewolf movies share quite a few things in common when it comes to the mythos of the monster. The full moon, silver, it being a curse or an infection – there are many tropes which have become cliché over the years and yet with this film, they manage to avoid most of them. As it was, The Mad Monster was not just a movie about a werewolf, but a scientist as played by Zucco and a disturbed one at that. So it is that the title could both refer to the doctor, the beast or the both of them. Said werewolf in this movie is created by the resident mad doctor in order to exact revenge upon his peers who mocked him and his work. The creature obeys no natural laws and transitions quite often with its host having no idea of his darker side. Like all werewolves though, this one is a killer and it pleases Zucco’s character to no end as he realizes his work is a success and now his plans to remove the men who ridiculed him from the Earth is not only a possibility but a surety.
Zucco for his part, always plays a great villain. The man exudes evil in the pictures in which he stars as such and you never really have to guess just who the bad guy is. It may take a little away at first, but Zucco is such a talented actor that you always stay tuned to see just how and what he does. This film finds him as mad as a hatter but sane enough to plan and plot out just who it is he is going to kill and all the while still performing his ‘experiments.’ Glenn Strange stars as the werewolf and the dim-witted gardener who has no idea just what it is that is happening to him. He is no Lon Chaney by a longshot, but you do end up feeling quite a bit of empathy for the man.
Though working on a budget, director Sam Newfield managed to turn in a very creepy picture, one that continued to build the suspense and eeriness within, scene by scene. It helped that the players involved put in some decent performances including Anne Nagel and Johnny Downs, along with the previously mentioned Strange and Zucco. The script was a little hammy at times, but overall not as bad as some B pictures tended to sport. Much akin to Frankenstein from many years previous, The Mad Monster may not sit on the same level, but it does what it has to in order to keep you watching and thankfully, it worked on every level.
3 out of 5