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The Mad Monster (1942)

In the book, “Hollywood’s Pre-Code Horrors 1931-1934,” Raymond Valinoti Jr. reports that during the production of Island of Lost Souls (1932), Production Code representative Jason Joy told Paramount:

I assume that some thought has been given to the possibility of injecting the idea of crossing animals with humans. If this is the case it is my opinion that all such though should be abandoned, for I’m sure you would never be permitted to suggest that sort of thing on the screen.

Granted, The Mad Monster (1942) was made after the Code, but Valinoti’s point is that not only did Paramount ignore Joy, cross-breeding continued to be used as a theme in horror films.


My first instinct was to consider The Mad Monster as a werewolf film, since the result of Dr. Lorenzo Cameron (George Zucco) injecting wolf blood into his assistant, Petro (Glenn Strange), is that he transforms into a wolf man. In fact, with an old lady (“Grandmother,” Sarah Padden) declaring he can only be destroyed with a silver bullet, I considered The Mad Monster to be a specific rip-off of The Wolf Man (1941.)


However, since that is not, in fact, how you’d kill this particular monster, the movie not only crosses breeds as Valinoti states, but also crosses horror tropes. Besides, unlike Lon Chaney Jr., Strange portrays one of the stiffest, most lifeless variations of the beast that I’ve seen, simply walking through the swampland no more threatening than a confused hiker. The makeup isn’t horrible, but mostly just indicates that he needs a trip to the barber shop.


The Mad Monster embraces other tropes as well. The professor has a beautiful young daughter, Lenora (Anne Nagel) living with him in the remote countryside and encouraging him to become the best scientist ever. Her boyfriend is Tom Gregory (Johnny Downs), a fast-talking reporter from the city whose arrival to investigate a murder threatens Dr. Cameron. Also, Cameron’s motivation is revenge upon the colleagues that laughed at him.


All things considered, I enjoyed The Mad Monster. At 87 minutes, it’s one of the longest Poverty Row movies, but it doesn’t feel slow or boring. With just a little polish here and there, we might not even notice its low budget. Zucco is fantastic and I enjoyed seeing Glenn Strange in another monster role. He was a prolific actor, but I know him primarily as Frankenstein’s monster in Universal’s monster rally films of the mid-to-late 1940s.

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