The Mad Monster (1942)
For some reason I used to get Lionel Atwill (allegedly a creep in real life*) mixed up with George Zucco. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s because both men came from the same eras and appeared in similar films, and were usually cast as villains. Zucco was particularly good as vengeful scientists or zealots, such as Professor Forbes in The Flying Serpent (1946), a short role as Lampini in House of Frankenstein (1944), as Andoheb the High Priest of Arkan in The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Tomb (1944/1942), as Heinrich Hinckel in Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943), and as Dr. Lorenzo Cameron in The Mad Monster (1942). In many ways, Zucco was typecast in the same type of roles that Bela Lugosi accepted with Monogram and PRC. The Flying Serpent is pretty much a remake of Lugosi’s vehicle The Devil Bat (1940).
In The Mad Monster, Zucco is at his zaniest as a spurned scientist who injects a “catalytic agent” (aka wolf blood) into his simpleton gardener Petro (played by a pre-Frankenstein Glenn Strange).
Zucco’s plan is utterly fantastic. At first he wishes to go to the War Department with a scheme to create an invincible army of wolf-men. I’m not sure if he wants to avenge himself and prove his theories are correct by having the wolf-men whip the Axis powers, but then as he hallucinates in front of a non-existent group of skeptical colleagues and scientists he changes his tune to world domination. Petro becomes his guinea pig.
The makeup and transformation dissolves are decent enough.
Glenn Strange is perhaps best known as having played the Frankenstein Monster in three Universal films, but he was actually a veteran of over 300 film and TV appearances through a long and productive career. In Monster, Strange plays the role a lot like Lon Chaney, Jr. did as Lennie in Of Mice and Men (1939). He even sounds a bit like Chaney. Strange made a ton of films, especially westerns (he once rode as a stunt double for John Wayne), but I can’t remember him having as much dialogue as he had in this film. I think he probably made a better cowboy than a monster.
Of course Zucco uses the Mad Monster for his own vengeful purposes…
And always check the back seat!
Petro creeps around, and there’s a romance, and Zucco makes the Mad Monster Mad…
They don’t make ’em like they used to!
*Child actor Donnie Dunagan recalled a few years ago that he was advised to stay away from Atwill during the filming of Son of Frankenstein (1939).