Shunned by his peers, Dr Lorenzo Cameron (George Zucco) toils in the basement laboratory of his mansion house, working on an experiment that he just knows will elevate his standing in the world of science. He keeps a wolf imprisoned in a cage to extract its blood which he has used to create a serum which he injects into his hulking handyman Pedro (Glenn Strange). The reaction to the serum is to transform the slow-witted fellow into a werewolf - why? Well, as there's a war on, Cameron plans on creating a whole army of wolfmen for they will be unstoppable!
Needless to say we don't see an army of wolfmen in The Mad Doctor, only the one, as this would have been fairly familiar to audiences of the day who had recently seen horror hit The Wolf Man. You can complain all you like about a lack of orgiinality in the movies you see nowadays, but it's a practice that has been going on every since they were invented, and nowhere more than in the low budget end of the film spectrum. On this evidence, it's a miracle cinema moved on at all.
This one does have a couple of distinguishing notes, the first being that it was the longest of the Poverty Row B-movies made during this era, and it certainly feels it. It may be a shade over an hour and fifteen minutes in length, but even so there is a lot of padding for what is a simple monster on the rampage flick. Zucco is doing his mad scientist act once again, and while you can enjoy his hamming, as a whole he is ill-served by a plot that plods from creature attack to stagey dialogue scene with little difference in the excitement levels for either.
The other notable thing about this was that it was banned in Britain for about ten years after it was made, and when it was released it had to carry a reassuring disclaimer about the nature of blood transfusions so as not to defame the genuine doctors who might have felt put out at the depiction of their profession as seen in the character of Cameron. A fact that is more amusing than the attempts at scaring the audience here, with Strange donning the hairy makeup and snarling to little effect.
Pedro is a character inspired by Lon Chaney Jr, so not only is he a werewolf in his inhuman form, but when he is normal he is suspiciously similar to Chaney's Lenny role in Of Mice and Men; obviously screenwriter Fred Myton was very impressed with the star. With heavy predictability Cameron sets his latest manbeast to work on bumping off those doctors who laughed at him (we see him lost in a reverie of arguing with imaginary versions of them at the beginning, bizarrely), and there is the usual plucky reporter (Johnny Downs) to solve the mystery and save the girl (Anne Nagel playing Cameron's daughter) before the end. There are a few cheap chuckles that can be wrung out of The Mad Monster, but it moves at such a snail's pace that it can only be recommended to the true hardcore fans of such films. Music by David Chudnow.