The Mad Monster (1942)

FEBRUARY 20, 2008


One thing I tend to forget about when I am watching older movies like The Mad Monster is the Production Code, only to have an implementation of one of its "rules" completely take you out of a scene. It’s pretty fascinating when you think about it, and if you’re unfamiliar with it I urge you to check out the Wikipedia for it (or even a real encyclopedia, if that’s your bag). Sometimes I wonder how the film industry would be had the code never been (rightfully) abolished. The Saw films would certainly be interesting... the damn Code wouldn’t have allowed the friggin SETTING (a bathroom) for half the time!

Anyway, I was reminded of it late in the film when a guy goes to give our requisite guinea pig (a guy who ironically looks a bit like future Wolf Man Benicio Del Toro) a shot. He walks over, and then there’s a fade to probably 20 seconds later once the shot has been given and the needle withdrawn. Because, even though it was technically being used for a medical purpose (as opposed to heroin), it apparently still fell under “illegal drug use”, something forbidden by the Code. So poorly thought out the thing was, that narrative flow was ruined in this and dog knows how many other films just to spare the audience the sight of something that they had all seen (and probably used) in their life. Nice work. Shit makes the nonsense of Joe Lieberman look reasonable.

The Code cannot be entirely blamed for the (still chilling) scene where the wolf kills a little girl. Naturally, we don’t see the act, but instead the poor kid’s ball rolling out of her bedroom, following by her mother’s panicked screaming. Great scene, rivaling any of the similar kid killings in the old Universal movies. I assume that even if such a thing were allowed to be seen in a film, it would still be filmed the way it was (and the scene would probably have been weakened had actual violence been shown).

Also, this movie may have the earliest appearance of the monster in mad scientist history. The movie’s not even 5 minutes old by the time we get our first transformation scene! Naturally, it slows down considerably afterwards, but at least they got things started on the right note. This is even more important when you consider the rather weak plot, which is just yet another variation on the “Scientist gets revenge on the other scientists who doubted him” plot. Look, if any scientists are reading this, listen up: if a colleague says he’s developing some ridiculous new formula, BACK HIM! Even if it’s just a “Well good luck, buddy!”, it’s a hell of a lot better than telling him he’s insane and then getting yourself mauled to death later when the formula turns out to work after all.

Like last week’s Dead Men Walk, this one stars George Zucco. I must admit I never heard of the gent prior to watching these films, but I’m quickly becoming a fan. In addition to his lovably demented demeanor in both films (did he ALWAYS play a guy seeking revenge?), both of his roles required him to be probably the first actor to talk to empty sets for future effects scenes. In Walk he had to do some split screen stuff to play both roles of twin brothers, and here he has a rather odd scene where he talks to four ghosts, all of whom are opaque. It’s a really well done scene.

At 76 minutes, this is one of the longest movies on the Horror Classics set (and according to the IMDb, the longest B-film from the 1940’s “poverty row” line), and I would just like to point out again that I really hate the Creek for not putting all of the running times next to the titles on this set, as they have for all of the others. Jerks.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. The Code is indeed a fascinating subject. While it was unquestionably an obstacle for filmmakers between 1934 and 1964, it is interesting to see how they were able to react to it, often coming up with solutions that might not have occured to later filmmakers. It's also interesting that even though filmmakers got away with more prior to 1934, it's still nothing compared to what we see in movies post-1964. Meaning that it wasn't just the Hayes Code that kept them in line, but perhaps a greater sense of decency and restraint than we see in our culture today.


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