The Mad Monster (1942) – Retro Review

Who is The Mad Monster? Is it the slow-witted gardener injected with wolfman serum by a mad scientist? Or is it the mad scientist himself? I’d do with the latter option. After all, the gardener (Glenn Strange) as a human is essentially harmless, and as a wolfman, he is like a dumb beast. The mad scientist (played by George Zucco), on the other hand, utilizes the wolfman to exact revenge on the scientists who discredited him. There’s a reason they’re called “mad scientists” rather than “calm” or “happy” scientists.

Though the movie is a bunch of silliness — Mystery Science Theater 3000 tackled it very early on –, it does have some detectable moments of seriousness. For one thing, the gardener named Petro is transformed into a monster. There’s always a deep statement in this sort of plot point. Any time a person drastically changes form and mood in a movie, it actually means something. It might not always be conveyed in a convincing or jaw-dropping manner, but it’s still making a statement about life, the universe, and its capacity to utterly rearrange a human being. This film offers a drastic example; At one point, the wolfman Petro sneaks into a home and kills a little girl.

Then there’s the scientist, Dr. Lorenzo Cameron, who no doubt has been transformed, too, albeit in a far more devious fashion. He knowingly manipulates and transforms Petro, and uses Petro’s bestial form to unleash harm upon an unsuspecting world. As events progress, Cameron struggles to control the beast himself and is rendered obsolete by fate.

the mad monster
I’m a gardener, hear my roar!

This was not Dr. Cameron’s plan, of course. Early in the movie, he is shown imagining his former scientific colleagues sitting around him, scoffing at his ideas of inter-species blood transfusions, and of transforming men into wolves. They seem to doubt it’s possible, which would make them incorrect, though not necessarily fools. One says such experiments are against nature. Another one questions the practicality of an army of wolf men, arguing there would be no way to control them on the battlefield, and that they’d run amok. Tired of being bad mouthed, Cameron becomes mad mouthed to his imagined foes: “Gentlemen, I wish you were here to see the proof of my claim that the transfusion of blood between different species is possible. Perhaps you will change your mind one day soon when Petro tears at your throat.”

The moral of The Mad Monster seems to be this: We can do certain things, but that doesn’t always mean we should. Also, sometimes lightning strikes our laboratories out of nowhere, burning the whole place down while we fight with wolf men. As Sarah Connor says in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, “There’s no fate but what we make.”

About wadewainio

Wade is a wannabe artist and musician (operating under the moniker Grandpa Helicopter), and an occasional radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton. He is an occasional writer for Undead Walking, and also makes up various blogs of his own. He even has a few books in the works. Then again, doesn't everyone?

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