Monday, June 1, 2020

Mad Scientist May Quick Picks and Pans

The Alligator People (1959) Beverly Garland plays Joyce Webster, a woman searching for her missing husband Paul (Richard Crane). Her search ends up at an estate in bayou country, where Paul is part of an experiment to restore bodies that have been horribly injured. It’s too bad the process (using properties from alligator DNA) starts turning the test subjects into human-alligator hybrids. The final alligator man stage is hokey, but the makeup for the transitional phase (by Ben Nye and Dick Smith) is surprisingly effective.
Lon Chaney, Jr. also appears, as a hook-handed Cajun (sans accent) who holds a grudge against the giant reptiles. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable creature feature that deserves to be mentioned more often.

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Attack of the Puppet People (1958) John Hoyt stars as Mr. Franz, a kindly dollmaker with abandonment issues who discovers the secret to shrinking people. Bob and Sally (John Agar and June Kenney) are among his unfortunate victims, reduced to doll size and stored in plastic tubes. It’s all entertaining Bert I. Gordon nonsense, full of oversized props, rear projection mayhem, and shameless self-promotion, featuring a scene at a drive-in showing (What else?) Gordon’s The Amazing Colossal Man.

Rating: ***. Available on DVD and Amazon Prime

The Awful Dr. Orlof (aka: Gritos en la Noche) (1962) This film marked the horror feature debut of prolific director Jesús Franco. The Spanish-French production borrows the basic plot from Eyes Without a Face (1960), while eschewing most of the artistry. A ruthless doctor (Howard Vernon) is obsessed with restoring his daughter’s beauty at any cost. He employs a dead-eyed assistant who kidnaps young vivacious women for his experiments, while some obtuse police inspectors draw out the proceedings fumbling through clues. It’s never boring, and certainly worth a look.

Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Kanopy

The Devil Commands (1941) Grieving scientist Dr. Blair (Boris Karloff) attempts to find a way to speak with his deceased wife after she dies in a car accident. He repurposes his brain wave-measuring equipment to pick up messages from the dead, catching the ire of his university employers. After he’s fired, Blair moves his experiments to a secluded house, accompanied by his brain-damaged assistant and an unscrupulous medium. The Devil Commands takes a mostly by-the-numbers approach, with the usual message about tampering with things people were not meant to know, and I’m not quite sure how the title fits in. It does contain one creepy scene, however, with corpses seated around a table, connected to Blair’s equipment.

Rating: ***. Available on DVD

Die, Monster, Die! (aka: Monster of Terror) (1965) This very loose adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Colour Out of Space” takes ample liberties with the original story, moving the setting from New England to England.  Nick Adams plays Stephen Reinhart, an American who travels to the U.K. to visit his girlfriend (Suzan Farmer). He’s instantly met with hostility and suspicion from the people of Arkham. His situation scarcely improves when he arrives at her father’s (Boris Karloff) estate and is told to go away. Meanwhile, her mother is suffering from an unknown disease, which seems to be linked to a meteorite that crashed on the property. A locked greenhouse hides a menagerie of creepy crawlies, created through the mysterious meteorite substance. The performances are reduced to Adams yelling at everyone, Suzan screaming at every provocation, and Karloff glowering. Any resemblance to Lovecraft’s story in this plodding mess is purely coincidental.

Rating: **. Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Voodoo Man (1944) Ho, hum… In a role he could have likely done in his sleep, Bela Lugosi plays Dr. Marlowe. With the help of his cohort, Nicholas (George Zucco), he attempts to revive his wife, who’s been dead for 22 years. They capture young women for his ongoing experiments, which inexplicably involve voodoo rituals (call me skeptical, but I don’t think anyone involved with this movie ever bothered to research voodoo). One bright spot is John Carradine, hamming things up as Marlowe’s dimwitted assistant Toby. With a running time of 62 minutes, it’s mercifully short, so it won’t demand much of your time. On the other hand, you’re better off getting your Lugosi mad scientist fix from The Raven or The Devil Bat.

Rating: **. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Prime


  1. A nice selection of Mad Scientist films, Barry!
    I will have to pop on my Mad Scientist Glasses and watch Attack of the Puppet People!🤓