A crippled puppeteer rescues an abused young boy and turns the boy into a great ballet dancer. Complications ensue when, as a young man, the dancer falls in love with a young woman the ... See full summary »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Charles Butterworth ...
Donald Cook ...
Luis Alberni ...
Sergei Bankieff
...
Sonya Preskoya
André Luguet ...
Count Robert Renaud (as Andre Luguet)
...
Fedor as a Boy
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Storyline

A crippled puppeteer rescues an abused young boy and turns the boy into a great ballet dancer. Complications ensue when, as a young man, the dancer falls in love with a young woman the puppeteer is also in love with. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Horror | Romance

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

7 November 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El genio loco  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Michael Curtiz hired Boris Karloff because he mistakenly thought he was Russian. See more »

Goofs

At breakfast with Fedor, Nana has her arms crossed on the table, then has one hand up to her chin in close-up, then in the next shot both arms are crossed on the table again. See more »

Quotes

Vladimar Ivan Tsarakov: I will create my own being: that boy! That boy will be my counterpart, he shall be what I should have been... I will mold him, I will pour into him my genius, my soul. In him all my dreams, all my ambitions will be fulfilled -- the greatest dancer of all time!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Taxi! (1932) See more »

Soundtracks

First Movement
(uncredited)
from "Symphony No.4 in F Minor, Op.36"
Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Played as background music when Fedor returns to Ivan
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User Reviews

tasty ham, attractively served; side dishes not bad
1 February 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In "The Mad Genius" John Barrymore delivers one of his most enjoyable screen performances, playing a club-footed, alcoholic, womanizing Russian puppeteer who takes an abused youth under his wing and molds him into a great star with the Ballet Russe, an accomplishment he could never attain himself due to his deformity. Some may consider his performance hammy, but at least it's Grade A.

The film opens expressionistically somewhere in "Central Europe" on a rain-drenched night with Barrymore and his dim-witted sidekick (the deadpan Charles Butterworth) rehearsing a traveling puppet show when a barefoot youth (Frankie Darro), fleeing a beating from his insanely sadistic father (Boris Karloff), stumbles into their tent. Barrymore and Butterworth hide him and leave town in a horse-drawn wagon shot at a tilted angle as it creaks along a muddy road.

Zip to Berlin several years later. The youth is now a young man (Donald Cook) who is in love with a fellow dancer (Marian Marsh). Barrymore, still the puppeteer but of humans now, wants no one interfering with his controlling relationship and maneuvers Marsh out of the company while elevating a lesser dancer to her position. Meanwhile, Barrymore's dance director (Luis Alberni) is slowly going mad from a cocaine addiction enabled by his employer. The two are locked together, feeding on each other's weaknesses, paralleling the central relationship between teacher-mentor and star-protégé. Barrymore needs Alberni's skills as a dance master; Alberni can't function without the drugs Barrymore provides.

The camera often shoots from low angles, with ceilings visible. Lots of chiaroscuro. Pre-Code subject matter includes extramarital cohabitation, prostitution, drug addiction, and (for the time) grisly violence. Suggestive dialogue abounds.

Barrymore feasts on the role. Luis Alberni plays the frenzied addict to the hilt. Marian Marsh and Donald Cook are sometimes mechanical and artificial but not to the extent that they undermine their roles and both have strong moments. Carmel Myers is excellent in a brief drunken scene with Barrymore.

Donald Cook looks so much like the Warners contract actress Kay Francis that they should have been cast in a movie together as siblings. Just sayin'.


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