A mad scientist is forced to leave San Francisco when his experiments become known. He lands on a tropical island, takes control and terrorizes the local populace. The survivor of a ... See full summary »
Dr. Alfred Morris, a university chemistry professor, rediscovers an ancient Mayan formula for a gas which turns men into pliant, obedient, zombie-like ghouls. After medical student Ted Allison becomes a guinea pig for Morris, the professor imagines that Allison's fiancée, beautiful concert singer Isabel Lewis, wants to break off the engagement because she prefers the professor as a more "mature" lover but n reality loves Eric, her accompanist. In order to bring Ted back from his trance-like states, Morris commands him to perform a cardiectomy on recently deceased or living bodies in order to use serum from their hearts as a temporary antidote. When the serial murders seem to coincide with Isabel's touring schedule, ace reporter "Scoop" McClure gets on the mad scientist's trail. Written by
Evelyn Ankers hoped to do her own singing for the film, but because of the tight production schedule producer Ben Pivar used stock recordings of Lillian Cornell for the scenes in which Ankers' character sings (and the songs are obviously older recordings since their sound quality is inferior to the rest of the soundtrack). See more »
I can't help feeling a sense of evil in all this.
Dr. Alfred Morris:
Moral concepts? I'm a scientist. To me there is no good or evil, only true or false. Work with one; discard the other.
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"The Mad Ghoul" is a really good Universal horror story from a different era. I love it. You get a terrific obsessed scientist portrayal from George Zucco. His enunciation and delivery of lines, his eyes and face are worth the watching alone. He's not mad but he's willing to commit murder to get what he wants. You get a mild-looking but effective makeover of David Bruce so that he becomes a zombie whom Zucco bosses around to do ghoulish deeds. Bruce gives a nuanced performance of a man who has had his will taken away and only gradually realizes what has happened to him in his moments of normality. This story element is something like the pathos of "The Wolf Man".
Horror movies from this period are totally different from the current kind, so that the taking of a heart from a dead body is never shown. No blood. No gore. No phony thrills either. In the old days, the style was to rely on story, makeup, performance, a robust cast of stars, and beautiful black and white photography of people dressed in nice clothes in nice settings mostly. But then there are the labs, the dark allies, and the cemeteries.
The cast also includes Evelyn Ankers as a singer. She was Bruce's girl but her affections have switched over to her pianist, Turhan Bey. Zucco wants her, so watch out. A reporter, Robert Armstrong, does some detective work until the police catch on. They are Milburn Stone (Doc from Gunsmoke) and making a surprise appearance, Charles McGraw. This was one of his earliest credited film appearances.
This will be way too mild for those who demand today's tastes. It doesn't scare anyone, but it's a very good story in the horror vein of those days.
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