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  Mad Ghoul, The Have A Heart
Year: 1943
Director: James P. Hogan
Stars: David Bruce, George Zucco, Evelyn Ankers, Turhan Bey, Robert Armstrong, Charles McGraw, Milburn Stone, Rose Hobart, Andrew Tombes, Addison Richards
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doctor Alfred Morris (George Zucco) is delivering an illustrated lecture to his students on the subject of his investigations into an ancient South American tribe who developed a form of poison gas, all the better to knock out their human sacrifices and cut out their hearts. After the talk, he converses with one of his students, Ted Allison (David Bruce), who is very enthusiastic about this line of work, prompting Morris to invite him to become his laboratory assistant for the summer break before classes resume. Allison jumps at the chance, and soon they are at the lab in the doctor's home where he demonstrates what he has done to Jocko the monkey: bringing him back to life with the experiments. Imagine this with a human subject!

Well, you don't have to imagine since there's a movie all about it, the sensationally-titled The Mad Ghoul which was arriving at the tail end of the craze in Hollywood for horror movies with mad scientist themes. Our lead character this time around was Zucco, already a past master at such roles, well into his alternating of supporting parts in big budget efforts with closer to leads as the villains in B movies, and with his urbane delivery and imperiously hawkish looks he was a natural in these. When you think of the ideal actor for this type of chiller to play the baddie then Zucco was often your man, not as high profile as Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi, more on the level of Lionel Atwill, and no less effective for that.

Another regular fixture in horrors of this era was Evelyn Ankers, who here played the much-harrassed love interest to Ted, the singer Isabel Lewis. Here she was in a typical guise as the glamorous object of desire destined to scream the house down before the movie was over, only here she was offered a shade more to do since Isabel doesn't actually love Ted, and wants to break off their relationship but doesn't have the heart to let him down. The man she is really enamoured with was a fellow many audiences of the day found to be something of a heartthrob, which was notable since Turhan Bey, for it was he, was one of the first non-white actors to win such a status in Hollywood. Here he was stuck in a rather dull role as Isabel's dashing accompanist.

He's artistic too, which makes him the chief suspect when the cemetery graves around the regions the singer is performing are desecrated with the recently deceased having their hearts removed. Whyever could that be? You don't have to work it out, you've already been told as Dr Morris lures Ted to the lab, knocks him out with the gas and revives him as a zombie only willing to do the doctor's bidding. These passages are periodical, but do leave the unfortunate young man looking like The Mummy only in a suit and tie instead of bandages, not bad as makeup goes and lending the actor a death warmed up appearance which is all too appropriate. Under the influence, Morris takes Ted to the cemeteries and they perform their dark deeds, only the police may not be on to them, but a reporter is.

He was McClure, a newspaperman played by Robert Armstrong, a star whose celebrity had waned by this time but will always be recalled as Carl Denham, the adventurer who brought King Kong to New York City. Here he was in rather reduced circumstances, and given the shock twist later on might have felt undervalued here, though at least he was still working for a big studio in Universal and hadn't landed in Poverty Row outfits like Monogram or PRC. That said, the intrepid reporter was a common character in many a contemporary-set Golden Age chiller, and there was a sense of The Mad Ghoul being assembled Frankenstein-like from existing parts. Mind you, when Zucco appeared to be relishing his nefarious deeds as Morris has designs on Isabel and believes he can make her see the appeal of the more mature madman, it was true there was much to enjoy here, and at an hour long it wasn't going to outstay its welcome. You could regard the clich├ęs and contrivances as part of the fun, which was what they undoubtedly were.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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