“I’m a scientist. To me there is no good or evil only true or false.”
Doctor Alfred Morris (George Zucco) is a university chemistry professor. During one of his lectures he talks to his students about his investigations into an ancient South American tribe who developed a form of poison gas. This gas rendered their human sacrifices unconscious before they cut out their hearts.
After the lecture, he discusses his research with one of his students, Ted Allison (David Bruce). Morris asks him to become his laboratory assistant for the summer. Ted jumps at the offer. Once they are at the doctor’s home lab Morris shows him what he has accomplished so far. He is especially proud of his accomplishments with a lab monkey named Jocko. Specifically bringing him back to life. Morris has rediscovered an ancient Mayan formula for a gas which turns men into pliant, obedient, zombie-like ghouls. Professor Morris uses Ted as his latest guinea pig.
Ted has a beautiful fiancée, Isabel Lewis (Evelyn Ankers). She is an accomplished concert singer. Unfortunately for Allison, Isabel is no longer in love with him and wants to break off their engagement. She has fallen for her accompanist, Eric Iverson (Turhan Bey). Morris is of the delusion that Isabel is in love with him.
Now that Ted is a zombie Morris needs to make a serum from the heart of a living or recently deceased person to bring him, temporarily, back from zombieland. In order to do that Morris has Ted dig up some graves or, if necessary, kill some people. When Ted is human he is unaware that Isabel is no longer in love with him. He insists on following her on her tour. Ted is both servant to Morris and puppy dog to Isabel, depending on if he is alive or dead at the time. The murders and grave robberies coincide with Isabel’s touring schedule. Enter intrepid reporter Ken “Scoop” McClure (Robert Armstrong), who is on the trail of the mad scientist. Well, sorta.
“The Mad Ghoul” was released in 1943 and was directed by James Hogan. It is one of Universal’s “B” horror movies. As far as Universal monster movies are concerned this one is not well known despite the appearances of Turhan Bey, Evelyn Ankers and George Zucco. As one of their “B” films the budget is smaller. Make-up effects are more subdued but rather effective. Ted looks every inch the zombie but with the absence of blood and drool. As a matter of fact there really is no blood in the movie at all. Even so, it doesn’t affect the over all feel of the film. There is an interesting creepiness to the whole thing. The only real draw back that I saw was that I wasn’t thrilled with whoever they used to dub for Ankers’ singing. I would have preferred someone with a softer timbre.
The movie is only an hour long, and there isn’t much to the plot, still it was different enough to give an interesting feel to the zombie genre. As one of the earlier zombie movies it should get more respect than it does. I consider it almost a hidden gem even though there is no actual gore in it. It does have everything else a horror movie should have. Do you like zombies, grave robbing and corpse desecration? We got you covered.