Early and really mad mad science

Light, more light
Bonus early mad science

A movie no aficionado of the history  cinematic mad science science should miss is Dwain Esper‘s Maniac (1934).  It’s a movie that will help you just say no to drugs.  Because with movies like this, who would need drugs?

Oh, it starts out sensibly enough as a simple, innocent tale of your standard-issue mad scientist (“Dr. Meirschultz”) who’ has come up with a chemical formula that will resurrect the dead.  Naturally, he and his assistant Don Maxwell will have to break into the local morgue to test the formula.  Happily, Don Maxwell is an unemployed vaudeville performer who specializes in impersonations, so this is not to difficult.

The morgue itself is is a marvelous high-arched space full of ominous darkness.  I suspect this was because Esper didn’t have the production budget to light the set properly, but the effect still works for me.

Meirscchultz’s “victim” (if that’s the right word for a dead person who you are trying to bring back to life) is a carbon monoxide suicide, who looks like she might have had rather a lot to live for (but what do we know of another’s inner sorrows?).

Mad scientist Meirschultz get right to work.

With success!  The victim is revived, sort of, and smuggled back chez Meirschultz to continue her recuperation.

Unfortunately success goes to Dr. Meirschultz’s head, and on his hubris follows nemesis, as it so often does in the mad science movie.  Wishing to continue his experiments, he hands Maxwell a gun and invites Maxwell to shoot himself, so that he can be the next Meirschultz success.  Bad move, Meirschultz.  Maxwell loses his cool and shoots Meirshcultz instead.

Unfortunately Meirschultz is some sort of psychiatrist in addition to being a mad scientist, and when some of Merischultz’s patients show up, Maxwell decides to try impersonating Meirschultz to keep the law away.

This leads to some unfortunate complications when Maxwell gives one of Meirschultz’s already-unstable patients the wrong injection (of “Superadrenaline”), a screwup which generates The One Drug Freakout Scene to Rule them All.  Said patient then abducts the revived dead girl (possibly — the character is played by an entirely different actress).

He runs off into the woods with her and tears off her dress, leading to a rare post-Code example of on-screen nudity.

(El Santo is hilarious on just how gratuitous this scene is.)

And it only gets stranger from there.  Corpses bricked up in cellars, insane neighbors, more utterly gratuitous scenes of young women lounging around in their undies, bogus “educational” inserts…you cannot miss this one.

Fortunately you don’t have to, because it’s available at the Internet archive.

It’s free, so you can’t ask for your money back.

Update 20111224: I realize that the embedding seemed broken for a long time, but I hope it’s fixed now.

2 thoughts on “Early and really mad mad science

  1. If you want a good film on a similar topic, try “Reanimator” by Stuart Gordon, a great 70s run at an HP Lovecraft story. Lovecraft would have been scandalized by the nudity, but its hard not to love a movie that takes “giving head” so seriously!

    • Interestingly, when I first began drafting this post I had titled it “Re-Animator Ancestor.” I suspect that Lovecraft probably wouldn’t have liked the Megan Halsey character generally. Too bad: IMHO this is an unusual (possibly even unique) instance in which the filmmakers might have actually improved a Lovecraft story by moving it into contemporary times and giving it an important female character.

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