Watching the classic “Five Doctors” episode of Doctor Who (remember that one from 1983?), I got to thinking about different types of doctors in cinema.
We have doctors of science, doctors of medicine.
But we also have evil “mad doctors” of death and destruction.
So here I describe and compare five mad doctor movies. Because classic cinema is my territory, all five of these movies hail from the past. Besides centering around a mad doctor, each of these movies is named for the character it presents.
What these five mad doctors have in common is a general obliviousness to normal human standards of behavior or ethics. Each is so acutely aware of his own high intelligence and masterly skills that he feels he has risen beyond human norms.
But each doctor is unique. Dr. Death is willing to work for others, while Dr. Gore works only for himself. Dr. Cyclops isolates himself from society, while Dr. Dracula moves within an alternate underground society. Dr. Renault acts kindly almost as often as he acts madly. Yes, they are a strange bunch.
I’ve written further about each of these films in my Claws & Saucers guidebook, but I hope you’ll enjoy the comments and links after the jump.
Here is a mini classic, in color no less, from the director of KING KONG. Albert Dekker (from KISS ME DEADLY) plays the raving scientist with poor eyesight who becomes a “cyclops” when one of his eyeglass lenses breaks. He lures victims to his jungle lab… and shrinks them down to one-foot height! It’s the first film/novelization tie-in, the first science fiction film made in Technicolor, and one of the first films to show fears of radiation. It’s all a little silly, as it should be.
DR. RENAULT’S SECRET (1942)
Here is the least famous movie on our little list, a strange Poverty Row sci-fi-horror combo with a high percentage of action for its era. George Zucco (from THE MUMMY’S HAND) is the evolutionist doctor trying to turn brutes into people. It’s like ISLAND OF LOST SOULS but on a smaller, and surprisingly sensitive, scale.
DOCTOR DEATH, SEEKER OF SOULS (1973)
Here’s an incredible and outlandish reincarnation/gore flick inspired by ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. Suave John Considine plays the occultist doctor who wears white suits and rides a Rolls Royce. He can call a soul from one body and command it to enter another body. The movie is stylized, sensationalized, self-referential, and unique. Watch it with your friends and you’ll be shouting “enter that body!” at each other for weeks. Plus it has Moe Howard!
DR. GORE (a.k.a. “The Body Shop,” 1973)
Unreleased until the 1980s, DR. GORE depicts a widower determined to make himself a new wife by sewing together his favorite body parts from random women that he dates. The gore is campy and wonderful, and no wonder, because the director was a friend and disciple of H.G. Lewis, the Godfather of Gore. Bonus: a syrupy sentimental 70s love song.
DOCTOR DRACULA (a.k.a. “Lucifer’s Women,” 1975)
Unreleased until 1981, the baffling and mesmerizing DOCTOR DRACULA actually gives us a series of mad doctors (or magicians, or vampires, it’s hard to tell), one of which is played by the great John Carradine. Our doctors’ target is the sweet Trilby from the classic SVENGALI. If you can snare Trilby’s soul, you will gain the power to reincarnate yourself. No, it doesn’t make much more sense when you see the movie. Here’s a typical line: “Super-conscious knowledge can overpower the spirit of the Beast.” Indeed!