George Zucco made a stab at becoming a sort of "lesser Boris Karloff" in poverty-row pictures. Because he could seem very dignified he often played doctors or judges, but he rose above the norm when he played mad scientists & arch villains.
He was a favorite of B director Sam Newfield, who cast him as the loony archeologist in The Flying Serpent (1946), an actual vampire in Dead Men Walk (1943), the mysterious innkeeper in The Black Raven (1943), & the evil scientist in The Mad Monster (1942).
In the latter film, in his cool bubbly-beakered laboratory, Zucco conducts experiments on wolves & man, creating a werewolf whom he uses to avenge himself on fellow scientists who had gotten him ostracized from scientific circles.
The chap he turns into a werewolf whenever he needs one is Petro the gentle giant & simpleton, played by character actor Glenn Strange, always fun to see in a role.
He experiences his cruel werewolf deeds, including the slaying of a child, as bad dreams he wishes would stop. In his big but harmless human form he likes to garden & would hurt no one.
Petro looks like the Gerry Garcia of werewolves when in furry make-up. I especially liked him in his werewolf hat. He wanders about in the fog going "Arrr, Arrr" sounding more like a movie pirate than werewolf. Precisely how the mad scientists controls him is never clarified. A lion-tamer's whip helps. But eventually his control breaks down, after Petro begins turning into a werewolf even without the doctor's serum.
Standard issue hero & heroine, played by Johnny Downs (as newspaper reporter) & Anna Nagle (as mad scientist's pretty daughter), turn in performances adequate for so minor a film, but nowhere near as interesting as Zucco. And without intending the film should come out so, Petro the gardener is the figure most to be cared about, since he's a good fellow too slow-witted ever to figure out how badly misused he has been.
Though in all regards trivial, anyone who kind of likes 1940s thrillers & vintage b/w horror films will find this one much better than the truly bad & boring ones, even if not in league with the best of the period.
Continue to the next werewolf movie:
Moon of the Wolf (1972)
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