Conquest of Man

The Mad Monster

Poverty Row studio PRC tried to ride the werewolf wave in 1942 with this Sam Newfield production starring Glenn Strange as a slouch hat-wearing monster and George Zucco as the zany scientist. Not the studio’s worst outing, but at 77 minutes it overstays its welcome. 3/10

The Corpse Vanishes

Bela Lugosi is kidnapping brides from the altar in order to extract their precious bodily fluids, which he uses to keep his 80-year old wife young and beautiful. This Monogram cheapo from 1942 could have been batshit crazy fun but tries too hard to be a snappy Warner crime thriller. 3/10

The Ghost of Frankenstein

The magic is all but gone from the fourth Universal Frankenstein picture, made in 1942. Although well-paced and entertaining, the film stumbles on a ridiculous, self-contradictory script, a low budget and a Lon Chaney Jr. who isn’t up to the task of replacing Boris Karloff as the monster. 5/10

The Mad Doctor of Market Street

Lionel Atwill and his hardy troop of bit-part players and slumming has-beens bravely fight their way through an inane and disjointed script on a shoestring budget. Director Joseph H. Lewis adds touches of class to this odd mad scientist/South Seas adventure horror screwball comedy. 3/10

The Body Disappears

Warner produced its first invisibility comedy in 1941. This time it’s a bridegroom who’s accidentally turned transparent on the eve of his wedding. Actors like Jane Wyman, Edward Everett Horton and Willie Best help keep this bland, programmatic situation farce afloat, if only barely. 3/10

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

MGM pulls out all the stops in this high-profile 1941 horror remake. Star director Victor Fleming, however, is out of his element, as is Spencer Tracy in the lead. Still, the movie’s depiction of domestic psychological abuse makes it genuinely unsettling and Ingrid Bergman is sublime. 7/10

Man Made Monster

A quick Universal cheapo from 1941, this was the first of Lon Chaney Jr.’s monster movies, and one of his best. Lionel Atwill shines as the mad doctor who pumps Chaney full of electricity, until he becomes a mindless, glow-in-the-dark monster who kills with a touch. 6/10

The Devil Commands

The fourth and best of Columbia’s Karloff mad scientist films takes an eerie dip into Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Directed by later Oscar winner Edward Dmytryk, it unfortunately falls back on tired B-movie tropes, but it’s still a minor gem of forties science fiction. 7/10

The Invisible Woman

The third ”invisible man” instalment from 1940 is a solid screwball comedy with a great female heroine, but hardly brings anything new to the table. Universal brings in an impressive roster of character actors, but the special effects are somewhat shoddy. 6/10

Before I Hang

Nick Grinde’s third Karloff film for Columbia is yet a variety on the scientist on death row. This time K isn’t brought back from the dead, but instead invents a youth serum, which he injects himself with, before realising that mixing it with a hanged murderer’s blood wasn’t the best idea. A rushed effort, but it holds together. 4/10

A Macabre Legacy

A brilliant plastic surgeon uses his skills to mutilate the faces of his wife and her lover in this 1940 Mexican horror melodrama. The premise is promising, but the film is slow to get going and gets stuck in melodrama mode. 4/10

The Macabre Trunk

This obscure Mexican medical horror from 1936 is a surprisingly well-made and entertaining mad scientist melodrama cut from a Hollywood template. While tame by today’s standards, its scenes with hack-off limbs and gore-filled trunks raised a few eyebrows back in the day. 6/10

The Man with Nine Lives

One of five films that Columbia made with Boris Karloff, more or less from one and the same script, this 1940 cryonics film is competently made and quite enjoyable. At least you’ll get a few chuckles out of the utterly silly science, like doctors reviving patients from cryostasis with pots of hot coffee. 5/10

Dr. Cyclops

Brought to you by the creators of King Kong, this 1940 outing is one of the first “shrunken people” films, set in the Peruvian Jungle and filmed in atmospheric Technicolor. Despite its superb premise and wonderful effects, the script is unfortunately somewhat pedestrian. 7/10

Black Friday

Even if Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were the marquee names for this 1940 gangster/brain transplant mashup written by Curt Siodmak, it is unheralded actor Stanley Ridges who steals the show in his dual role as fussy professor and cold blooded mobster boss. 5/10