Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942)

Shock Theater presents THE MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET....

As most Universal horror films, THE MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET starts off with delicious chiller atmosphere, expectantly foreshadowed by Hans Salter's familiar monster music played over surprisingly dull opening credits. It's gloomy and raining on Market Street, as a lone man stops on the corner and then proceeds cautiously to the ground floor office of a Dr. Ralph Benson. Within the office, he is greeted by Benson, played with his usual slimy efficiency by Lionel Atwill. We learn that the man is here to be used as an experimental subject for suspended animation. His payment: one thousand dollars for his starving family. Dr. Benson assures him that the experiment will be successful. Of course, it isn't, and as the police arrive in the morning, alerted by the man's wife, Dr. Benson makes his escape through a window....

It's difficult not to feel annoyed that Universal could not maintain the same level of tension and atmosphere throughout the rest of the movie. With an ever-growing emphasis on the more humorous characters of the film whom we are introduced to on a ship in which Dr. Benson makes his escape from England, MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET struggles to find a focus. In his last starring role, Lionel Atwill is the film's only welcome presence, but his devilish intensity and fiery briskness is depressed by the lackluster story. The male "hero" (hard to call him that as the character is emasculated from the start), played by Richard Davies, is the worst such male lead character in any Universal horror film I have seen.

In its original theatrical run, MAD DOCTOR OF MARKET STREET was the lower half of a double bill toplined by THE WOLF MAN.

All of the film's effective moments come in the early Market Street scenes, which last perhaps a scant seven minutes. Clearly, the Mad Doctor should never have left Market Street.

1 comment:

kochillt said...

Lionel Atwill was undeservedly billed second after Una Merkel, as he was in THE STRANGE CASE OF DOCTOR Rx, wherein his role was just a minor cameo. At least he got one more spotlight following MAN MADE MONSTER, completed July 1941. Can't go wrong lusting after Claire Dodd, from SECRET OF THE CHATEAU, IN THE NAVY, and THE BLACK CAT.