One might well point to Rudolf Klein-Rogge as the archetype from which all subsequent movie mad doctors are descended. As the gonzo scientist Rottwang in Fritz Lang's benchmark film Metropolis, his influence permeates the presence of every horror film scientist since the silents. Likewise, the preponderance of Dr. Jekylls resonates through film history, informing in some way every sci fi psychotic we've come to love. With that in mind, we submit 10 truly shining examples of screen psychosis:

10. The Mad Ghoul (1943)
No list of movie maniacs is complete without at least one appearance by the great George Zucco. The Mad Ghoul is a thin cut above the poverty row dreck to which Zucco was inevitably sentenced, and without him, would survive as just another flat, cliched shocker with little to recommend it. With his customary chilling bravado, Zucco calmly makes a zombie out of dull David Bruce. Somehow, it's all supposed to make Evelyn Ankers love him.

9. She Demons (1958)
Rudolph Anders, a mainstay of early television and low-budget cinema, was easily one of B filmdom's more convincing Nazis. This time out, the doctor from Deutschland and his stranded storm troopers perform exotic experiments on hapless native girls in an attempt to restore the beauty of Anders' disfigured wife. Some find She Demons laughable in contemporary context, but this poverty-stricken production is ponderously morbid and scary in spite of its missteps. From director Richard Cunha (Giant From the Unknown, Missile to the Moon, Frankenstein's Daughter, 'nuff said!).

8. The Unearthly (1957)
John Carradine portrayed lots of demented docs in his day, but Unearthly finds him just a wee bit further over the top than usual in a seedy, creepy, laughable shocker that also features Tor Johnson, Myron Healey and Allison Hayes. Damn-near everything is wrong with this turkey, but one sympathizes with Carradine's overtly theatrical attempts to hold the whole ragged production together through sheer force of ham.

7. Maniac (1934)
Exploitation-meister Dwain Esper cooked up this depressing farrago about a kook who kills a doctor and assumes his identity. The heart-tugging highlight depicts the faux medico blinding his cat with a penknife and gulping down the animal's eye like a jelly bean. I won't even mention the two floozies in the basement who battle it out armed with hypodermic needles.

6. I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1957)
The premier mad doctor of the 1950s, Whit Bissell, once more rises handily to the occasion, lending a degree of genuine class, not to mention unsettling menace to this pedestrian, albeit stubbornly enjoyable film.The same year saw him performing a similar turn in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, sparing no sacrifice in his insane attempts to validate his crackpot theories.

5. Invisible Ghost (1941)
Throughout his career, Bela Lugosi was saddled with any number of ill-conceived mad doctor scripts. Some of his best-known films were of this dubious variety. Of the many shoddy Monogram shockers in which Lugosi appeared, for my money, Invisible Ghost survives as the best. Energetically attempting to forge atmosphere from the drab settings, fledgling director Joseph H. Lewis figures in the film's success, as does Bela's typically full-blooded performance.

4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Many have lauded the outlandish and winning work of Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius, and the veteran actor certainly deserves the critical gush. His swishy, menacing portrayal is the linchpin in what is arguably Universal's most thoroughly enjoyable golden horror. Like the film, his performance rings true today, as it can be viewed as both frantically campy and blood-curdlingly earnest. It's no easy feat for an actor to convey both qualities simultaneously.

3. Doctor X (1932)
Spoiler warning! Though everyone's favorite maniac, Lionel Atwill is prominently billed, the mad doc this time turns out to be -- surprise -- Preston Foster?! "Synthetic flesh," he hisses luridly whilst molding a prosthetic limb with which to strangle his rivals. Lee Tracy hams up the comic relief, but beautiful sets, alluring color photography and Michael Curtiz' crackerjack direction make this a must-see.

2. Island of Lost Souls (1933)
Easily among the most underrated horror films of the original sound cycle, this unsettling adaptation of Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau is certainly flawed, but undeniably creepy, due in large measure to the bravura performance of Charles Laughton. Sweaty, unfeeling and brutally offensive, Laughton's Moreau is a little too convincing to be entirely enjoyable.

1. Murders in the Zoo (1933)
As the only mad zoologist to make the list, Lionel Atwill kicks off this lighthearted romp by sewing shut the lips of a romantic rival, shrunken-head style. This from Edward Sutherland, one of Paramount's top-flight directors of light comedy. The grim goings-on are clumsily out of kilter with Charlie Ruggles' broad comic relief and Randolph Scott's stiff stagecraft. But relish every second of Atwill's unbridled sadism as he jealously sets about eliminating wife Kathleen Burke's perceived suitors.

"Never before has such a bone-chilling film been made!"
Body Snatcher From Hell

"Piece by piece, by piece, the bodies vanish!"
Shriek of the Mutilated

"As blood-chilling as being buried alive!"

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