This is part of Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Collection Volume 2 Blu-ray. When all films have been reviewed, we’ll post a recap review encompassing all discs.
You’re a successful doctor and professor. Currently you’ve found a way to effectively make animals into living zombies by hitting them with a noxious gas that allows you to give commands at your whim, and then put them back to normal with a serum made from freshly-dead cadaver hearts. But what’s the one thing missing in your life? Ah yes, a lovely talented starlet who is breaking it off with your current assistant to date her musician instead. The MadGhoul, a 1943 film from director James P. Hogan, basically imagines a storyline where George Zucco’s character Dr. Morris is a brilliant scientist with a morass of morals, ultimately wooed into committing horrific atrocities because of Isabel Lewis (Evelyn Ankers). Hey, Isabel’s a catch for sure… but maybe not at debauched graverobbing and murdering levels?
All jokes aside, The Mad Ghoul is a fairly fun film specifically thanks to Zucco, whose leading role is all kinds of silly and over-the-top. The storyline progresses at a good pace, although the plot itself tends to stretch belief – random graverobbing and murders occur along the same path that Isabel’s musical tour takes, and it continues for a while until one reporter named Scoops (Robert Armstrong) catches on. While the idea is a little thin for a 65 minute film, there’s enough mayhem along the way – especially with a zombified David Bruce – to make things interesting until the melodramatic end.
However, it’s important to note that The Mad Ghoul isn’t really anything new, especially for its time in 1942. It draws from a number of previous films as influence including Bela Lugosi’s famous White Zombie and other voodoo-related films of the earlier ’30s, making it a retread that adds little to the genre. While it’s a fine film, there’s nothing here that stands out that hadn’t been done before, and better, by other human-possession films.
The Mad Ghoul gets its Blu-ray release thanks to Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Collection Volume 2, and like the previous films in this collection, there is no note about the HD transger provided on the disc. This one is extremely similar in quality to The Strange Case of Doctor Rx and The Mad Doctor of Market Street; it features a fairly good picture with nice detail and sharpness, though blacks and darker sequences obfuscate somewhat. Also of note are the scene transitions, which tend to start out soft and then regain their definition. Some scenes tend to have some slight damage, but other than that, it’s not a bad transfer at all and should match most viewers’ expectations.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track that has consistent dialogue volume, though at times there does tend to be some distortion at higher registers – note the high notes that Isabel hits in her singing. English subtitles are also included in yellow font.
Like most of the other films in this collection The Mad Ghoul doesn’t get a lot of extras. It does feature a new audio commentary from Thomas Reeder, as well as an image gallery and press kit. The audio commentary itself will be the most interesting here.
Our gallery of screenshots from each film in this release.
The Mad Ghoul is a fine, but not particularly impressive, zombie-like film that steals a lot from White Zombie before it. This Scream Factory disc has a solid transfer and a new audio commentary to add to this collection's extras.