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Universal Horror Collection Volume 2 Main

Universal Horror Collection: Volume 2 - The Mad Ghoul Blu-ray Review

Written by ZigZag

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Universal Horror Collection Volume 2 Large


Directed by James Hogan
Written by Brenda Weisberg and Paul Gangelin
1943, 65 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 23rd, 2019

Starring:
David Bruce as Ted Allison
Evelyn Ankers as Isabel Lewis
George Zucco as Dr. Alfred Morris
Robert Armstrong as Ken McClure
Turhan Bey as Eric Iverson

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Review:

Dr. Alfred Morris has successfully recreated an ancient Mayan nerve gas that leaves those exposed in a state of suspended animation. The toxin allows Morris to control the will of a test subject by turning him into a mindless zombie slave. There is an antidote that involves extracting healthy human hearts to restore the subject to normal, but the effects are temporary and require many stolen hearts. Morris experiments on Ted Allison, his new lab assistant with a beautiful fiancée named Isabelle who has caught the doctor’s eye. Morris instructs zombie Ted to break up with Isabelle so he can make her his own and to kill anyone that gets in his way.

The Mad Ghoul is a better-than-average B-movie that is reasonably well-written, soundly directed and features some pretty solid performances. The plot is a thin but serviceable mad scientist yarn involving the familiar tropes of mind control and murder. Adding to the story is an interesting spin on the classic love triangle with a heroine who is independent and pursuing her own path to happiness. Written by Brenda Weisberg (The Mummy’s Ghost) and Paul Gangelin (The Giant Claw), the film moves at a brisk pace and explores themes of unrequited love and free will.

Director James Hogan (No Place for a Lady) makes the most of the material and keeps things lively with his steady camera work. George Zucco (House of Frankenstein) stars as Dr. Morris and is rather good as the diabolical villain. He is particularly creepy in his scenes opposite Evelyn Ankers (The Wolf Man) as Isabelle. David Bruce (Lady on a Train) does a fine job as our zombie protagonist Ted. He too works well with Ankers, who is the heart of the story and keeps the material grounded. The Mad Ghoul is one of the stronger titles in this collection and comes recommended.

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Video and Audio:

All four films are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and look terrific. The black-and-white photography carries solid contrast levels and offers previously unseen detail in picture quality.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 track faithfully delivers the original mono recordings with satisfying results. Dialogue is clean and crisp without any hiss, pops or other audio distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Disc 1: Murders in the Zoo

Film historian Greg Mank delivers an insightful audio commentary filled with production information and interesting trivia. He provides an overview of the man vs. animal subgenre popular in the 1930s and 40s and shares a truly horrific story about a publicity stunt gone wrong. A biography of star Lionel Atwill includes some racy anecdotes that are a little surprising.

A still gallery (2 minutes) features black-and-white publicity stills, color lobby cards and poster art.

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Disc 2: The Mad Doctor of Market Street

The theatrical trailer provides a look at the film’s marketing campaign.

An extensive photo gallery (6 minutes) offers a selection of publicity stills, color lobby cards and poster art.

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Disc 3: The Strange Case of Dr. Rx

Greg Mank returns for the featurette Gloriously Wicked: The Life and Legacy of Lionel Atwill (19 minutes) and provides an overview of the actor’s career. Beginning with a strong following on the London stage and later pursuing a life in Hollywood, Atwill quickly earned a strong reputation as the next big star with a proclivity for playing villains. Mank traces his success detailing specific performances accompanied by clips from these films. Atwill’s deviant behavior off screen led to some legal troubles and a fall from grace, but he leaves behind a strong body of work.

This title also receives an assortment of photos (5 minutes) that plays as a silent slideshow containing color and black and white images of publicity stills, international poster art and lobby cards.

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Disc 4: The Mad Ghoul

Film historian Thomas Reeder’s audio commentary is mostly focused on the career of producer Benjamin Pivar. He spends a lot of time detailing a variety of the man’s films in addition to this one.

Like the other discs in this set, a collection of lobby cards and publicity stills play as a silent slideshow (6 minutes), but also included is a look at pages from the original press kit (1 minute).

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Grades:

Murders in the Zoo:
The Mad Doctor of Market Street:
The Strange Case of Dr. Rx:
The Mad Ghoul:
Threestars
Twoandahalfstars
Twoandahalfstars
Threestars
Cover
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Video: Threeandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Twoandahalfstars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
ZigZag
Author: ZigZag
Staff Writer
ZigZag's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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