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The Mad Ghoul

Film poster for The Mad Ghoul.
Directed by James P. Hogan
Produced by Ben Pivar
Written by Paul Gangelin and Brenda Weisberg
Starring George Zucco
David Bruce
Evelyn Ankers
Robert Armstrong
Turhan Bey
Music by Hans J. Salter
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Editing by Milton Carruth
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) North America November 12, 1943 North America Rereleased on June 1, 1949
Running time 65 minutes
Language English

The Mad Ghoul (1943) is a science fiction horror film featuring George Zucco as Dr. Alfred Morris. It was also known as Mystery of the Ghoul.


Dr. Morris (Zucco) is curious about the effects of an ancient nerve gas, used by the Mayans during rituals of human dissection to appease their gods. He takes under his wing medical student Ted Allison (David Bruce) to assist him with his experiments in using the gas on modern animals. However, despite Ted's excitement towards the success of their effort to revive Morris' dead monkey Choco (who was earlier exposed to the gas and died) by using a fluid from the heart of another creature, Ted also has on his mind his girlfriend Isabel Lewis (Evelyn Ankers), of whom Morris has become a fan as well.

Later, on the same night of the duo's first experiment, Ted brings Isabel to Morris' house, where Morris notices Isabel's discomfort in her relationship with Ted. He confers with Isabel, saying that she does need a man more involved with her love of music, secretly meaning himself. Isabel, however, is afraid of hurting Ted's feelings and getting him to understand what she wants, but Morris promises to take care of the situation himself. Unbeknownst to Isabel, Morris' evil plan involves destroying Ted by exposing him to the lethal Mayan gas the next day, and in effect, making him a zombie who, like Choco, must continually rely on the fluid of human hearts, in this case, to survive, obtained by performing cardioectomies on freshly dead persons. This sets Ted and Morris on a killing spree through several towns that are also those Isabel is performing in during her tour. Morris tries to get Ted to return home, but Ted is completely set on being with Isabel whenever possible and whenever he is not in his unknown ghoulish state. But, when Ted turns back into his ghoulish state, Morris once again uses him to try and kill off the one person Isabel truly seems to love—Eric Iverson (Turhan Bey), her partner and pianist. His attempt is unsuccessful, however, but Ted is able to obtain another heart, keeping himself alive.

Eventually, though, the police, aided by ace reporter "Scoop" McClure (Robert Armstrong), realize that the mysterious "ghoul" style killings are on the same route that Isabel's tour is on. McClure tries to set a trap in Camden, the last city of Isabel's tour, by making it seem to the public that he is someone else who has recently died, and, by waiting in a coffin for the ghoul, nearly captures Ted and Morris once they arrive to perform another cardioectomy. However, Morris distracts McClure as Ted comes into view and kills him.

With Isabel back in her home city, the police attempt to question her about why the killings were made in the same cities she performed in, but even though she claims to know nothing, she thinks for a moment how Ted and Dr. Morris are the only people associated with her that also have a knowledge of how to perform cardioectomies. She later performs for her home crowd, and Morris, in a last attempt to get Isabel for himself, sends Ted to kill "First Eric, then myself," as he constantly repeats under his spell. However, before Ted becomes a zombie, he is able to write a letter to Isabel that explains what happened to him and who did all of the killings. Plus, he exposes Morris to the gas just before he reverts to his zombie state and leaves to fulfill Morris' final bidding. Upon entering the stage Isabel is on, however, he is promptly dispatched by detectives, just as he is about to shoot Eric, who read the note to Isabel that Ted left in his hands. She and Eric hold each other in their arms, knowing that he always wished them the best of intentions, and that Morris was behind all of the trouble that Ted and many others were involved in.

Morris, meanwhile, being drained of nearly all life by the gas, almost succeeds in getting fluid from another heart for himself, but collapses to death just by the grave he is digging up. In the end, words that Ted said earlier to Morris are repeated: "It's all over, Doctor. There's nothing left of it now but you, and me, and... death!"

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