Failed Doctor of Unknown Island

Universal’s pervasive anti-science stories reached a new crescendo in The Mad Doctor of Market Street. Lionel Atwill sits at his makeshift lab tinkering with beakers and liquids. He’s removed from the scene – forcibly – and the camera zooms on his equipment. Super-imposed is a fire, suggestive of the often ferocious stance on scientific experimentation.

It’s the only thing interesting about this somewhat rubbish 1942 offering, a rehash of Frankenstein’s mad science, with Dr. Moreau’s isolated setting, and jungle natives akin to King Kong. Sadly, the mega ape does not appear.

As Mad Doctor of Market Street opens, Atwill’s doctor is ready to expand his work to humans, that of killing and then bringing things back to life. His first victim agrees, desperate for money and to feed his family to go along with Atwill. The promise of $1000 in ‘42, right out of the depression and into the war era, undoubtedly saw an attraction worth risking it all for.

Mad Doctor of Market Street is a low-rest curiosity

Soon though, the script turns into a madcap, goofball comedy. Atwill runs from authorities, changing identities while on a cruise. He’s surrounded by oddities. The endlessly gossiping women breach questionable stereotype, a dopey boxer (Nat Pendleton) comes from a different movie entirely, and the poorly drawn male heroes add nothing. Speaking little of the natives caricatures is to Mad Doctor of Market Street’s benefit.

The boat sinks. Key characters end up on an island, scrounging for supplies. Forget survival drama – the natives give them a decent hut to lounge in. When Atwill saves one of the native’s lives, they begin worshiping him like god. A false idol allegory, maybe effective were the locals not depicted as imbecilic primitives. Mad Doctor of Market Street closes in on something regarding religion and science (even going so far as to implicate Atwill as a fraud, predicting his fall after a Hollywood scandal landed him probation). Then, lets all that go for a flimsy, happy ending.

Mad Doctor of Market Street is a low-rest curiosity, released as Universal’s monsters films became super-charged versus films. Atwill’s madness flounders when amid the quirky, outmoded comedy routines. He’s no monster, rather an out-of-place murderer in an overlit, stock-footage (and stock score) loaded escapade that is rightfully oft-forgotten.


A plenty nice video transfer, likely sourced from an interpositive based on the grain structure (and guesswork). Sublime resolution powers a litany of fine details, with especially pronounced close-ups. Fidelity starts at a high grade and stays there. Scream Factory’s encoding work uses enough power to keep compression at bay.

Likewise, sharpness’ consistency helps too. Fine lines resolve flawlessly. Shots of the jungle handle palm trees and other set dressing. Native garb doesn’t pose problems either. Look at the hut interior and exterior too, with bamboo and mud defined.

The opening shots take place at night in a storm, a firm showcase of available gray scale. Black levels capture silhouettes at pure black. Lightning hits, flashing the screen with superlative brightness. Image density, like the rest of this disc, never wanes.

Mild damage on Mad Doctor of Market Street’s source print is nothing severe.


Dialog sits low on this mono track, notable during the first scene after transitioning from the stock credit music. The latter pushes volume, then conversation falls a few notches.

For ‘42, fidelity keeps bass smooth and distinct, rare for something this vintage. Native drums pose that challenge; the mastering keeps everything intact. Pitchiness in the highs causes only mild concern, and dialog renders cleanly.


A trailer and image gallery only.

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The Mad Doctor of Market Street
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Few redeeming qualities stand out from this Universal horror cheapie. Mad Doctor of Market Street stars Lionel Atwill, the lone positive.

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