Our Ten’s List: Craziest Mad Scientists!
Madness month rolls on, as we look at some of the best lunatics science has to offer. When Tony Stark declared he and Bruce Banner were mad scientists in the latest Avengers movie I cried bullshit, because no self respecting maniac would be so bland. These crazed PhD candidates put them to shame by animating the dead, sewing people together, and…well…animating the dead some more. They really like tinkering with corpses, this lot.
#10: Dr. Frankenstein (its pronounced Fran-ken-steen!)
As Seen In: Young Frankenstein.
Not just content to make delicious candy, pal around with Richard Pryor, solve murder mysteries, and be an all-around entertaining individual, Gene Wilder decided to get into the mad science business in a big way with Mel Brooks’ classic monochrome comedy, Young Frankenstein. Consistently rated the funniest movie of all time, this film spoofs monster movies while being a dedicated love-letter to the genre. Packed full of some of the funniest people to ever live (Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Gene Hackman, and Peter Boyle,) Young Frankenstein showcases Wilder at his manic best, stealing corpses, harnessing the power of electricity, and frolicking in a three piece suit. Just please, give him the right brain!
#9: Dr. No
As Seen In: Dr. No (James Bond Series.)
The madman who launched our martini sipping super-spy to greatness, Dr. No was the first screen villain for 007 in the first movie of what is now a 24 (and counting!) series of espionage/kinky sex films that continues to delight us to this day. Dr. No was smug, effete, and enamored with eccentric plans for world domination that revolved around incredible amounts of luck, a loosely defined goal, whacky technology, an army of imbeciles in matching uniforms, and (above all) a reliance on telling the only person capable of stopping him all of the gory details instead of simply shooting him dead. That part never gets old!
MGM has reset the Bond universe, showing how Bond earned his stripes. As the fourth Daniel Craig film, SPECTRE, is set to launch this year, it harkens back to the glory days of the series where Dr. No was the first alumni in a wonderful rogues gallery who all paid union dues to the organization whose acronym makes very little sense. Will they go back to the iconic crazy doctor at some point? Only time will tell.
#8: Dr. Rotwang
As Seen In: Metropolis.
Metropolis is a seminal film that shaped cinema up to this day, with a story about playing god and creating artificial life that resonates still. The centerpiece of the story is the morbidly vengeful engineer, Dr. Rotwang, who watched the capitalist Ledersen steal not only his inventions, but the woman he loved. His revenge was to create a technological marvel, a robot capable of assuming the guise of any human its creator chose. While Rotwang intended to settle down to a happy home life of robot love and interminable chafing by recreating his lost love, he eventually decided to use his creation to destroy Ledersen, replace the peacenik girlfriend of Ledersen’s son, and to cause widespread anarchy by inciting the masses to riot.
While the lynchpin of his plan involved all of mankind having a kink for girls who are double-jointed, his genius at mechanical invention was undeniable. He throws the super-society of Ledersen into chaos, and only is thwarted when people realize that his robot can quite easily be tied up, and that Rotwang himself is pretty poor at fisticuffmanship. Next time work on your MMA skills before worrying about your PhD thesis, Doc.
#7: Dr. Clayton Forrester
As Seen In: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
This very naughty boy flung mild mannered janitor Mike Nelson into space, made him babysit a gaggle of neurotic robots, and then forced the entire trio to watch some of the very worst movies that have ever been conceived by the mind of man. In the long-running series’ jump to the big screen, Dr. Clayton Forrester (and T.V.’s Frank, his assistant) make Mike, Crow and Tom Servo watch one of the stinkiest cinematic suppositories to date: This Island Earth. Thank god his interocitor wasn’t working, and that Mike and boys have funny bones made of adamantium, since the feature length episode of the cherished late night series was one of their funniest outings ever.
#6: Dr. Herbert West
As Seen In: Re-Animator, Bride of Re-Animator, Beyond Re-Animator.
The cult of personality is a hell of thing: it makes throngs worship the silliest heroes, but also means that Bruce Campbell can put food on his table. If I had to balance out all of the misery and majesty of the human tendency to fashion strange gods for themselves, I would have to say: sorry all of you people swindled by smooth-talking con artists, but I really need to know how The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. ended!
You can’t get any more cult classic than Re-Animator, and a large share of the trilogy’s mojo comes from Jeffrey Combs, the creep-tastic actor who played Dr. Herbert West to a T (and he also went on to make some of the greatest B-Movie classics of all time, such as Michael J. Fox’s The Frighteners, Steve Martin’s The Man With Two Brains, and Mark Hamil’s The Guyver.) This guy is basically steroids for a cult classic: just add a pinch of Jeffrey Combs as the mad scientist, and watch the movie swell into monstrous proportions. His high forehead, leering eyes, and penchant for absolutely drop-dead one-liners have made him a cottage industry. If you want to see him at his best though, watch as he capriciously brings the dead back to life in the trilogy that made him a charnel house-hold name.
#5: Dr. Frank N. Furter
As Seen In: The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
We never do find out what branch of medicine Frank N. Furter is a licensed practitioner of: my guess is that he’s just the doctor of love! Two innocent travelers are forced to spend one crazy night in his Transylvanian castle, and the sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania manages to get into both of their pants…and both of their heads.
A cult classic, it is as widely known for its brazen villain, played with gusto and great garters by our old friend Tim Curry, as it is known for its over-the-top musical numbers. Spoofing the mad scientist genre itself (as well as some of the most loved creations of the B-Movie catalog,) it manages to create a litany of iconic movie creatures, spawn a whole discotheque of songs and dances, and to thoroughly mess with the minds of fans who love it.
#4: Dr. Joseph Haiter
As Seen In: The Human Centipede.
When I’m bored with my daily grind, I make thinly veiled poop jokes about old movies. When Dr. Haiter becomes bored with his surgical practice, he sews unsuspecting victims together in order to create a giant human centipede. The ick factor of this film is phenomenal, making the Saw series of films seem like Disney in comparison. The gory mess is highlighted by just how calm and rational the good doctor seems: he’s just a guy with a hobby looking to kill some time. It’s almost a lark! I imagine this movie came about as a strong rebuke of Clerks 2, by proving once and for all you never go ass to mouth…
#3: Dr. Strangelove
As Seen In: Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
You had to see this one coming. Stanley Kubrick created on of the greatest social satires since Gulliver’s Travels, centered upon the persona of one Doctor Strangelove, a former Nazi nuclear scientist who advises the US President about how to avoid total Armageddon after a warped base commander sends US bombers to nuke the high holy hell out of Russia.
Everyone is insane in this film, and Dr. Strangelove seems the least bizarre character in the farce…until the brilliant Peter Sellers (who also played the President and a beleaguered soldier) drops numerous clues that Strangelove may not have been quite reformed from his Nazi ways. The movie is classic, and Peter Sellers is a treat. Stop worrying about thermonuclear war, and spend some time with this crazy German scientist in one of the funniest films ever made.
#2: Dr. Moreau
As Seen In: The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Island of Lost Souls.
Hey kids, do you love your pets? Do you wish they could walk and talk and interact with you all of the time like your human friends? Do you want to strap them to operating tables, dismember them in brutal ways and create horrific human/animal hybrids who long for the sweet release of death? If you answered yes to all three, congratulations Dr. Moreau.
Based upon the work of Sci-Fi’s great grandaddy, H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau tells the tale of a disgraced surgeon who is attempting to raise animals to the level of human intelligence through ghastly surgeries, brutal indoctrination, a vast pharmacology of illicit drugs, and a misguided religious institution that places the good doctor as the sole voice of authority over his creations. Sounds a lot like Scientology, if you ask me.
While the movies haven’t always been great (Burt Lancaster gave a chilling performance as the demented Doctor, but Marlon Brando wore an ice bucket on his head and shat insanity all over the 1996 version of the story) it has always managed to be visually engaging and morally terrifying. As an added 2-for-1, Dr. Moreau is flanked by an equally maladjusted second evil doctor, Montgomery, who is the worst film vet since Plague Dogs or The Secret of Nym!
#1: Dr. Frankenstein
As Seen In: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, etc.
The original mad doctor, Victor Frankenstein sets the bar very high: vain-glorious, egotistical, amoral and self-involved, Dr. Frankenstein pilfers from the grave in order to play god. Stealing bodies and brains, he crafts a gruesome assemblage of parts into a monstrous creation…which he promptly abandons after getting a case of the heeby jeebies. Rather than taking responsibility for his misadventure, he takes a vacation and gets married, only to witness his failed creation demand that he make the situation right: in this case by creating a female creature to be his companion. OK, easy fix, the mad doctor just whips up a female and we can all call it a day! Nope, Victor screws over the monster at the last minute, gets his own wife murdered, and then embarks on a mad quest to hunt his creation to the ends of the Earth for some much-delayed infanticide.
Frankenstein created the genre and inspired the careers of some of the greatest horror actors to have ever lived (Bela Legosi, Boris Karloff, Glenn Strange, Christopher Lee, and even Lon Cheney Jr. all can trace their creature-feature genesis back to Dr. Frankenstein.) More takes on this story have been made than the Bible, and even the cheesiest of them (looking at you, Frankenhooker!) deserves a spot on this list.