HALLOWEEN 2K16: A Review of “The Madmen of Mandoras” (1963)

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This is a movie you would find in one of those cheap yet massive sets of public-domain horror movies. There is no other way to describe why such a movie would be released, and furthermore, why someone would actually want to purchase it. For $2.99 in the clearance bin, it came with 11 other schlock-fests under the moniker of “Gore House Greats”. These are movies that are supposed to be bad. The kind that are so bad they are enjoyable. The Madmen of Mandoras certainly fits the build. In short, it tells the story of a small tropical island where something evil is brewing. During Hitler’s last days in the bunker, his head was removed following his death and transported to Mandoras where they placed it in a glass jar and rigged it up to some high-tech machine to keep it alive. The Third Reich will not only continue, but thrive and take over the world.

A scientist played by Walter Stocker has just created a type of gas so strong that a tiny container of it could instantly kill a whole city. Sure enough, these Nazis on Mandoras have kidnapped a doctor who is a coworker with the intent of using the gas to wipe out humanity so they could build the Third Reich again up from scratch. The scientist and the kidnapped doctor’s daughter are then lured to the island by natives looking to stop the “madmen”. Along the way they too are kidnapped and undergo a race against time to stop the gas from being released.

Despite horrible acting and even worse writing, this is not a poorly made movie. The camerawork and lighting make this easy on the eyes, and unlike other public domain horror movies offered in bulk DVD sets, this is in remarkably good condition. There is hardly any grain at all and it plays much like a Blu-Ray disc. I was impressed. There are a couple of World War II flashback scenes which use actual archive footage of the end of the war and fall of Berlin, and that’s a nice touch. However, the special effects and any creation of tension are wiped away by simply horrid acting. Then there’s the matter of Adolf Hitler.

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Known as “Mr. H”, they keep him in a jar where he barks orders to his minions. Of course, he is always screaming in German in the few scenes he is featured in. He does bear slight resemblance to him but more from afar than when the camera cuts in for a close-up. The only time his scenes ever even come close to being creepy is the first time we see him. After being kidnapped, the group is led to the lab where the head is kept, and your first view of it will be a little shocking. After all, how can anyone prepare themselves to see the severed head of Hitler blinking, talking, and looking around from inside a glass jar?

This movie has a 2.7 on IMDB, but I do not think it deserves that low a score. I’ve seen worse. Much worse. The idea itself is somewhat clever, the execution was just botched. I am going to give this a 4 out of 10 stars. I don’t know why, but I just have a soft spot for this one. Also, let me try to clear up some confusion. There are two versions of this movie: The Madmen of Mandoras and They Saved Hitler’s Brain. The DVD case notes that they are the same film and just known by different names. This is actually incorrect. The movie being reviewed here was released in 1963 and runs 74 minutes while the latter came out in 1968 and is 91 minutes long.

Basically, the earliest version is what the director intended. It is the story as meant to be told. Apparently, five years later they decided to play around with the finished film and tack on nearly 20 minutes of loosely related scenes to beef up the running time for a television broadcast. However, there is even some who dispute this, claiming the TV broadcast happened in the 1970’s and that is when the scenes were filmed (a reviewer online noted a car from the 70’s appeared in the newer version). This would make the stated 1968 release impossible. We will probably never know the real deal here because this is such an obscure film, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a good way to kill an hour of your time while viewing a small piece of cinema history.

More posts in my HALLOWEEN 2K16 column can be found here

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