The following article is reprinted from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Treasury.
They're not mad! It's the world that's mad!! Bwa hah hah hah hah!!! Look at it from the mad scientist's point of view. All he wants to do is reanimate the dead, or invent a transporter, or maybe just drink a mind-altering potion in the privacy of his own home. But the rest of the world seems to think that's wrong! What do they know?!? They didn't spend years digging up cadavers, mixing toxic chemicals, or exploring the eighth dimension! They probably didn't have any advanced degrees! Foolish mortals! See? From the scientist's point of view, it makes perfect sense. here are ten films to prove they're not mad-just misunderstood.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension!
Yes, the exclamation point is part of the title. The mad scientist is Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow), who went looking for trouble in the eighth dimension and found it when some goopy-looking alien took over his skull. Now he needs to get back where he once belonged, and the only thing stopping him is Buckaroo Banzai: scientist, rock'n'roll star, and cultural icon. A true cult favorite among the brainy and socially maladapted. (They want to be Buckaroo Banzai, but they smell like Dr. Lizardo.) While it is a little obscure for some, it starts making twisted sense after the fifth or sixth viewing. Stick with it.
Here's a flick to make you nervous the next time you go in for a tummy tuck. Genevieve Bujold plays a doctor who is investigating a friend's death during minor surgery. One thing leads to another, and the next thing she knows, she's wandering through a big room filled with people hanging from tubes, their organs just waiting to be harvested! Apparently people forget you could just check the "donor" box on your driver's license application. Michael Douglas plays her love interest and Richard Widmark is the doctor who keeps slipping the patients a little too much gas. So remember, the next time you're in, ask for a local.
Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
Long before Anthony Hopkins got an Oscar for playing a doctor gone bad in Silence of the Lambs, Frederick March copped one in 1932 for this baby. You know how it works: Mild mannered doctor by day goes drinking and then becomes an evil criminal jerk by night. Yes, it sounds no different than what happens at any convention-but in this case, Dr. Jeckyll isn't tossing back frilly drinks with umbrellas in them. This one's been remade a few times (including as a stoner comedy in the early 80s, for which karmic punishment will certainly apply), but the Frederick March version is still the best.
Dr. Strangelove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb
Even if the entire film weren't already a brilliant black comedy about the end of the world by way of nuclear holocaust (and it is), this would still be worth seeing for the great Peter Sellers' portrayal of Dr. Strangelove, an expatriate Nazi scientist (very loosely based on Werner von Braun). Strangelove is intensely weird, from the top of his toupeed head to the fingertips of his out-of-control (and self-homicidal) right hand. If actual nuclear scientists were anything like him, we'd all be glowing piles of ash.
Jeff Goldblum zaps himself in a transporter of his own making and makes it through to the other side, no problem. Well, one problem: The fly that went along for the ride is now in his DNA. Pretty soon he's superstrong and walking on the ceiling, which is cool, but he also loses fingers and teeth, and has to vomit on his food to digest it, which is, um, icky. The Fly could have simply been a gross-out horrorfest (and it certainly is that-no pregnant woman should ever watch the birth scene), but director David Cronnenberg makes it surprisingly touching in places. A remake of a 1950s B-movie, this one is superior in every way.
You have two choices: The classic 1931 version starring Collin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as the grunting, rivet-necked monster, or the not-so-classic 1994 version with Kenneth Branaugh as the good doctor and Robert DeNiro as the monster (which certainly puts a whole new spin on the classic DeNiro line, "You lookin' at me?"). The 1931 version is indelibly printed onto our cultural memory-the collective image of the Frankenstein monster is Boris Karloff's-but on the other hand, the 1994 version is much more faithful to the original 19th century novel by Mary Shelley. And it's in color! And don't forget Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks's dazzling send-up of Frankenstein and classic horror films-a classic in its own right.
Kevin Bacon turns invisible, and no, this is not an assessment of his movie career. In Hollow Man he plays an unethical scientist who uses his own untested process to become invisible. Then, as he must in a movie like this, he goes completely insane and starts sneaking into hot girls' apartments and killing off colleagues. Watch this for the special effects; the story is a bit, er, transparent.
The Nutty Professor
Dr. Jeckyll done for comedy. The original Nutty Professor had Jerry Lewis turning from maladapted loser/science professor into suave ladies' man, Buddy Love; the Eddie Murphy remake has him as maladapted and obese, but still turning into Mr. Love. They both have to bottle Buddy back up: He's suave, but he's also kind of a creep. It's a toss-up which version is better. The Lewis version is beloved by the French, but the Murphy version, filled with potty jokes, is more in line with contemporary tastes.
The Island of Dr. Moreau
There are several versions of this tale of a mad scientist combining humans and animals, the most recent starring Marlon Brando as the doctor in question, channeling his Apocalypse Now Colonel Kurtz performance. You might prefer the 1977 version with Burt Lancaster-less flab, more acting. The author of the original novel, H.G. Wells, was doing his patented thing of using science fiction to make a social point-this time about the fine line between human and animal nature, but as with the Hollywood versions of The Time Machine, good luck finding much of a social point here, especially in the Brando version.
In the mood for a really over-the-top splatterfest? Re-Animator has got the goods, a nasty-and nastily funny-flick in the Frankenstein mode (based on a story by creepmaster H.P. Lovecraft). In a nutshell: testy medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) finds a formula to reanimate dead tissue, so he does. Hilarious and gory hijinks ensue. Not everyone's cup of tea, to be sure.
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Treasury. This Treasury is crammed with gems of pure entertainment - fascinating facts and trivia about history, science, people, places, and more. The Bathroom Reader's Institute has selected some of their favorite articles and puzzles from 20 of the best-selling books for your reading enjoyment.
Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!
If ever a movie needed a sequel, Buckaroo Bonzai does
(with the same cast, too...)