I've heard of this movie for years, but finally had a chance to view it.
Top billing goes to Lionel Atwill, the British actor well-known for playing mad doctors and shady characters. Here, he plays the 'good' doctor's insane assistant. This was close to the apex of his career, as soon he would be embroiled in a sensational sex scandal; then he was dead in '46 of pneumonia.
Next billing goes to Lon Chaney Jr., who had found success in 1939's Of Mice and Men. This seems to be the first 'monster' movie for him, following in his father's shoes.
Also appearing is tragic, beautiful Anne Nagel as the good scientist's niece/secretary.
Frank Albertson (no relation to Jack Albertson) has a small role as a wise-cracking reporter and the secretary's boyfriend. (He was also in It's a Wonderful Life as Sam Wainwright.)
Samuel S. Hinds embarked on an acting career at age 54 after losing his money in the stock market crash, and made a career of playing fatherly figures. I remember him best as Jimmy Stewart's father in It's a Wonderful Life. Here, he plays kindly Dr. John Lawrence.
The movie starts with some special effects that are pretty cool for 1941! A bus crashes into electrical lines, and everyone is killed except for one man (Lon Chaney Jr. as Dan McCormick) – his work at the carnival with electricity seems to have given him some level of immunity! Shortly afterward, Dr. Lawrence offers Dan a job at his clinic, where the doctors will learn more about his amazing immunity.
And that's basically the movie! Insane Dr. Paul Rigas (Lionel Atwill) has a scheme to use massive doses of electricity to turn 'useless' lower-class workers into obedient slave laborers. Behind Dr. Lawrence's back, Dr. Rigas exposes Dan to higher and higher levels of electricity.
Lon Chaney Jr. is pleasant enough as the doomed Dan McCormick, with his best performances in the earlier parts of the movie; then he gets a bit silly-looking. There's a cool (for 1941) special effect for the electrical glow of the 'man made monster' (animation?).
Lionel Atwill goes from menacing to maniacal in the mad scientist role, and is fun to watch. Best quote:
Bah! You know as well as I do that more than half the people of the world are doomed to a life of mediocrity – born to be nonentities, millstones around the neck of progress, men who have to be fed, watched, looked over, and taken care of by a superior intelligence. My theory is to make these people of more use to the world. By successive treatments their bodies can be so electrolyzed that they are no longer subject to the pains and frailties of ordinary mankind.
There's one twist in the story near the end that's rather ironic. (chuckle)
However, this is one monster movie that failed to interest me. I never cared that much for the characters, and the monster wasn't that interesting. And why does the monster carry off the girl? Rate this movie average.
On the other hand, an army of electrically-charged zombies would be interesting on the wargaming table…