FrightFest Guide: Mad Doctor Movies [Book Review]

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s time for something a little different.  Instead of a movie, it’s a book about a bunch of movies.  A bunch of MAD DOCTOR movies!  It’s the FrightFest Guide: Mad Doctor Movies by surgeon, author, film critic and medical practitioner, Doctor John Llewellyn Probert and FAB Press.

Mad medics... sinister surgeons... psychopathic psychiatrists. We put our trust in them. They say they want to help, to cure, to relieve pain and soothe suffering. But what happens when all that scientific and medical knowledge only results in the creation of unimaginable horror?

The Good
Joseph: Dr. John Llewellyn Probert — an actual practicing physician — proves himself the best type of candidate to write about horror and science fiction films involving mad doctors. His 27-page introduction alone is fascinating reason enough to covet this book. His highly accessible writing style balances facts with fun, and his personal insights are intriguing. FrightFest Guide: Mad Doctor Movies is profusely illustrated, with gorgeous color and black-and-white stills and posters. Of course all of the famous mad doctors and their cinematic vehicles — whether renowned or reviled — are here, but the icing on the cake is discovering films that I had never heard of before, such as Go and Get It (1920), which delights the old-school professional wrestling fan in me as it stars Bull Montana; Italy’s 1960 offering Seddok (Probert writes: “ . . . The titular monster being named by a drunk lady in a bar in one scene. Who knows, perhaps that’s how they came up with the name in real life, as well”); and   1966 Italian/French coproduction The Murder Clinic, which features “ . . . an isolated asylum . . . that’s filled with the kind of inmates that only exist in Italian horror films.”

Mike: Mad doctors have been a mainstay in movies pretty much since movies have been around.  Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Frankenstein, and Dr. Moreau - to name a few - paved the way for Dr. Phibes, Dr. Giggles, Dr. West and dozens of physicians, scientists, and psychiatrists along the way.  Dr. John Llewellyn Probert, a man some may call mad himself for undergoing such an involved undertaking, has delivered an extremely comprehensive look at these men (and women).  Starting with an introduction that serves as a detailed exploration of mad doctors in cinematic history, the FrightFest Guide: Mad Doctor Movies is a chronological trip including just about every movie that ever featured a mad doctor of one sort or another.
Each entry features important information such as release year, director, stars, etc., in addition to a paragraph or two that include facts about the film mixed with some personal commentary that makes for some interesting reading.
Probert’s introduction is lengthy and quite comprehensive that includes some personal anecdotes that explain his fascination with medicine, some theories on why mad doctors may be (and are) so scary, and plenty of personal thoughts about a number of films that are covered later.  In fact, this intro feels like it’s the main attraction with each film’s entry in the ensuing 200ish pages serving as extensive footnotes.

The Bad
Joseph: If you are a genre film aficionado, what’s not to love about an authoritative book about mad doctor movies, especially a gorgeously presented one that is part of the always impressive FrightFest Guide series and that is published by FAB Press, which takes great care with its offerings?

Mike: Because I wasn’t approaching this with an overly critical, editorial eye I may be overlooking some technical aspects that take away from the overall package, but as a fan of horror and sci-fi movies I can’t recall anything that struck me as a real knock against the book.  The ONLY thing I CAN think of is the egregious oversight of not including Dr. Clayton Forrester from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Yes, it’s a TV show, but there WAS a theatrical film!
I also would have liked a listing of every doctor covered within the pages that could be quickly cross-referenced with the films themselves, but honestly that’s just a personal quibble.

The Verdict
Joseph: Stunningly gorgeous in layout and presentation and chock full of knowledgeable opinion and information, FrightFest Guide: Mad Doctor Movies is a beautiful work of bizarre cinema. I give it my highest recommendation.

Mike: This is a must-read for horror and sci-fi fans if for no reason other than it makes an exceptional reference for mad doctors and the films they appear in — the fact that Probert’s in-depth and detailed introduction is entertaining and full of movie facts and personal commentary is like a bonus.  If you’ve read and enjoyed any of the other FrightFest guides I am sure you’ll enjoy this as well.

FrightFest Guide: Mad Doctor Movies from FAB Press, is available from their website at

FrightFest Guide: Mad Doctor Movies
Size: 260mm x 190mm
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 240 pages
ISBN: 9781913051310
Publication date: 24 August 2023
Weight: 1195g
Edition: First Edition
Cover Price: £25.00 (UK) / $35.00 (US)