October 29, 2014 posted by

Halloween Horror: “The Mad Doctor” (1933)


It seems this year has really flown by for us Cartoon Researchers. So much work had been put into the big Turner Classic Movies broadcast show of early animation in recent months (which I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed, Van Beuren mishap aside!). In the time since then, my close colleagues, collaborators and I have also been going full steam ahead to get my new Cartoon Roots Blu-ray release finished and ready to go for cartoon lovers around the world. We’ll have a big official announcement about that here in just a few weeks.

Now Halloween is upon us, and to celebrate the glorious spooky holiday, I’ll be presenting the 30th entry in my 16mm Cartoon Carnival series in Brooklyn on Saturday. Yes–Halloween is on Friday this year, and my crew will be extending the holiday by having this fun show on Saturday. Who says there can’t be an entire weekend of Halloween festivities? We’ll have a dozen rare and early spooky cartoons, all shown on real film, as well as a Race Night Comedy contributed by our friend Nelson Hughes. These fun films were made in the 1930s starring old silent-era comedians engaging in a race, and one lucky guest always wins a prize at the end of the film. There’s one hitch: this will be an outdoor screening, and we New Yorkers have been given less-than-stellar weather forecast. If any of you are in touch with the rain gods, please put in a good word for us! We welcome Jack Frost at my screenings no earlier than November 2nd.


What are some of your favorite creepy and spooky cartoons? Here are some of mine, in my usual silent and early sound-era vein:

1. Mickey Mouse in The Mad Doctor (1933)
2. Tom & Jerry in Wot a Night (1933)
3. Pete’s Haunted House (1926)…which is one of those Hot Dog cartoons starring a young Walter Lantz in live-action segments
4. Koko’s Haunted House (1928)
5. The Cuckoo Murder Case (1930)
6. Jasper in The Haunted House (1942)
7. The Headless Horseman (1934)
8. Mysterious Mose (1930)

Here’s my #1 pick – The Mad Doctor (1/21/33) directed by David Hand. This pre-code Mickey was considered so frightening it was never reissued and pretty much buried for years. So forgotten, they actually forgot to renew the copyright – making it one of the handful of public domain films from this particular studio. It’s actually a spot-on parody of the then-current Universal horror films, mad doctor and “Old Dark House” mysteries of this era. And quite funny, too.



  • I like your list, here are some more, beginning with some international shorts, than some classic favorites (with YouTube links):

    Midnight Dance

    Night on Bald Mountain


    Ghost of Stephen Foster

    Felix the Ghost Breaker

    Trick Or Treat

    Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

    Lonesome Ghosts

    Bewitched Bunny

    Ghosks Is The Bunk

    • Felix the Ghost Breaker! I knew I forgot something…

  • Mickey’s Haunted House (1929):

  • SPOOKS (Flip)
    THE OLD HOUSE (Bosko)

    to name a few!

  • CLAWS FOR ALARM, the best Porky Pig period.

    • One of my favorites along with “The Wearin of the Grin”.

  • — The two Bugs Bunnys with the hairy orange monster
    — A sample or two of Milton the Monster
    — An old Casper, preferably one that begins with all the other ghosts going on a Scare Raid
    — Mighty Mouse vs. Frankenstein’s Cat
    — And, depending on mood of the moment, “Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Mad Monster Party”

  • They are pretty much all here

  • There’s a Happy Harmonies cartoon from M-G-M that gave me the creeps when I was young. Bottles, I believe, was the name of it. It’s just a variation on the familiar “toy shop at midnight” theme that so many ‘thirties cartoons used, with inanimate objects coming to life–in this case, in a pharmacy–but, for whatever reason, it sure spooked me when I was a kid.

  • “Mysterious Mose” – LOVE that one.

    Now how can you guys forget “Skeleton Dance”? BOOOOOOOO!!!

    How about “Scaredy Cat,” the earlier Porky-Sylvester cartoon before “Claws for Alarm”? (“And just _what_ were you going to do with that anvil?”)

  • The Mad Doctor is, by far, my favourite from that era of Mickey Mouse shorts – it has so much atmosphere!

    It also had a fantastic level based on it in 1994’s celebratory video game, Mickey Mania – The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse, which ended up introducing a whole new generation (including myself) to it.

    I had no idea that it had ended up buried for a time, or that this had landed it in the public domain, though – that’s really interesting, thanks for that info!

  • Mine are
    The Friendly Ghost/Casper/1945
    The Haunted House/Jasper/1942
    The Old Mill/Silly Symphony/1937
    Skeleton Frolic/Color Rhapsody/1937
    Balloon Land/ComiColor/1935
    Little Dutch Mill/Color Classic/1934
    and The Good Little Monkeys/Happy Harmonies/1935

  • What about these Fleischer classics:
    Swing You Sinners 1930
    Bimbo’s Initiation 1931

  • The Mad Doctor is one of the few Disney cartoons that resembles the creepy Fleischer cartoons of the era.

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