The Mad Genius (1931) - Michael Curtiz

John Barrymore and Marian Marsh did such a good job in Svengali that they were brought back one more time this year for another feature. John Barrymore continues in his portrayal of a manipulative antagonist that tries to ruin the lives of everyone around him. While the hero is played by Donald Cook and the love interest is Marian Marsh. Both do a great job.

The movie is about a dancer named Fedor and his overbearing guardian and instructor Tsarakov. Tsarakov is a successful ballet instructor that is highly misogynistic and very manipulative. He plays with the lives of his adopted son Fedor and the love interest Nana. He forces them together and forces them apart. He is a tyrannical monster and is the scariest part of the movie.

The acting is pretty over the top, but it is still pretty amazing. John Barrymore is a master. He controls this movie like through and through. I couldn't expect any less from him. What an actor. Donald Cook does a weird job. His performance wasn't bad. However, it wasn't good either. It was very bland.

This is an obvious pre-code film that takes its liberties heavily. Swearing, sex, and the mistreatment of women are all tools in the horror tool-box here and they are used to scare the audience. Sort of like shocking the audience by exposing them to that. I am sure that it was pretty shocking to see some of the things in this movie.

I will create my own being: that boy! That boy will be my counterpart, he shall be what I should have been...

  • Based on a play from 1929, that made its rounds on the smaller stages. It never made it to Broadway. 
  • Boris Karloff has an un-credited scene.