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He’s secretive and shy. When confronted, his hyperactive presence lead his roommate and his gal pal to suddenly start worrying. But Herbert West, another classic Lovecraft creation, is perhaps one of the greatest scientists the world never knew. You see, he’s developed a reanimation formula that brings the dead back to the living. Granted, it doesn’t always work correctly and his recent subjects have turned into blood thirsty killers, but that’s the price one pays for being on the cutting edge of immortality. Of course, as with anyone with the potential for playing God, West himself goes a bit wonky after a while.
John Lithgow proved there was more to his talent than impressive stage work and a few supporting roles in some high profile films. Here, he’s a scientist trying to discover the doorway to the fabled Eighth Dimension. What he unlocks, instead, is a race of angry aliens who “inhabit” his body, turning him into the prototypical psycho medico. After escaping an asylum and desperate to get the parts necessary to travel back to his home planet, “Lizardo” goes on a supervillain rampage that tests the mantle of hero Buckaroo Banzai and his sidekicks, the Hong Kong Cavaliers.
While he was only in the one film, the maniac behind Deep 13 and the abuse of his co-conspirator, TV’s Frank, spent much broadcast time interested in only one thing: the mass hypnosis of the planet’s population via a constant barrage of bad movies. His trial subjects (Joel Hodgson at first, Mike Nelson after that) don’t offer up the kind of compelling raw data he needs, so he spends countless hours retrying his experiment just to make sure it’s not viable - a clinical definition of the word “mad” if ever there was one…and Trace Beaulieu is terrific in the role.
Peter Sellers was, and remains to this day, a genius of careful characterization. When a rogue General sends a US bomber on a suicide mission into Soviet Russia, fully functional nuke at the ready, the President calls upon his ex-Nazi advisor to solve the planned Apocalyptic dilemma. Strangelove’s response? Build a bunker, stock it full of sexually alluring women, and then add those in power. The government and the species continues. It’s win/win. Of course, none of this is at the ready, and while the plane continues on its path of ultimate destruction, Strangelove descends into post-WWII hysterics.
As the scientist which started it all, cinematically speaking, we have one of the most insane mastermind ever to grace a piece of celluloid speculative fiction. After the death of his beloved, our madman builds a robot to replace her. When the government wants a way to subvert an uprising amongst the masses, they call on Rotwang to turn his automaton into a traitor to the people’s cause. As part of Fritz Lang’s stunning visualization of the shape of things to come, actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge is appropriately wild-eyed and obsessed as the driven scientist. He literally set the standard for all portrayals to come.