Cinema #39: Strapped to the Slab in the Mad Scientist's Lab

We're all familiar with the well-worn trope of the mad scientist - it's been done a million times on film.  TV Tropes characterizes the typical mad scientist as speaking with a fake Central European accent, is generally accompanied by a hunchbacked sidekick of some description, and often will engage in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.

But perhaps his most common trait is his propensity to strap a maiden to a slab and prepare for mad experimentations.... I say "prepare", because he is rarely able to complete his diabolical ambitions. Typically, she's saved in standard damsel-in-distress fashion, by the hero or the scientist's own mad creations.

Let's have a look at some such scenes - I've rounded up a healthy supply, but am well aware this isn't a comprehensive list.  But, please, volunteer your own for ones I've missed.

Man Made Monster (1941)

Anne Nagel is strapped to the slab at the mercy of Lionel Atwill. And here comes Lon Chaney Jr! The number of B&W monster movies featuring this trope is legion.  But, as you know, my perspective is from the 1960s-80s, so we'll depart from the classics and enter more familiar territory....

Casino Royale (1967)

Daliah Lavi is held captive by Woody Allen.  Are straps that huge really necessary?  In all honesty, I don't see why Daliah couldn't just slip out from underneath them.

The Mutations (1974)

Donald Pleasence is a rogue biologist who uses his students to perform his ghastly experiments.  Two of these girls will wind up on his slab - Julie Ege (at right in blue) and Olga Anthony (at bottom in purple).

The first to go is Olga, who is abducted by Tom Baker (Dr. Who), the "Igor" character in this film, who makes for quite a frightening freak.

Olga wakes up to this - can you imagine?  Donald Pleasence was made for this role, and Tom Baker is the stuff of nightmares.  I'm sorry to report that no knight in shining armor arrives to save poor Olga.

The lovely Julie Ege is being pursued by the mad doctor's plant-human hybrid freaks.

Ege is on the slab.  As is typical in 1970s versions of this trope - completely nude.  Thankfully, one of his plant-human freaks arrives just in time to kill the mad doctor and save Ege.

Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders (1990)

This was a sequel to the 1974 sci-fi sexploitation classic, but it's moronic humor was a bit too much even for the kind of blokes (like myself) who normally go for this sort of thing.  It's got sci-fi, it's got camp, and it's got T&A - what could go wrong?  Turns out - lots.

The damsel who winds up on the slab in this film is, of course, Dale, played by Robyn Kelly.

Dale is captured by the evil mastermind, Evil Presence, who is dressed like a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.  His henchman is the mad scientist, Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (I told you this film was stupid).

Poor Robyn Kelly is put through all manner of humiliations throughout this movie.  At one point she thinks she's a dog and walks around on all fours, at another time she's strung upside down wearing a g-string... but the worst is when she's strapped to the slab....

Some sort of tentacled alien is set to make sweet, sweet love to her.  But, you guessed it, the mad doctor's plans are foiled when Flesh Gordon arrives to save the day.

Sadly, this would be the biggest role of Robyn Kelly's career.  But she isn't alone in sporting a resume that includes being molested by a revolting creature on the mad scientist slab.  She shares that honor with Barbara Crampton who appeared in one of the most infamous scenes of this variety...

Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator boasts one of the greatest mad scientists in cult movie history - Herbert West, her boyfriend's new roommate, played to creepy maniacal perfection by Jeffrey Combs.  West is experimenting with bringing things back to life, starting with their cat... and ultimately moving on to humans.

Poor Barbara has her father brought back from the dead as a slobbering zombie - thanks to Combs, who's also roped her boyfriend, Dan, into his crazed experiments.

Barbara's zombie father puts the beat-down on Dan, then delivers her to the laboratory of mad doctor #2: Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale).  Dr. Hill happens to be decapitated... don't ask - it's a long story.  Suffice it to say, the decapitated Hill has evil plans for Barbara as she's put on the slab...

It's interesting to note that it seems to be a requirement that the victim on the slab wear little to no clothing.  In this case, Barbara's zombie dad strips her clothes off as Dr. Hill's disembodied head ogles her naked body... quite a scene.  (NSFW image, image 2)

"I have always admired your beauty, my dear.  I think I have always loved you," gurgles the head of Dr. West.  Then the coup de grace - the scene that will live an infamy...

Dr. Hill's decapitated body manhandles his own head, guiding it between Barbara's legs.  I remember when I first saw this on VHS back in 1985; I was gobsmacked.

In the end, Dan saves Barbara in the nick of time, as is standard in this trope.  But another twist to the story is right around the bend, which I won't spoil.

Hey, the scene above looks a lot like the one below...

Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein (1972)

We talked about this dud recently on Retrospace.  The plot is that Dr. Frankenstein is trying to resurrect Dracula - a flawless premise for a fun monster movie that is utterly ruined by director Jesus Franco. The highlight of this film is undoubtedly the cabaret singer (Josyane Gibert) who gets abducted to serve as a blood donor to resurrect Drac.  We get to see her entire cabaret performance, which is pretty damn good, before she's carted off to the laboratory.

Her blood is sucked into a glass containing the vampire bat, which slurps it up; thus, bringing Dracula back to life.  It's absolutely freaking insane.  As bad as this film is, it definitely deserves a place in the "strapped to the slab in the mad scientist's lab" hall of fame.

The Astro-Zombies (1968)

Another film covered on Retrospace not so long ago.  This one follows the trope perfectly with a Creepy, sweaty, rapey Igor named Franchot who has abducted a fresh victim (Barbara Richards) on the slab for Dr. DeMarco's experiments.

The mad doctor here is none other than John Carradine. With Tura Satana as a commie spy and a script written by Wayne Rogers (Trapper John MD), this is a definite 'don't miss'.

Like I said - there's plenty more examples out there.  Let's hear if you have any to add to the list!


  1. Obviously, Barbarella strapped to Durand Durand's Excessive Machine.

    1. Nice one. Definitely deserves a place of honor on this list.

  2. Tom Baker didn't need makeup to look creepy. He turned me off of wanted to watch Dr. Who.

    1. The Tom Baker years were when I actually started to get into it. When he left, so did I. True, he's a creepy lookin' fella, but to me his tenure as the Doc was the show's finest.

  3. I think I love this website.

  4. This website is like my brain vomited.

    1. War of the Worlds episode The Good Samaritan has a scene like this.


    Julie Ege's right boob, too cool

    linking this coming Friday