THE MAD DOCTOR is probably the most disturbing Disney cartoon I’ve seen, perhaps not counting those with dodgy racial overtones. And yes, I include all the donkey transformation stuff in PINOCCHIO.
Firstly, the plot: Pluto is kidnapped by a sadistic vivisectionist in the middle of the night. Mickey, heroically rushing to the rescue (and not pausing to consider the implausibility of a mouse keeping a dog as housepet) finds himself impotent, as a dreamlike series of obstacles, threats and indignities prevents him from making any progress. It’s very much like a real nightmare.
Secondly, there’s the tactile discomfort. This cartoon really makes you feel the skin-stinging cold of being out in a thunderstorm while wearing only hot pants, sensible shoes and kid gloves. (Is there a Linnea Quigley remake anywhere?) And getting bitten in the ass by a skull (surely there MUST be a Linnea Quigley remake?).
Thirdly, there’s the soundtrack — pitiful dog yelps, pitiful mouse screams, malevolent music, and the cackling of the deranged surgeon. Plus constant thunder and lightning. I wouldn’t show this to a kid. Unless he was mugging me at the time.
Just as the movie is going into a high-tech remake of THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, Mickey awakens, swathed in sweaty sheets, and realizes it was all just a
beautiful horrible dream. And then Pluto crashes through the window to sandpaper his face with a yard of stinking tongue.