Saturday, January 16, 2021

New Year, New Movie: Doctor X (1932)

It's time to relive my fond memories of a Creature Features Saturday night with some classic horror.  I have decided to go for some pre-code horror directed by Michael Curtiz, featuring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray, for this evening's entertainment.

"The human mind will only stand so much. We are all a little strange up here."

The Gist

A cannibal is at large in the city and dead bodies are turning up on nights when there is a full moon. The strangled victims are found with an incision at the base of the skull and a deltoid muscle missing. The police go to investigate a medical academy in proximity to the murders, and the only place where a certain scalpel used in the murders can be found. The head of the academy, Doctor Xavier, does not want any negative publicity and asks the police for time to investigate which one of his wacky faculty could be the Moon Killer. As Doctor X pulls out all the best mad scientist equipment to conduct a neuro-psychological experiment to determine which of the doctors is suffering from a hidden madness, a comical reporter is on hand when the big story breaks.

Memorable Moments

Doctor X conducts an autopsy of the murder victim.

Joanne frets over the good doctor. 

Professor Wells is a student of cannibalism.

Professor Haines conducts experiments in brain grafting...

...when he's not relaxing. No doubt he reads it for the articles.

Professor Rowitz fancies himself a poet.

Dr. Duke is a curmudgeon.

"I'm not accustomed to having
strange girls sticking guns in my stomach."

A creepy character approaches newsman, Lee Taylor.

Lee discovers skeletons in the closet.

An elaborate experiment with wax figures of victims.

Making a date.

Being observed at the beach.

Another attempt to get Lee.

Synthetic flesh.

The Moon Killer.

"Professor Duke, don't criticize Joanne for her state of undress."

Flammable flesh.

My Thoughts

I watched The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) not too long ago, which shares director Curtiz and actors Atwill and Fay Wray, while also using the two-strip Technicolor process used in this film. It also includes wisecracking comic relief to offset the macabre tale, which many modern day viewers don't appreciate, though I accept it as part of the pre-code horror experience. I thought Glenda Farrell's humor was a little less grating than the hand buzzer and exploding cigar type humor employed here, and it was a better picture overall, but I enjoyed this one for the shadowy shots, the mad scientist lab equipment, and the wonderful way the murderer revealed himself. I look forward to seeing The Return of Doctor X, if only for the novelty of seeing Humphrey Bogart in a horror film. 

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