Doctor X (1932)

Haven’t watched this for some years; I have it on VHS, though without a functioning VCR that’s kind of useless, so this evening’s rewatch was made possible by the goldmine that is Youtube… Wound up enjoying this rather more than I recall doing the first time I saw it, at which time I vaguely remember thinking it was OK but not much more. I still think the colour in the film is kind of strange (not just because it’s two-strip Technicolor, which didn’t look as odd in Mystery of the Wax Museum) and for the most part it doesn’t really add a lot—indeed, the film was only known for decades in a black and white version—though some scenes do benefit from it. Plus the film’s origins as a stage play seemed a lot more obvious tonight than they did the last time I saw it for some reason, and the admixture of comedy with the horror, to the point of watering the latter down, doesn’t help much (Jack Warner was not a horror film fan; neither was Carl Laemmle, of course, but he was a fan of the money they raked in). What really works, though, is the big laboratory setpiece. With a cannibalistic serial killer on the loose—which must’ve been rare in films of 1932—Lionel Atwill’s eponymous Doctor X(avier) must determine who’s responsible, especially since the guilty party appears to be one of the group of scientists he works with… and so, with the help of some spectacular pseudoscience, he stages an experiment to find out which one it is. With a lab full of shit going off, this scene actually is quite marvellous, and it makes some of the film’s narrative lapses (what, it really took the police six months to start investigating these killings?) and other moments of “what the hell was that?” more easily palatable. Quite a good bit of fun.

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