A Movie A Day: THE RETURN OF DOCTOR X (1939)
Interesting stuff, blood.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
The Return of Doctor X joins The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back as a sequel that’s better than its original. Although even that’s a stretch as THE RETURN OF DOCTOR X has about as much to do with the original DOCTOR X as Orville Redenbacher has to do with Orville Wright.
Other than the name there’s no real connecting tissue to the original film. Doctor Xavier is now a ghoul, brought back from the dead by a blood specialist named Dr. Flegg (John Litel) after being sent to the electric chair for killing a child.
Last we saw of Doctor X he helped the police capture a cannibal murderer and his daughter, Fay Wray, went sweet on the goofy reporter. He certainly wasn’t a child killer, he just had a really creepy house with a Frankenstein dungeon.
Other than the name the only real similarity is trying to strike a balance between horror and comedy using a goofy reporter investigating a murder.
Wayne Morris plays the reporter this time out and he’s much more adept at straddling that thin line between realism and goofball.
There will be those that love the original for the crazy movie monster ending, but I think the whole is much better in the sequel, thanks a lot to Bogie knocking it out of the park as Marshall Quesne (pronounced “Cane”) aka the resurrected Doctor X.
His introductory scene is iconic. Suddenly this figure is framed in a doorway and as he comes limping into the light we see a pale Bogart, wearing glasses and sporting a Bride of Frankenstein white streak in his hair, holding a white bunny rabbit.
By the very nature of the story the filmmakers made this more of a tragic monster tale. Doctor X was resurrected for a well-intentioned, but amoral scientific test. He didn’t have a choice in the matter. He became a guinea pig for Dr. Flegg’s attempt at creating a synthetic blood that could sustain life. Flegg’s formula is imperfect and it quickly becomes evident that Doctor X needs Type 1 blood to survive.
So, Bogart becomes an unwilling vampire who murders in order to stay alive.
The Return of Doctor X plays a little more like a crime movie than a horror movie, but that could just be Bogie’s influence. The ending in particular feels more like the ending of a gangster picture with a shootout in an abandoned shack and not a creepy monster lurking through a gothic castle.
Final Thoughts: There are moments of the original that outshine the semi-sequel, but the whole of The Return of Doctor X I feel is superior. It could be my love of Bogie’s work in this film or the tight, tight 62 minute runtime and the more successful balance of humor and horror. Whatever the reason I enjoyed this film much more than the original.
Currently in print on DVD: YES
Currently available on Netflix Instant: NO
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Saturday, October 9th: THE TENANT (1976)
Sunday, October 10th: MAN IN THE ATTIC (1953)
Monday, October 11th: NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)
Tuesday, October 12th: PROPHECY (1979)
Wednesday, October 13th: THE OTHER (1972)
Thursday, October 14th: THE MUMMY (1959)
Friday, October 15th: THE GORGON (1964)
Tomorrow I dive into Roman Polanksi’s THE TENANT. It’s not the only Polanski movie I’m running this month for A Movie A Day, but it is the first! See ya’ then!
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Oct. 8, 2010, 9:39 p.m. CST
This looks like it would be a lot of fun to see. I love finding odd roles from"before they were stars".
Oct. 8, 2010, 9:40 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Oct. 8, 2010, 9:48 p.m. CST
Oct. 8, 2010, 9:53 p.m. CST
by frank cotton
i was totally unaware that H.B. ever did a film like this. a pleasant surprise. will definitely check this out
Oct. 9, 2010, 8:41 a.m. CST
I wonder what quint is going to say about the ridiculous ending.
Oct. 9, 2010, 10:13 a.m. CST
"This is one of the pictures that made me march in to [Warner Bros. studio chief Jack L. Warner] and ask for more money again. You can't believe what this one was like. I had a part that somebody like Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff should have played. I was this doctor, brought back to life, and the only thing that nourished this poor bastard was blood. If it had been Jack Warner's blood, or Harry's, or Pop's, maybe I wouldn't have minded as much. The trouble was, they were drinking mine and I was making this stinking movie." As posted in the IMDB.
Oct. 9, 2010, 10:47 a.m. CST
I wasn't looking for to this write-up since the first one didn't take with you. <br> So, it was nice to see it was an improvement.
Oct. 9, 2010, 4:06 p.m. CST
by Uncle Stan
Oct. 9, 2010, 6:13 p.m. CST
And I'm interested in reading the review for Prophecy on the 12th
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