Doctor X comes out on the 13th in the United States. April 2021 released on Blu-ray by Warner Archive Collection.
The original color version of Doctor X has recently been restored in 4K from Technicolor’s latest and highly rated nitrate print. A separately recorded black and white version has been restored from the original nitrate camera negative. Characteristics:
Color and black-and-white versions of the film
Audio commentary by film historian Alan K. Road (new)
Audio commentary by UCLA Film and Television Archive director Scott McQueen
Monsters and Chaos: Michael Curtis Horror Films (new)
UCLA Restoration Before and After (new)
Here’s our previous review of this horror classic:
Let them all out!
Doctor X is a 1932 American horror film directed by Michael Curtis (Casablanca) with a screenplay by Robert Tasker (San Quentin) and Earl Baldwin (Africa Screams), based on a play by Howard W. Comstock and Allen C. Mueller.
The first stars of the Warrior Brothers’ domestic production are Lionel Atwill (The Zoo Murders; Son of Frankenstein; Misty Island), Fay Wray (King Kong) and Lee Tracy.
The film was shot before the film code came into force. Taboo subjects like murder and prostitution are integrated into the plot.
The film was also one of the last films to be shot in two-color Technicolor, along with The Wax Museum of Secret Warriors (1933). Black and white prints were sent to small towns and overseas markets, while color prints were sent to large cities.
Reporter Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) is investigating a series of gruesome murders that have been taking place in New York City for several months. The murders always take place at night, by the light of the full moon (the newspapers called them the Moon Killer murderers). In addition, each body was partially eaten after the murder. Witnesses to the event describe the horribly mutilated monster as a killer.
Dr. Xavier (Lionel Atwill) is called in to give his medical opinion, but during a meeting with the police, it turns out that the ulterior motive is to investigate at Xavier’s medical academy, as the scalpel used to mutilate the victims’ bodies was exclusive to that institution.
In addition to Xavier, the other suspects are Wells (Preston Foster), an amputee who has been researching anthropophagy; Haynes (John Ray), who is fascinated by voyeurism; Duke (Harry Beresford), a cantankerous, crippled loudmouth; and Rovitz (Arthur Edmund Carew), who is researching the psychological effects of the moon (Rovitz also has a prominent scar on one side of his face).
It was learned that Hines and Rovitz were trapped in a boat with another man, and that although they claimed he was dead and threw him overboard, it was suspected that they had actually cannibalized him …
Reviews [click on links to read more] :
The film’s surprisingly dark premise, art direction, and two lengthy lab scenes make it worthwhile and ultimately entertaining; but these positive aspects are almost drowned out by a tidal wave of the most angsty comedy, especially from Lee Tracy and George Rosener as Otto the butler. And you call yourself a scientist!
Doctor X’s unique look was created with Technicolor’s dual-band technology, a process that uses red and green to define images. With the absence of the other colors in the palette, the film takes on an ethereal tone that enhances the slightly surreal atmosphere of the film. This works very well, as Curtiz still uses techniques to enhance the shadows, and distributes the colors so that one part of the image can be emphasized over another. Although not as sharp as in black and white, his look is undeniably haunting. Pre-Code.com.
Buy the DVD: Amazon
On the one hand, Doctor X is full of tacky comedy and naive, pointless horror scenes that would fit better in a Halloween reaper club than in an even remotely serious horror movie. On the other hand, there are serial murders, cannibalism, some of the most exciting mad science of the 1930s, and lots of scantily clad Fay Wray (at least by the standards of the time). 1,000 badly used hours and counting.
Curtiz manages to add some subtle expressionist touches, and the sets (the gothic mansion, of course) are beautiful, but because most of the scare effects are too edgy, the good moments seem … rare. Aurum movie dictionary: Terror
Doctor X’s speed is technically rather slow. There are not many big events. The film is scary enough, but doesn’t offer much in the way of suspense. However, the premise itself is so intriguing and mysterious that the viewer doesn’t need regular shocks to stay interested. MotionPictures.net
It’s a production that makes Frankenstein seem almost tame and friendly, especially in his penultimate look. New York Times, 1932.
Curtis’ direction and Groth’s sets are impressive German horror, and the film is truly terrifying, with everything from cannibalism to necrophilia. Unwanted comic influences only detract from the overall effect. Alan Frank, The Horror Movie Handbook…
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