Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Did Doctor X Really Build a Creature?

Well, actually, not. At least not in the original Doctor X, released to a New York City audience on August 3rd, 1932. We did have, however, our fair share of murder, and a serial killer operating during full moons.

Last night, August 7th, 14 of us Scoobies at the Tates Creek Public Library Classic Horror Film Club (try putting that on a business card) returned to one of our favorite time periods for horror movies -- the 1930s. This time we watched Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray (yes, the almost-bride-of-Kong herself), and Lee Tracy in the first Doctor X. This was a First National Pictures/Warner Brothers Pictures take on the mad scientist theme.

We were treated to cool laboratory sets in Art Deco style, with plenty of sparks, smoke, and lots of stuff bubbling away in glass containers. Hard to beat that. Also, some great German Expressionist shots with silhouetted figures, and harsh-angled lighting, especially on the actors' faces. Remember the old thing we'd do as kids with a flashlight, pointing it up at our faces, making us look maniacally evil? Yeah, we had that last night.

A bit more on the comedic side, especially starting out, it introduced a few more horror elements after the halfway mark. And even though this was Pre-Hays Code, there really wasn't much that was daring, unless you count the fact that our killer was cannibalistic. Never saw anything on-screen, though, so this one's safe for the kiddies.

Lionel Atwill plays the titular Doctor Jerry Xavier, who heads up a surgical research team, all of whom fall under the eyes of a couple of detectives investigating the strange murders. I say strange because the murderer strangles his (or her) victims with "... powerful hands....", then apparently cannibalizes them, and finally cutting them with a scalpel on the back of their heads. We never see the bodies, however, after the fact.

Fay Wray gets to practice her famous scream two years before her big screen scream in 1933's King Kong. She plays Doc X's daughter, Joanne Xavier.

Gonna leave you with this for now. I'll finish up tomorrow. Don't want to overwhelm you with text.

Keep writing, friends.


  1. Thought the woman in brothel flirting with the reporter looked familiar. She was Annie Mae Busch. Turns out she was frequently in Laurel and Hardy films. A lot of the time she played Oliver Hardy's wife. Clark

    1. Good catch, amigo, you're right. I just looked and she played Mrs. Hardy in "Sons of the Desert", a year after Doc X. From horror to comedy. :-)


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