Still Watching the Skies: Episode 74 “Doctor X”
Nat, Cody, and Robert take a wild ride to Pre-Code Hollywood with Michael Curtiz’s DOCTOR X. It’s a tale filled with cannibalism, a serial killer, mad scientists, a fast talking reporter, lie detectors, and synthetic flesh. And more wild tangents.
The sensational successes of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN in 1931 were impossible for rival studios to ignore. Warner Bros. provided their own twist on the formula with DOCTOR X, a contemporary crime film of grisly serial murders that first morphs into a science fiction mystery and then into an all out horror film.
Two versions of DOCTOR X were released, one in black and white and one in two-strip Technicolor, and the success of the film led to an immediate related followup in MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM.
Before formulas and genres were codified, a film could go nearly anywhere. That sense of no rules makes DOCTOR X worthy of watching even if the ways that it breaks the rules aren’t always successful. In particular, there’s the wise cracking reporter set up for comic relief that never feels fully integrated into the proceedings. Even when shoved into a closet full of skeletons to liven up the film.
But, there are plenty of interesting elements. Being a horror film in color and in a contemporary setting is ground breaking. Beyond the historical significance, the idea of using a lie detector to solve a mystery is cutting edge for the time. The sets are interesting. Michael Curtiz knows how to shoot a film. And the third act is wild.
It turns out we all have a lot to say about DOCTOR X. And fly off in a few wild tangents inspired by the film and era.
You don’t need to have an expansive laboratory in your manor house so you can listen to this episode. You can give us a play below or Download the episode. Also, feel free to let us know what you think by commenting below or Email Us at [email protected] as we appreciate feedback.
DOCTOR X: 0:00 to 51:01
NEXT FILM AND ASSORTED MUSINGS: 51:01 to End
Next month, we take a look at a more contemporary and contentious film with Richard Kelly’s SOUTHLAND TALES. We hope you’ll join us.