The Return of Doctor X (1939) - Vincent Sherman


I was excited to see this one. While others panned the original, I actually enjoyed the first entry to this franchise. Unfortunately, this movie is unorganized and unmotivated. It feels cold and without any real enthusiasm. That would explain why this hasn't found a very wide release or even a proper video release making it virtually impossible to find. I had been able to watch it online when I found it on accident while browsing for copies of Revenge of Doctor X from 1970. 

Like the original, this movie features a fast talking, quick witted Journalist. After finding a young woman dead in her apartment, her body mysteriously disappears then re-appears alive and complaining about the journalist. This baffles the journalist, now ex-journalist after being fired, into trying to figure the mystery out. The strange journey leads him to find that the woman is in acquaintanceship with a strange doctor that has an affliction for blood control. 

Interestingly enough the strange doctor with the blood fixation is played by Humphrey Bogart. Supposedly, he didn't want to be in the movie and the studio sort of forced his hand. He was apparently upset with his role. It is pretty neat to see him in a sort of zombie makeup. He actually looks like the John Depp version of Sweeney Todd. 

This movie is mostly a talking piece that has a few horror elements worked in. You don't actually see anything graphic. They imply everything and talk about murders when they happen off camera. Few people will find this movie to be a bit boring. The long speeches and dragging plot really don't help but the content isn't that horrible. The plot is exciting and the story is interesting enough. 

If you are a fan of classic horror then this might be right up your alley. If you are looking for a rare viewing you can try and catch this one on TCM during the Halloween season. I think they might have given it a DVD release. I would suggest trying this out and letting it simmer. You might just be surprised. 

Maybe she's not dead.

  • "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." - Humphrey Bogart
  • Boris Karloff was set to star as Doctor X but dropped out. 
  • When Walter 'Wichita' Garrett reviews the press clippings, two of them refer to "Eugene Xavier", the remainder refer to "Maurice Xavier."