Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bogart Hits The Horror Spot With ...

The Return Of Dr. X
(1939)

A murder, mystery thriller in which Humphrey Bogart plays an atypical role as a cold blooded killer brought back from the dead !.


The title of the movie is equal parts misleading, and completely apt.
The Return Of Dr. X has absolutely nothing to do with the 1932 made horror classic Dr. X, starring Lionel Atwill as the titular doctor, but the significance of this movies premise most definitely lies in its titling.


An eminent doctor of haematology, Dr. Francis Flegg, has developed a synthetic blood that can bring back recently inanimate life forms, and his greatest achievement is that of bringing back to life a man !. That man is a brilliant doctor in his own right, Dr. Xavier. The ethical issue at hand is that of Dr. Xavier being released into the custody of Dr. Flegg after his death … at the hands of his executioner, following his sentence to death after committing the murder of a child !.


When a newspaper reporter calls upon a famous actress, to get a coup for his paper, he discovers her dead body in her hotel apartment. Stabbed just beneath her heart, and her body drained of its blood. When reporter Walter ‘Wichita’ Garrett (Wayne Morris) prints his story for the morning press he is soon ridiculed by his colleagues when the actress turns up at the press chiefs office to hit them with a libel action. There is something not quite right about this picture though as the starlets flesh tone is a deathly pale pallor !.


Walter Garrett turns to his friend Dr. Mike Rhodes, who is himself called upon by the police to attend the crime scene of a murder which fits the same pattern that Garrett is describing. The victim is a male, called upon by the hospital as a blood donor, due to his rare type one group. Dr. Rhodes soon learns that the actress too has a type one blood group. When she later turns up dead, again !, for real, suspicions turn to Dr. Rhodes contemporary senior, Dr. Francis Flegg. Greater suspicion falls upon his mysterious assistant Marshall Quesne, another with a deathly pale pallor, not to mention a striking white streak of hair upon his head, and a freakish predilection for stroking bunny rabbits !.


Both Dr. Rhodes and Walter Garrett further investigate matters, and between them uncover a ghastly connection between the executed Dr. Xavier and Marshall Quesne. Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of a ghoulish genius, caught up in the well intentioned yet flawed scientific machinations of fellow genius Dr. Flegg, is as unrecognisable in its interpretation to any other role he would ever play. A true curio from the annals of cinematic history.


Perhaps Bogart’s better known association with his interpretations of gangsters may be attributable to his characters conclusive stand at the films finale, as he is cornered by the police like a villain on the run with nothing left to do but shoot it out. More poignantly here may be to describe as a bunny rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car !. Whichever way you wish to evaluate this truly is a curious role decision. It is almost as if Bogart’s agent, or even the film studio he was signed to, had an agreement that they were obligated to fulfil. Whatever the reason Bogart himself shows no sign of resentment or awkwardness in his performance, as he hams it up for all its worth.


The Return Of Dr. X Trailer

Movie Details IMDB

1 comment:

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