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Doctor X (1932) 
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Lionel Atwill & Fay Wray are a pair of almost forgotten figures from the horror cinema of the 1930's & 1940's. To the extent that they are known by todays's horror flick fans, Atwill is remembered as the wooden armed Inspector Krogh in 1939's Son of Frankenstein while Wray is remembered as the damsel in distress in 1933's King Kong.

Both Atwill & Wray made their horror film debut in the 1932 feature Doctor X . Doctor X was Warner Brothers' initial entry in the horror genre that Universal had all to itself up to that point.Doctor X is an unusual horror flick in that it is about a brilliant scientist who is not some insane madman. It is also unusual for its nearly unique coloring scheme.

It was directed by Michael Curtiz and shot in two-strip technicolor. At the request of Warner Brothers, Technicolor tweaked its 2 strip coloring scheme to create colors that would look extra mysterious and spooky. This gave Doctor X a nearly unique look for a horror movie. Ray Rennahan, a pioneer in color cinematography also supervised the photography of Doctor X . The look of Doctor X is reminiscent of the red and blue hues of 3-D comic books.

Doctor X begins with the revelation that there has been a series of "Full Moon Murders." These are so named because they took place when there is a full moon. Naturally, the news media plays it big time for big newspaper sales and so intrepid newspaper reporter Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) of the New York Daily World. Taylor plays up the suspicion of a crusty old cop, Detective O'Halloran (Willard Robertson) that the scientific lab of Dr. Jerry Xavier (Lionel Atwill) is somehow involved in the murders.

Naturally, Dr. Xavier believes that all this speculation is sheer nonsense. However, he decides to do an experiment just to make sure that perhaps one of his subordinates really did commit the murders. In this experiment, the 4 doctors that the police seem to suspect were strapped down in chairs to test both their reactions to statements made about the crimes as well as reenactments of how the police believed that the crimes were committed.


Doctor X should rank with the greatest horror flicks of the 1930's. The specially tweaked 2 strip Technicolor makes everything look gloomy & sinister. Ray Rennahan presided over the great cinematography. Anton Grot designed the fantastically gothic sets that add so much to the movie. Everything in the movie is saturated with shadows as well as greens, oranges & pinks. The makeup was also especially well done and added to the scariness of the movie. The manor house in the movie had everything that one would expect in a horror movie manor house. It is both very old and very dark.


Although most horror flick fans have never heard of it, Doctor X is clearly one of the most frightening movies from the 1930's. It should be more memorable since this is the movie where the phrase "synthetic flesh" came from. Doctor X is a great old horror flick that is warmly recommended.


Sat Oct 01, 2016 10:49 pm
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It's definitely impressive, as is the The Mystery of the Wax Museum. Of the two, Doctor X is by far the more gruesome, but they're both nicely creepy.

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Sun Oct 02, 2016 1:12 am
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Victoria Silverwolf wrote:
It's definitely impressive, as is the The Mystery of the Wax Museum. Of the two, Doctor X is by far the more gruesome, but they're both nicely creepy.

For the longest time, I thought Fay Wray was the brash star reporter in Mystery of the Wax Museum until a wise person corrected me that the reporter was played by Glenda Farrell. She is terrific in the role. I wish it had meant a bit more name recognition for her, but for my money, she is up there with Lionel Atwill as the most entertaining part of the movie. Fay Wray will always have King Kong and Most Dangerous Game to cement her name in movie history.

I agree, though, that Doctor X deserves to have a much greater reputation in pop culture. It's a landmark.

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Tue Oct 04, 2016 6:41 pm
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I just watched this, and it is a delicious little film. Full of memorable characters, wonderful looking with its salmon-and-aquamarine palette, inventively mad-scienceful, gothically gruesome, definitely pre-code... even the obnoxious reporter is quite bearable, relative to others of his species.

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Mon Oct 17, 2016 5:30 am
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