(director: Vincent Sherman; screenwriters: Lee Katz/based on the novel ‘The Doctor’s Secret’ by William J. Makin; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Thomas Pratt; music: Bernhard Kaun; cast: Wayne Morris (Walter ‘Wichita’ Garrett), Rosemary Lane (Joan Vance), Humphrey Bogart (Marshall Quesne), Dennis Morgan (Dr. Mike Rhodes), John Litel (Dr. Francis Flegg), Lya Lys (Angela Merrova), Huntz Hall (Pinky), Charles Wilson (Detective Roy Kincaid), Joseph Crehan (Editor), Frank Pharr (Andy, the City Editor), John Ridgely (Stanley Rodgers, blood donor), Gwen Seager (Miss Lawrence), Vera Lewis (Miss Sweetman); Runtime: 62; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Warner Bros; 1939)

“A minor vampire thriller that’s in need of a blood transfusion.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A minor vampire thriller that’s in need of a blood transfusion. Director Vincent Sherman (“Saturday’s Children”/ “Mr. Skeffington”/”The Garment Jungle”), in his first film, shows some style with this hokum but doesn’t get anything moving until the last reel and by that time rigor mortis has set in. Writer Lee Katz anemically adapts from the novel ‘The Doctor’s Secret’ by William J. Makin. The pic is noteworthy only because secondary player Humphrey Bogart is at his weirdest, making his first and last appearance in a horror movie by playing an evil vampire with a creepy expression on his pasty kisser and a streak of white in his hair (a role usually reserved for Bela or Boris). This was Bogie’s seventh pic he made in 1939 for Warners, who used him mostly in menacing criminal roles.

Breezy hayseed NYC Dispatch reporter Walter ‘Wichita’ Garrett (Wayne Morris) goes to interview celebrated stage actress Angela Merrova (Lya Lys, made her rep in Luis Buñuel’s classic L’Âge d’or) and finds her knifed to death in her plush hotel apartment. The paper goes with the headline story, but when the police arrive the body is missing. The next day Merrova turns up at the editor’s office and threatens to sue. Garrett is canned and before returning to Wichita, the puzzled ex-reporter asks his handsome doctor friend Mike Rhodes (Dennis Morgan) for help.

When a professional blood donor with a rare blood type is murdered and his blood drained in the same way Merrova’s was, also having a rare blood type, the police lead investigator, Lt. Kincaid (Charles Wilson), believes only a doctor can make such a cut. Thereby Rhodes and Garrett go snooping around for answers. They discover Rhodes’ colleague, the eccentric monocle wearing blood specialist/surgeon Dr. Flegg (John Litel), and his sinister twitching graveyard-looking assistant Marshall Quesne (Humphrey Bogart) are up to no good. Flegg has discovered how to bring people back to life with blood transfusions. It turns out that Quesne is really Dr. Xavier or Dr. X, who was a child slayer mad scientist sent to the electric chair but was brought back to life by Flegg so he can assist him in his unorthodox experiments to find an artificial blood. The problem for the idealistic Flegg is that he can’t perfect his artificial blood and therefore Quesne starts a killing campaign for the rare human blood type to keep him alive.

The B-film, not a sequel to Doctor X (1932), did well in the box-office even if it was artistically a turkey.

The Return of Doctor X Poster

REVIEWED ON 12/21/2009 GRADE: C+