Directed by William Nigh [Other horror films: The House of Mystery (1934), The Ape (1940), The Ghost and the Guest (1943)]
This is another one of those movies that I’ve seen the title of quite a bit but never took the time to check out until now. I generally found this little movie enjoyable, but it’s quite typical of the time (or more specifically, of the 1930’s), and I don’t know if it’ll really end up that memorable a film.
Certainly the central plot is interesting, what with a serial killer going around and killing seemingly-guilty men who were found not guilty by the court system. There’s not really a lot of playing around with the vigilante aspect, but I did find the idea itself worth it.
Not that the film doesn’t play around a bit. There’s a fair amount of comedy thrown in (though this is never really an outright horror-comedy unless Moreland’s character is on screen), and despite the short run-time, there is a bit of focus on arguably more unnecessary scenes (such as one toward the end in which a gorilla randomly popped up).
Patric Knowles made for a decent and witty lead. He’s not a name I necessarily know (though he was in one of my favorite classic films, The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938, along with appearing in The Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man), but while not spectacular, he did good here. Anne Gwynne (The Black Cat from 1941, House of Frankenstein and Weird Woman) was also fine, but I can’t say that, at times, her character did rather annoy me.
Few others really merit a mention – I enjoyed Lionel Atwill in movies such as Doctor X, Murders in the Zoo, and The Vampire Bat, but here, he doesn’t really do all that much, nor make much an impression. Edmund MacDonald’s character annoyed me more than anything, and Shemp Howard had potential, but was used primarily for failed comedic relief.
And to an extent, the same could be said of Mantan Moreland, a rather well-known African-American actor (and who I personally love in King of the Zombies), but half of Moreland’s dialogue was actually somewhat amusing (“I forgot to remember to get it”) in that horribly antiquated racist way. And of course, his cowardly antics here (which was a must for black actors in this time period, apparently) got old quick, but that’s no fault of Moreland.
I did like portions of the mystery here, and though he was only really in a single sequence, Doctor Rx did look pretty cool (he wore a hood, not too unlike The Town That Dreaded Sundown’s mysterious killer). I just wish he had more to do in terms of action than he did. And while his identity was decent, I just can’t help but feel the mystery was missing something.
Little in The Strange Case of Doctor Rx is that memorable, and that’s the biggest issue. I don’t doubt it’s largely watchable, and maybe even to an extent, enjoyable, but ultimately, I just don’t think it amounts to much.