This has long been a movie I’ve found interesting. The story in Doctor X itself isn’t amazingly before it’s time (though references to cannibalism are welcomed), but the fact that the movie’s in color – in 1932 – is very much a stand-out. I don’t think it necessarily needed to be in color – it’s not like it made a big difference in any way – but the film is probably easier to get into for those who shy away from older movies, and I’ve always found it a hoot.
Certainly the film is far from perfect, but I appreciate how the story focuses on a very human killer as opposed to a vampire, a monster made up from dead body parts, or a mummy. We have, like any quality horror movie from the golden years, a plethora of potential suspects, and of course, a wise-cracking newsman out to get a story.
Lee Tracy isn’t a big name in the genre, and as far as I’m aware, this was his only role in a horror film, which is a shame, as he does pretty decent here. Maybe he comes across a bit generically, and many people in the industry would have been able to take on this same role without problem, but Tracy does well nonetheless.
Lionel Atwill is no stranger to the genre, appearing in films such as The Vampire Bat, Murders in the Zoo, Son of Frankenstein, Secret of the Blue Room, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and Mark of the Vampire, among others, and does great here as one of the lead scientists. He’s just suspicious enough at times to make for a good suspect, and it’s nice seeing an old hand wear a new (and colored) glove.
Elsewise, we have Fay Wray (King Kong, The Vampire Bat, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and Black Moon), who plays the very attractive daughter of Atwill, and has some rather amusing lines as well, matching Tracy with ease. Preston Foster was the only other one who really stood out, and that’s more due to the fact he looked like a good lead man than anything else.
I always loved the opening atmosphere of Doctor X, taking place on the misty docks next to a morgue with an ambulance coming in. It’s a solid opening, and I think the story is pretty entertaining, especially once they move to the admittedly cliché castle. Still, it’s overall a decent movie.