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Sounds like a promising mystery? Well forget it its not. Its a mystery looking for some one to pay attention to it. This film is mostly concerned with Church, played a bit too cocksure by Patrick Knowles, and his relationship with Kit, a one time girlfriend who becomes his wife in the second scene she appears. She's a mystery writer who bugs his apartment for ideas. They bicker and quarrel and would be an interesting update on Nick and Nora Charles if they had a (better) script. The mystery comes and goes and is never really solved.
In all honesty this film is a turkey. How can I tell? Because out of left field Church is tied to a gurney by a hooded villain who tries to use a gorilla in a cage to get rid of the detective. Normally I would find this fun, but here it just destroys any notion of credibility (and probably the series they were hoping to start). This is a bad bad movie.
The only reason to watch this is the cast that includes Knowles, Montan Moreland, Lionel Atwill (a red herring with maybe five minutes of screen time) and Shemp Howard. The scene of Howard and Moreland gambling for a bottle of liquor is amusing.
3 out of 10 for the cast and some witty dialog. This is a movie thats not worth your time- even if it is only an hour.
Patric Knowles, as Private Eye Jerry Church, many will know from FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, is the star while Anne Gwynne(HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN)is his worried newspaper reporter wife, Kit Logan. With Samuel Hinds(THE RAVEN)as attorney Dudley Crispin, Paul Cavanagh(THE SCARLET CLAW)his brother John, bug-eyed Mantan Moreland as Church's oft-abused butler Horatio(sure to make African-Americans cringe as honkies push and slap him around as the poor guy is used as a bumbling foil), and Shemp Howard(of all people)as a goofy cop. Edmund MacDonald is a cop who wants Church to partner with him on the case of the mysterious psychopath, Dr. Rx. Marital shenanigans between Knowles and Gwynne are used as comic touches as is the casting of Moreland and Shemp to off-set the morbid plot of a killer who keeps to taking out low-life criminals in the mobster underworld. The signature of Rx could be the key to the murderer's undoing. Lionel Atwill, in coke-bottle glasses, is the character of suspicion(which means he's likely a red herring), but his part is so small he's almost a non-entity. I was disappointed in this one more because it plays too much for laughs and not chills. The only real "horror" to the movie is the gorilla scene where it appears that Church will be another victim on Rx's hit list.
As far as the classic Universal horror (and horror is used very loosely here) films of the 30s and 40s go, The Strange Case of Doctor Rx is about as bad as you'll run across. I place it at the bottom of the heap with the unfortunate She-Wolf of London. I described The Strange Case of Doctor Rx to a friend as a Charlie Chan movie without any of the charm or interest of a Charlie Chan movie. Knowles' Church doesn't make for a very effective or interesting lead. He's just too bland. Lionel Atwill is billed second, but he has so little screen-time you'll forget he's even in the film. And when Atwill is on screen, he's reduced to playing the role of the most embarrassing red herring I've ever run across. Gwynne is okay as the love interest / wife, but she can't save the film on her on. The highlights of the cast are Shemp Howard and, especially, Mantan Moreland. They have a scene together involving shooting dice that's laugh-out-loud funny. Moreland, as usual, steals most every scene in which he appears. Other weaknesses: the films plotting is plodding, the direction is pedestrian, the mystery isn't very mysterious, and the horror is pretty much missing altogether. As most everyone who has written about The Strange Case of Doctor Rx has pointed out, the one scene of real horror feels like it was cut from another film. Other than Moreland, the one bright spot worth mentioning is the "look" of the film. Like most other Universal pictures from this period, the movie looks like a million bucks. Overall, a very disappointing affair that I'll be generous to and give it a 4/10.