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Easily the worst Universal "horror film" I've ever seen, and it makes previous candidates of mine like SHE-WOLF OF London, THE FROZEN GHOST, and JUNGLE WOMAN look like thrill rides alongside it. Hell, I'd even watch LIFE RETURNS again over this one; at least that's bizarre enough in its badness and resembles an Our Gang short in spots. DOCTOR Rx doesn't make one bit of sense, with nothing going on but talk, talk, talk, and feels like it goes on forever despite that it's only just over an hour. The cockeyed plot seems to be about a series of murders against criminals who got off, committed by a mysterious doctor. Shemp Howard and Mantan Moreland are mixed up in all of this, but they don't even offer anything fun in the comical department. Anne Gwynne had always been the cutest Universal gal for me, but despite all her pep here it's all for naught. And Lionel Atwill is just wasted. The only somewhat decent thing I can say for this turkey is that it was semi-interesting to see Patric Knowles cast as an insensitive jerk for a change, and the 3 measly minutes we spend in Dr. Rx's laboratory with a chained gorilla is a tad unsettling ... even though I can't for the life of me see how it fits into the rest of this picture! A wretched movie. * out of ****
A killer is going around murdering men who have eluded the clutches of the law thanks to the legal system, known only as Doctor Rx. The police ask private detective Jerry Church to help them, but he insists on returning to a legal practice in Boston. When DA Crispin asks for Church's help, he say he'll go watch the end of his latest case (involving gangster Tony Zarini) as a favor, but when Zarini mysteriously becomes Rx's 6th victim Church says he'll work on the case. This all changes when Church meets up with former flame, mystery writer Kit Logan, and after they marry Church now wants a peaceful life and decides to drop the case again, but after he is threatened by suspect Ernie Paul, he gets even worse treatment from Dr. Rx himself who plans to transplant Church's brain into the head of a gorilla. Is there no stopping this fiend? The film doesn't exactly stay in one genre with mystery, crime, comedy (thanks to Mantan Moreland & Shemp Howard), and romance, but you can't say the film isn't fun. After the midway mark of the film, it seems to get more interesting and curious to know what's going on here and when Dr. Rx actually appears, boy the film jumps up in fun. The cast is full of the usual Universal stock company of actors and they play their roles to the best they can. Fun film all together, Rating, 7.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Detective Jerry Church returns of Rio after a year and immediately
finds himself embroiled in the Dr Rx murders. It seems that some one is
killing off the high profile defendants that have been acquitted and
leaving a note signed Rx and a number. As the sixth victim falls, in
the court room seconds after being acquitted Church finds himself
pressed by the police to aide them as well as the defense attorney
responsible for most of the acquittals (he fears the end to his career
because who would hire him if you win only to die?).
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.
Patrick Knowles plays private detective Jerry Church, who is recruited by the police to help solve a series of murders where wrongfully acquitted criminals were subsequently murdered by a mysterious vigilante calling himself Dr. RX. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Kit Logan(played by Anne Gwynne) pops back into his life, and they get married, though she will later get mixed up in the case itself. Who can the mysterious Dr. RX. be, and what does a locked up gorilla have to do with anything? Despite some brisk performances,(and Jerry's gorgeous Art Deco apartment and hallway!) this is a most dull, unfocused and ridiculous film, that feels much longer than its hour running time...
1941's "The Strange Case of Doctor Rx" was part of Universal's popular SHOCK! package of classic horror films issued to television in the late 50s, turning up twice on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater, on May 8 1976 (following Cameron Mitchell's "Nightmare in Wax") and Jan 29 1983 (solo). Yes, Lionel Atwill is criminally wasted, but what's worse is how the ads promoted it as a horror film prominently featuring his countenance (billed second, as he also was in "The Mad Doctor of Market Street"). Patric Knowles is the actual star, before "The Wolf Man" and "Mystery of Marie Roget," and has no trouble carrying the picture, but the on again-off again sparring between his detective Jerry Church and new bride Kit (Anne Gwynne) wears thin very quickly. Church has just returned from South America, only to be bludgeoned by the recent series of murders committed by a mysterious Doctor Rx (not to be confused with Atwill's 1932 "Doctor X"), who executes criminals that escape the justice system. The couple are likable performers, but the 'Battling Churches' were mercifully not granted a sequel (it really is less a horror film than a domestic mystery/whodunit, certainly no THIN MAN). Still entertaining for those who encountered it long ago, particularly for the excellent cast, with Samuel S. Hinds, Paul Cavanagh, Mary Gordon, pretty Jan Wiley, and Ray 'Crash' Corrigan as the gorilla Nbongo, in the lone nightmarish sequence that climaxes the picture. The underrated Mantan Moreland, who always rose above his material, easily steals every scene he's in, which the better known Shemp Howard fails to do (some 5 years before he rejoined The Three Stooges).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you consider yourself a fan of Shemp Howard (of The Three Stooges) and have never seen this picture, DO SO IMMEDIATELY! Even though screen time for Shemp is relatively small, he and Mr. Church's "man" steal the show!!! The movie, overall, is your standard 1940's-1950's whodunit with a bit of a "weird" plot twist to throw you off course. It certainly does that, but it could have been done in a more "meaningful" manner. Aside from all that, SHEMP IS LAUGH OUT LOUD FUNNY! I picked my copy up off of eBay for around ten bucks and even though there are a couple of video glitches in it, I still consider it worth the price to catch this classic. SHEMP RULES!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Clients for a certain lawyer are bumped off by a maniacal physician who
leaves his calling card by "Rx" along with each individual victim's
number as he kills them via poison. Dr. Crispin hopes a well-renowned
detective, John Church, will halt his plans of retirement and seek the
identity of the killer before he winds up as the next victim(not to
mention, rescue his law practice which took a hit thanks to the fact
that if you attain Dudley as your lawyer you wind up dead).
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Private Detective Jerry Church (Patric Knowles) is asked to investigate
the strange deaths of several recently acquitted men. The only clue is
the mysterious calling card found on the body of each victim of a man
known only as "Doctor Rx". Soon after taking the case, Church is on
hand to see a man named Zarini acquitted, only to fall dead before he
can leave the courtroom. To solve the series of murders, Church is
kidnapped, his wife's life is threatened, and he is strapped to a table
by Doctor Rx and prepped for an operation involving organ
transplantation with a gorilla. Will Church survive this ordeal and
unmask the killer?
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.
This obscure Universal "B" horror flick is also included in that yet-to-be released Box Set I mentioned in my review of HOUSE OF HORRORS (1946) above and, unfortunately, while I would certainly say that this one is more readily enjoyable, my verdict overall is equally lukewarm. For one thing, much of the film's entertainment value stems more from the interaction between "master" Patrick Knowles (an insurance salesman moonlighting as a private dick!) and klutzy valet Mantan Moreland (who even devices a convoluted method for remembering his most basic instructions)! Also on hand are Knowles' girl Anne Gwynne, distinguished lawyer Samuel S. Hinds (whose guilty but off-the-hook clients are meeting sudden death at the hands of the enigmatic titular medico), the bumbling investigating duo of Edmund MacDonald and Shemp Howard (of "The Three Stooges" fame) and even a brief, thankless "red herring" cameo from a mousy(!) Lionel Atwill. As I intimated earlier, the surfeit of comic incident (not to mention the endless, dull chatter in which various parties, including Hinds' brother Paul Cavanaugh, try to talk Knowles out of taking on the case) far outweighs the film's horror elements which are puzzlingly relegated to the last five minutes of the 66-minute movie as if the screenwriter suddenly realized which genre he was supposed to be working in! What happens towards the end, however with the belated "in costume" appearance of the raspy-voiced doc suddenly hard at work on transplanting the brain of his caged gorilla with that of Knowles?! comes so utterly out of left field as to seem ridiculously far-fetched and, therefore, unable to redeem this would-be chiller. But, at least, Moreland and, to a lesser extent Howard, are funny
Strange Case of Doctor RX, The (1942)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Here's another forgotten thriller/mystery from Universal. A mysterious man is killing off client's gotten off of serious crimes by a local attorney. There's really not too much here but director William Nigh keeps things moving pretty pace even though this thing contains the worst red-herring in film history. Patrick Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Anne Gwynne and Shemp Howard star.
This rare Universal film hasn't been released officially yet but there are 16mm copies floating around out there.
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