A hotshot reporter and a young doctor team up to investigate a series of grisly murders and a mysterious sample of synthetic blood.A hotshot reporter and a young doctor team up to investigate a series of grisly murders and a mysterious sample of synthetic blood.A hotshot reporter and a young doctor team up to investigate a series of grisly murders and a mysterious sample of synthetic blood.
Interestingly, Bogie doesn't even get top billing. Neither does Dennis Morgan. Both are billed below Wayne Morris and Rosemary Lane. This seems odd today when Bogart and Morgan are more well known to classic film fans than either Morris or Lane. But in 1939 neither was a big star yet. Morgan was an up-and-comer and Bogie had been toiling away at WB for years as the villain in gangster pictures. Still, it seems strange WB at that time thought Wayne Morris had more potential than Bogie or Morgan. Morris is actually the weakest link in the film. He was an actor with a big frame and a boy-next-door likability but was ill-suited for a streetwise investigative reporter. The fact that he wore a silly hat with the brim turned up in front and was pretty much comic relief for the first half hour of the movie doesn't help the audience take him seriously. The supporting cast is nice. Rosemary Lane receives second billing and is the female lead but really has nothing to do but be the victim. I haven't added up everybody's screen time but it seems to me she was in the picture very little. Huntz Hall of Bowery Boys fame appears as a copy boy who needles Morris. Lya Lys has a meatier part than Lane as a woman brought back to life in the same manner Bogart was. She even allows herself to be made up to look waxy and dead, which was a big deal back in the day for any actress who wanted to be thought of as a romantic leading lady. John Litel turns in a typically stable performance as the doctor behind bringing Bogie back. He actually seems to be the movie's villain for most of the running time before Bogie's Dr. X takes over.
Overall, an enjoyable B horror film that should please fans of the genre. It's unfairly slammed a lot, even more than the usual B movie from the period. My guess is that's because a lot of Bogart fans who don't normally like this type of movie checked it out for him and didn't like it. The movie definitely garners more attention because of his part than it would otherwise. At its heart it's just another in a string of mad scientist movies made from the '30s through the '50s, albeit an enjoyable one. If you're a Bogart completist, I'm sure you'll want to check it out for curiosity's sake. Hopefully you'll like it. Fans of old sci-fi and horror films will definitely enjoy it.
- Feb 10, 2014