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Rowland V. Lee
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
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One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
1940's "The Mad Doctor" is a sadly generic but wholly appropriate title for this Paramount feature, one of their rare genre efforts. In the title role of Dr. George Sebastian, Basil Rathbone is not a 'mad doctor' as in 'mad scientist,' but a psychotic faux psychiatrist living with partner Maurice Gretz (Martin Kosleck), both wanted for murder in Vienna, having relocated to America. With the sudden demise of Sebastian's third wife, he takes up residence in New York City, where he begins another practice, meeting up with potential wife number four, hypochondriac Linda Boothe (Ellen Drew), whom Maurice believes would be the perfect candidate due to her suicidal tendencies (that would save them the trouble of bumping her off). Lurking in the background is Dr. Charles Downer (Ralph Morgan), a longtime friend of Sebastian's late wife, whose suspicions about her untimely death are soon confirmed, at his peril. This Ben Hecht story is loaded with promise, yet fudges its attempts at suspense with sketchy characterizations, virtually none of whom engender any sympathy, particularly the heroine, apparently as dim as the scatterbrained sister (Barbara Allen) that introduced her to Dr. Sebastian. The binding relationship between the doctor and Maurice is by far the most intriguing aspect to the film, but little footage is devoted to their villainy, the pace slowed to a crawl by the endless romantic twaddle. The final third almost makes up for all its faults, but the excellent cast is pretty much on their own. Ellen Drew was much better, and far more sympathetic, in another Paramount, "The Monster and the Girl," while Martin Kosleck easily steals his scenes from the rather surprisingly uninspired Rathbone (much better in "Kind Lady"), soon to enjoy one of his most enjoyable villains opposite Tyrone Power in "The Mark of Zorro."
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