Doctor X will be released in the USA on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection on April 13th 2021.
The original colour version of Doctor X has been newly restored in 4K from the last known nitrate Technicolor print. The separately filmed black-and-white version, also included, has been restored from its original nitrate camera negative. Special features:
Colour and black-and-white versions of the film
Audio commentary by film historian Alan K. Rode (new)
Audio commentary by UCLA Film and Television Archive head of preservation Scott MacQueen
Monsters and Mayhem: The Horror Films of Michael Curtiz (new)
UCLA Before & After Restoration (new)
Here is our previous coverage of this horror classic:
‘Out-thrills them all!’
Doctor X is a 1932 American horror film directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) from a screenplay by Robert Tasker (San Quentin) and Earl Baldwin (Africa Screams), based on a play by Howard W. Comstock and Allen C. Miller.
The film was produced before the Motion Picture Production Code was enforced. Taboo themes such as murder and prostitution are interwoven into the story.
The film was also one of the last films made, along with Warners’ Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), in the two-colour Technicolor process. Black and white prints were shipped to small towns and to foreign markets, while colour prints were reserved for major cities.
Reporter Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) is investigating a series of pathological murders that have taken place over a series of months in New York City. The murders always take place at night, under the light of a full moon (the newspapers dubbing them the “Moon Killer Murders”). Furthermore, each body has been partially eaten after the murder has taken place. Witnesses to the events describe a horribly disfigured “monster” as the killer.
Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill) is called in for his medical opinion, but it is learned through meeting with the police that the ulterior motive behind this is to begin an investigation of Xavier’s medical academy, as the scalpel used to mutilate the bodies of the victims was exclusive to that institution.
Aside from Xavier, the other suspects are Wells (Preston Foster), an amputee who has made a study of anthropophagy; Haines (John Wray), who displays a fascination with voyeurism; Duke (Harry Beresford), a grouchy loudmouth cripple; and Rowitz (Arthur Edmund Carewe), who is conducting studies of the psychological effects of the moon (Rowitz also displays a notable scar on one side of his face).
It is learned that Haines and Rowitz were stranded in a boat with another man and that while they claimed he had died and they had thrown him overboard, it was suspected that they had, in fact, cannibalized him…
” …the film offers more […] including a deformed killer, a creepy laboratory, the odd reference to cannibalism, and even plenty of humor (courtesy of Lee Tracy’s bumbling reporter). All this, plus the legendary Lionel Atwill in the lead role, transforms Doctor X into an early horror picture that still packs a pretty good wallop.” 2,500 Movies Challenge
“The wonderfully macabre premise of the film, its art direction and its two extended laboratory scenes make it completely worth watching, and ultimately enjoyable; but these positive aspects are almost buried under a tidal wave of the most agonising “comedy”, predominantly from Lee Tracy, but also from George Rosener as Otto the butler.” And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
“Doctor X’s unique look comes by way of two-strip Technicolor, a process that uses reds and greens to define images. Since it’s lacking other colors from its pallet, the movie takes on an unearthly tone, enhancing the film’s slightly surreal mood. It works to great effect as Curtiz still uses techniques to enhance shadows, but also splits the colors so that they can emphasize one piece of the frame over another. Though not as sharp as black and white, the look is undeniably haunting.” Pre-Code.com
Buy DVD: Amazon
“On the one hand, Doctor X features a surfeit of corny comic relief and a great many hokey, naive “scare” scenes that would seem more appropriate in a 4-H Club haunted Halloween hayride than in any remotely serious horror flick. Then again, it also has serial murder, cannibalism, some of the ickiest mad science of the 1930’s, and a hell of a lot of scantily-clad (at least by the standards of the era) Fay Wray.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Curtiz manages some fine expressionistic touches, and the sets (gothic mansion, of course) are splendid but with most of the grisly effects turning risible, the good moments … seem few and far between.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“The pace of Doctor X is technically quite slow. There aren’t a ton of huge developments. The film packs a hearty dose of creep, but not too much suspense. However, the premise itself is so intriguing and mysterious that the viewer doesn’t need frequent shocks in order to maintain interest.” MotionPictures.net
“It is a production that almost makes Frankenstein seem tame and friendly, particularly in its penultimate glimpses.” New York Times, 1932
“Curtiz’s direction and Grot’s sets are impressively influenced by German horror movies and the film is genuinely horrific, including everything from cannibalism to necrophilia. Only the injection of unwelcome comedy relief detracts from the overall impact.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook
Cast and characters:
Lionel Atwill … Dr Jerry Xavier
Fay Wray … Joanne Xavier
Lee Tracy … Lee Taylor
Preston Foster … Dr Wells
John Wray … Dr Haines
Harry Beresford … Dr Duke
Arthur Edmund Carewe … Dr Rowitz
Leila Bennett … Mamie
Robert Warwick … Police Commissioner Stevens
George Rosener … Otto
Willard Robertson … Detective O’Halloran
Thomas E. Jackson … Daily World Editor (as Thomas Jackson)
Harry Holman … Mike – Waterfront Policeman
Mae Busch … Cathouse Madame
Tom Dugan … Sheriff
Laguna Beach, California (beach scene)
Los Angeles River, California
Stage 7, Warner Brothers Burbank Studios – 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California,
19th March 1932 to April 1932
Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1