The Strange Case of Doctor Rx (1942)

Article #383 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-2-2002
Posting date: 8-26-2002

A series of murders against criminals who have successfully evaded the justice system is being committed by a character known as Dr. Rx, who leaves a label with the Rx symbol attached to each of his victims.

Oh, good! A horror movie with a gorilla and Lionel Atwill! No, sorry, it’s actually a mystery with slight horror elements.

Well, it has a scary lab scene, doesn’t it? Yes, it does, but it appears so late in the movie and is so out of place with the rest of the movie that it simply doesn’t work in this context.

But it has Lionel Atwill, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. He has about four minutes of screen time and about four lines of dialogue. This hardly even qualifies him as a red herring, though it does give the marketing people something to put on the poster.

Well, I bet at least it’s an exciting mystery, isn’t it? Oh, it might have been, if there had been any detective work; instead, most of the screen time is dedicated to the detective’s relationship with his girlfriend (and later, wife) and endless scenes of people either trying to talk him into taking the case or people trying to talk him into dropping the case.

Then what does this movie have? Well, it does have Mantan Moreland and Shemp Howard. At least they manage to net a few laughs. They even have a (serious) car chase scene, one chasing the other, which is probably a novel moment in film history.

I saw this one years ago on my local Creature Feature. I was curious to see how well it stood the test of time. Now I know.

Blood and Roses (1960)

Article #382 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-1-2002
Posting date: 8-25-2002

A vampire is jealous of the love a nobleman bears for another, and possesses a woman in order to win him for herself.

This is an interesting vampire tale, relying on subtlety and imagery to tell its tale, rather that the usual gothic touch you expect to find in this sort of story. In fact, it may rely on it a shade too much; sometimes lyrical degenerates into boring, and there are moments toward the end that are just way too arty for the movie’s own good. Still, it’s like nothing else out there; its images of dead roses are powerful and memorable indeed, and it somehow evades becoming silly and laughable. There’s a part of me that’s very tempted to dismiss the movie, but I have to admit that some of the images, especially the fireworks in the cemetery, stick with me. I may have to dwell on this one a bit more before I can decide just what I can make of it.

The Phantom of Paris (1931)

Article #381 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-31-2002
Posting date: 8-24-2002

An escape artist is framed for the murder of the father of the woman he loves. He escapes from prison, and seeks a way to prove his innocence.

Horror fans may want to take note that there is no phantom to speak of, unless you think the fact that the escape artist evades the police for several years qualifies him as a “phantom” (I don’t). I suspect the title came from someone who knew that the author of the novel on which this movie was based was also responsible for the novel on which THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA was based, and thought they could draw a connection. It stars John Gilbert, and there’s no doubt it’s slickly made, but once the murder is committed (which takes C. Aubrey Smith out of the cast), the movie loses some of its initial charm, and, despite some interesting moments, it gets a little tiresome and predictable. All in all, a pretty average movie.

Dark Intruder (1965)

Article #380 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-30-2002
Posting date: 8-23-2002

In 1890, a strange series of murders are being committed. The murderer leaves a small statue at each killing. The police bring in an undercover agent who specializes in cases of the supernatural.

This movie was originally intended as a pilot for a TV series that was never sold. It’s a shame; if the pilot was any indication, it would have made a dandy horror series. It would have been like a horror-oriented “The Wild Wild West,” or possibly “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” set in period times. At any rate, it is loaded with atmosphere, both horrific and period, has some interesting characters, and some interesting surprises in the story. It’s only 59 minutes, but it’s worth a look if you can find it. It features Leslie Nielsen and Werner Klemperer, though you won’t recognize the latter.

Creature with the Atom Brain (1965)

Article #379 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-29-2002
Posting date: 8-22-2002

A gangster uses the talents of a scientist to animate dead bodies and cause them to commit murders of vengeance.

This science fiction/horror thriller isn’t a great movie, but it’s quite entertaining if you’re in the right mood for it. Edward L. Cahn wasn’t really a great director, but he could do all right if he was given the right story, and I think this one was right for him; the movie manages to deliver some thrills despite the general cheapness of the production and a sense that it was made mostly by people primarily interested in pulling in a paycheck. Still, I think I was in the right mood for it, and in its own way, it actually might be another of those films like INVISIBLE INVADERS that set the scene for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. This is a good one for a slow Sunday afternoon.

Outward Bound (1930)

Article #378 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-28-2002
Posting date: 8-21-2002

Several people find themselves the only inhabitants of an ocean liner bound for unknown parts.

This movie was adapted from a successful stage play that opened in London in 1923, and went on to international success. It’s not giving away too much to tell you that they’re all dead and heading towards their final judgment. The movie is somewhat static and talky, but for what it’s trying to do, that’s somewhat unavoidable; what saves it is the excellent script and top-notch acting. It’s essential that the characters matter to you for this to work, and they do; I find myself drawn into their worlds, their hopes, aspirations, disappointments, failures, and tribulations. Beryl Mercer, Leslie Howard, and Dudley Digges all give fine performances, but I could just as easily pick another three names. And the movie makes very good use of its few opportunities to emphasize the visuals; some of the long shots of the boat are breathtaking. Yes, it’s old, and it creaks, but it’s definitely worth a look. It was remade about fifteen years later with Sidney Greenstreet in the Dudley Digges role and Edmund Gwenn in the Alec B. Francis role.

Night Unto Night (1949)

Article #377 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 3-27-2002
Posting date: 8-20-2002

A man suffering from epilepsy but allergic to the medicine escapes to Florida, but finds himself in a relationship with a troubled widow.

WARNING: If you’re primarily interested in fantastic cinema, I suggest you read the last paragraph before you read the next one; it just might save you from wasting your time.

You know, there’s a good, solid basis for a tear-jerking drama buried somewhere in the depths of this movie, and you can see hints of it if you make it to the last twenty minutes. Unfortunately, up to that point you will have to contend with the interminable first two-thirds of the movie, where for endless scene after endless scene you will hear people pontificate ponderous profundities; I swear, each scene of this movie thinks it’s the deepest, most important scene of the movie. I knew this movie was getting to me when I found myself hoping that the Ritz Brothers might come in and lighten up the proceedings. I’m reminded of a writing rule I once heard; when it comes time to edit what you’ve written, find the part you consider the most brilliant, and get rid of it. In this case, it might have involved eradicating about sixty minutes of script, but it would have been the better for it.

Of course, the BIG question here is; just what in blazes does this movie have to do with Fantastic cinema? Well, the troubled widow thinks her husband’s ghost is in the house. Then, for about five seconds in the middle of the movie, we hear his voice, and it’s most likely just her imagination. That’s it. In other words, this movie is about as marginal as you can get. Consider yourself warned.