In 1932, movies weren’t exactly, shall we say, under as many censorship rules as they are today. There wasn’t a rating system, the Hayes Code wasn’t in effect yet, and so long as the flick didn’t show anything that you would see in either a John Waters or a John Holmes film you could get away with a lot.
Dr. X was based on the hit play The Terror that ran in New York in 1930 and 1931. In this movie, Dr. X (short for Dr. Xavier) is part of a research group that features several creepy doctors. Meanwhile, there have been several gruesome murders in which the victims have been…. well, nibbled on. The NYPD are naturally flummoxed, so Dr. X uses his daughter (Fray Wray!) to help recreate the latest murder in front of his cronies to work out who the murderer is. The murderer is in fact one of the cronies, and yes, he likes to nibble on people, but his true work is creating synthetic skin:
Fay Wray, of course, gets to scream her guts out while a goofball nosy journalist with apparent stock in a joke and prank shop saves the day.
So in 1932, this stuff was the bee’s knees, man. There wasn’t TV, Prohibition was still on, and WWII wasn’t happening for the United States yet, so this kind of lurid stuff was eaten up. A sequel was kicked around nearly immediately, but since Hollywood has employed morons since time immemorial, it didn’t happen until 1939:
The first thing you see when you watch The Return of Dr. X is the standard this movie is not based on actual events or any person living or dead yadda yadda yadda but what they should have said was it may be called “The Return of Dr. X” but it bears no resemblance to any other movie or character called “Dr. X”. And I can put up with that but what I can’t tolerate is this:
Yes, dear god, that is Humphrey Bogart, THE Humphrey Bogart, wearing an entire Ben Nye Student Makeup Kit. And when he speaks, you die a little inside. Because you know that poor sap was born to say lines like “When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it”, or “Things are never so bad they can’t be made worse”, but he was wrong because being a contract player to the Warner Brothers means you will take it, like, and ask for another. Thank heavens they finally figured out what Humphrey was good for, because god knows he wasn’t good at playing a reanimated mad doctor who has to drink blood to live, because True Blood didn’t exist in 1939. Outside the backwoods of Louisiana. On this plane of fiction.
So what is the K.C. knitting while watching this?