The Strange Case of Doctor Rx
Cast & Crew
Samuel S. Hinds
Photos & Videos
Millionaire sportsman Grayson Carter is found strangled to death at the Drexel Club in New York City, and becomes the fifth victim of the mysterious vigilante known as "Dr. Rx," a physician who kills crooks who have been acquitted of murder through various legal maneuvers. The next day, when famed private detective Jerry Church returns to the city after a year in South America, worried police captain Bill Hurd tells him that gangster boss Anthony Zarini has been charged with murder and is being defended by ace lawyer Dudley Crispin. When Hurd suggests that he investigate the case, Jerry tells the captain that he has quit detective work to return to his family's bond business in Boston. Later, John Crispin, Dudley's brother, attempts to hire Jerry for his sibling, and though the detective refuses the job, he agrees to see Dudley that night at his home on Long Island. Anxious to protect his client from retribution, Dudley offers Jerry $10,000 to take the case, with a $10,000 bonus if he finds Dr. Rx. The detective refuses once again, but reconsiders the offer after a female prowler is chased off the property. After leaving the Crispin estate, Jerry finds a note in his car, advising him to see Barney Scott in Syracuse. Immediately upon his acquittal, Zarini becomes the sixth victim of Dr. Rx. Jerry thinks that Ernie Paul, Zarini's partner, might have killed the gangster, knowing that the mad doctor would be blamed. Paul, however, has already left town, having been tipped off by "a woman's voice." Jerry then finds a microphone hidden in his apartment. With the help of his butler, Horatio Pitts Washington, Jerry follows the microphone's cable to the apartment below, which turns out to be the new home of his ex-girl friend, mystery writer Kit Logan. After sending Hurd off on a false lead, Jerry and Kit sneak off to get married. Kit then goes to Syracuse to see Barney Scott. Scott's mother warns Kit that her son, once a healthy policeman, was turned into a white-haired invalid while working on the Dr. Rx case. The next day, Jerry is abducted by Paul, who demands that he stay on the case in order to clear the gangster's name. Back at their apartment, Kit refuses to believe Jerry's kidnapping story and leaves him. When Jerry sends Horatio after her, the butler is abducted by Dr. Rx, who forces him to set up a meeting with his unsuspecting employer. Kit, Hurd and police sergeant Sweeney attempt to follow Jerry to the meeting, but the police sergeant rolls their car while making a fast turn. Back at his hideout, Dr. Rx makes plans to exchange Jerry's brain with that of an ape. At the Mayview hospital, meanwhile, Kit recovers from her automobile accident injuries, only to learn that Jerry and Horatio have been found. Like Scott, Jerry has become white-haired and is almost comatose. A doctor is brought in to examine Jerry, and when Dudley offers him his fountain pen, the disguised Jerry jumps from the bed and arrests the lawyer. Afterward, Jerry tells Hurd and Sweeney that Dudley, the real Dr. Rx, had used his fountain pen, which he filled with a poison that created the appearence of strangulation, to kill his victims. Jerry saw Dudley's pen while he was Dr. Rx's prisoner, and further explains that he had not escaped, but had been let go, as had Scott before him. Jerry and Kit make up, and all returns to normal, except Horatio's hair, which has truly turned white.
Samuel S. Hinds
Ray "crash" Corrigan
Jack C. Smith
Bernard B. Brown
Bernard W. Burton
R. A. Gausman
Clarence Upson Macdonald
H. J. Salter
George Thomas Jr.
The Strange Case of Doctor Rx
The outlandish storyline unfolds in a dizzying 68 minutes so you better keep up. It seems that a mysterious avenger is at large, murdering suspected lawbreakers who were previously acquitted of criminal charges and leaving his calling card of "Dr. Rx" behind as evidence. Private investigator Jerry Church (Patric Knowles) is assigned to the case but doesn't want it. He's got more important things to do like get married to his fiancée, Kit Logan (Anne Gwynne), who wants to honeymoon in Boston. But their plans are put on hold when Church and his valet Horatio (Mantan Moreland) are abducted and whisked away to a secret laboratory where the plot takes an even stranger turn.
Anne Gwynne recalled working on The Strange Case of Doctor Rx in It Came from Weaver Five, a collection of interviews by Tom Weaver, and said it was "Fun, fun, fun. I loved working with Patric Knowles. So very tall and handsome. A Britisher and very nice but married. He and I also worked together on Sin Town ." Gwynne also confirmed the long-standing rumor that much of the movie was ad-libbed. "Right, it was done off-the-cuff. I would go home at night and study my lines, only to arrive the next morning to learn that everything was thrown out! It didn't take me too many nights to know to just go home and relax there was no telling what to expect the next day but it was an anxious-to-get-the-studio feeling, that was for sure. Like in The Black Cat , the ad-libs were used, only much more so. Each of us would suggest things, and the director, William Nigh, would use them. That was just great, an experience I never had before or since. Of course, as a result, there are some plot loopholes in the finished product, but who cares? It was an hour of laughs and chills, a real crowd-pleaser."
Patric Knowles, in an interview, also commented on Doctor Rx's ad-libbed nature, saying, "Yes! We all contributed. Working with Anne was a great joy. Lionel Atwill and I shared dirty stories! I retired fifteen years ago. Nowadays some people ask me, 'Didn't you use to be Patric Knowles?' They nearly always add, 'Never got the girl, did you?'" Knowles DOES get the girl in The Strange Case of Doctor Rx. It is also a known fact that he made the picture while on Army furlough during World War II.
Seen today, The Strange Case of Doctor Rx is interesting for its cast of veteran character actors which includes Samuel S. Hinds (Murders in the Zoo , Man Made Monster ) in an atypical role, Shemp Howard (who was still a member of the Three Stooges when this was filmed) and Lionel Atwill as a suspicious character named Dr. Fish with crazy coke-bottle eyeglasses. That happens to be stuntman Ray 'Crash' Corrigan inside the gorilla costume, a role he endured again and again in such movies as Nabong (1944), Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) and Killer Ape (1953).
Director: William Nigh
Screenplay: Clarence Upson Young; Alex Gottlieb (story)
Cinematography: Elwood Bredell
Art Direction: Martin Obzina, Jack Otterson
Music: Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner (uncredited)
Film Editing: Bernard W. Burton
Cast: Patric Knowles (Private Detective Jerry Church), Lionel Atwill (Dr. Fish), Anne Gwynne (Kit Logan Church), Samuel S. Hinds (Dudley Crispin), Mona Barrie (Eileen Crispin), Shemp Howard (Det. Sgt. Sweeney), Paul Cavanagh (John Crispin), Edmund MacDonald (Det. Capt. Bill Hurd), Mantan Moreland (Horatio B. Fitz Washington).
by Jeff Stafford
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946 by Michael Brunas, John Brunas and Tom Weaver (McFarland & Associates)
Horror Film Stars by Michael R. Pitts (McFarland & Associates)
The Strange Case of Doctor Rx
The working title of this film was Dr. Rx. According to the Hollywood Reporter review, British actor Patric Knowles worked on this film while on a furlough from the Royal Canadian Air Force. Modern sources report that the film began production on October 6, 1941, and that the actors were forced to improvise "a good share of the dialogue," as they were working from an incomplete script.