The Return of Dr. X


1h 2m 1939
The Return of Dr. X

Brief Synopsis

A murderer returns from the grave with a thirst for blood.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Mystery
Thriller
Release Date
Dec 2, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 Nov 1939
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Doctor's Secret" by William J. Makin in Detective Fiction Weekly (30 Jul 1938).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 2m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7 reels

Synopsis

When reporter Walter Garrett finds the dead body of actress Angela Merrova in her hotel room, he immediately phones the police. By the time the authorities arrive, however, the body is missing, and the next day, the actress appears at Walt's newspaper office and announces that she is suing the paper for printing the story of her death. Puzzled, Walt visits his friend, Dr. Michael Rhodes, for an explanation, and Rhodes refers the case to his associate, Dr. Francis Flegg, who insists that Walt must have been hallucinating. Rhodes's interest is piqued when he is called in to identify the body of Rodgers, one of his patients, and Walt insists that the circumstances surrounding Rodgers' murder are identical to those he found at Merrova's apartment. That night, Rhodes visits Flegg with a blood sample for him to examine, and while he is at the house, he meets Flegg's sinister assistant Marshall Quesne. On the trail of the story, Walt follows Rhodes to the doctor's house, and when he later sees Merrova enter the building, he convinces Rhodes to visit Merrova with him. The next day, they both call on the actress at her apartment, where she confirms Walt's story and promises to elaborate the following day. She mysteriously dies, however, before she can explain. While digging through some newspaper files, Walt comes across a picture of Quesne that identifies him as Dr. Xavier, a killer executed for murder. When Walt and Rhodes discover Xavier's empty grave, they confront Flegg, who confesses that he brought Xavier back to life as an experiment, and now Xavier has turned into a monster, killing for the rare blood he needs to remain alive. After they leave, Xavier appears and shoots Flegg for his blood donor book. He then kidnaps Joan Vance, a nurse who has the rare blood type he needs, and takes her to his lab. Walt, Rhodes and the police follow, arriving just in time to shoot Xavier and save Joan from the fate of Merrova and his other victims.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Mystery
Thriller
Release Date
Dec 2, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 Nov 1939
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Doctor's Secret" by William J. Makin in Detective Fiction Weekly (30 Jul 1938).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 2m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7 reels

Articles

The Return of Dr. X


Humphrey Bogart...as a vampire? Bogie the bloodsucker? Count Bogiela? It may seem like the strangest casting in film history, but for Warner Bros. in 1939, casting Bogart in the title role of The Return of Dr. X was money in the bank.

For Bogie, however, it was just business as usual. He had signed with Warner's in 1935 to re-create his stage success as Duke Mantee, the psychotic gangster in The Petrified Forest. But though the film was a hit, Warner's already had James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson on board as gangster stars. So Bogie was thrust into a series of mostly thankless roles - 'as many films as the studio could wring out of him. The Return of Dr. X was one of seven pictures he made in 1939. The role of a bloodsucking zombie who spent most of the film stroking his pet rabbit had originally been offered to Bela Lugosi. When he turned it down, Bogie had to make the best of it. To make matters worse, the closest he got to a romantic interest in the film was drinking the leading lady's blood. He would later say, "If it had been Jack Warner's blood maybe I wouldn't have minded as much."

Even this early in his career, Bogart was notorious for turning down roles. He didn't turn this one down, though, because it marked the directorial debut of his good friend Vincent Sherman. Sherman had started at Warner's a year earlier as a writer, and had given Bogart two of his best scripts, Crime School and King of the Underworld.

Sherman almost ended his career his first day on the set. Even though he was working with B movie veterans like producer Bryan Foy and cameraman Sid Hickox, Sherman started out shooting the film like an A picture. When he took ten takes of one simple 45-second shot, Jack Warner sent Foy a memo threatening, "If he does this again he won't be on the picture any longer." The finished film turned a nice profit, however, ensuring Sherman a place in the studio's roster of directors. It continues to delight fans who want to see Bogie at his strangest.

Director: Vincent Sherman
Producer: Hal B. Wallis & Jack L. Warner (executive), Bryan Foy (associate, uncredited)
Screenplay: Lee Katz, based on the novel 'The Doctor's Secret' by William J. Makin
Cinematography: Sid Hickox
Editor: Thomas Pratt
Art Direction: Esdras Hartley
Music: Bernhard Kaun (uncredited)
Cast: Wayne Morris (Walter 'Wichita' Garrett), Rosemary Lane (Joan Vance), Humphrey Bogart (Marshall Quesne), Dennis Morgan (Dr. Mike Rhodes), John Litel (Dr. Francis Flegg).
BW-63m. Descriptive video.

by Frank Miller
The Return Of Dr. X

The Return of Dr. X

Humphrey Bogart...as a vampire? Bogie the bloodsucker? Count Bogiela? It may seem like the strangest casting in film history, but for Warner Bros. in 1939, casting Bogart in the title role of The Return of Dr. X was money in the bank. For Bogie, however, it was just business as usual. He had signed with Warner's in 1935 to re-create his stage success as Duke Mantee, the psychotic gangster in The Petrified Forest. But though the film was a hit, Warner's already had James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson on board as gangster stars. So Bogie was thrust into a series of mostly thankless roles - 'as many films as the studio could wring out of him. The Return of Dr. X was one of seven pictures he made in 1939. The role of a bloodsucking zombie who spent most of the film stroking his pet rabbit had originally been offered to Bela Lugosi. When he turned it down, Bogie had to make the best of it. To make matters worse, the closest he got to a romantic interest in the film was drinking the leading lady's blood. He would later say, "If it had been Jack Warner's blood maybe I wouldn't have minded as much." Even this early in his career, Bogart was notorious for turning down roles. He didn't turn this one down, though, because it marked the directorial debut of his good friend Vincent Sherman. Sherman had started at Warner's a year earlier as a writer, and had given Bogart two of his best scripts, Crime School and King of the Underworld. Sherman almost ended his career his first day on the set. Even though he was working with B movie veterans like producer Bryan Foy and cameraman Sid Hickox, Sherman started out shooting the film like an A picture. When he took ten takes of one simple 45-second shot, Jack Warner sent Foy a memo threatening, "If he does this again he won't be on the picture any longer." The finished film turned a nice profit, however, ensuring Sherman a place in the studio's roster of directors. It continues to delight fans who want to see Bogie at his strangest. Director: Vincent Sherman Producer: Hal B. Wallis & Jack L. Warner (executive), Bryan Foy (associate, uncredited) Screenplay: Lee Katz, based on the novel 'The Doctor's Secret' by William J. Makin Cinematography: Sid Hickox Editor: Thomas Pratt Art Direction: Esdras Hartley Music: Bernhard Kaun (uncredited) Cast: Wayne Morris (Walter 'Wichita' Garrett), Rosemary Lane (Joan Vance), Humphrey Bogart (Marshall Quesne), Dennis Morgan (Dr. Mike Rhodes), John Litel (Dr. Francis Flegg). BW-63m. Descriptive video. by Frank Miller

Return of Doctor X -


Actor and writer Vincent Sherman won his first directing assignment on the Humphrey Bogart picture The Return of Doctor X (1939), a bizarre thriller that barely qualifies as a horror picture. The film is not a sequel to the older Michael Curtiz horror hit Dr. X (1932), in which Preston Foster used 'synthetic flesh' to transform himself into a monster. The more light-hearted Return seems intended as a showcase for Warners' studio-bred hopefuls Wayne Morris and Dennis Morgan. Although writers Lee Katz and William J. Mahin's tale includes a doctor raising the dead and an ill-defined 'medical vampire,' nothing overly gruesome develops. A reporter (Morris) and a hospital intern (Morgan) instead investigate like overgrown Hardy Boys, at one point digging up a corpse to help solve the mystery. Humphrey Bogart took a break from second-banana gangsters to play surgeon's assistant Marshall Quesne, a role more suited to Boris Karloff. Bogart piles on the gimmicks: Quesne is a pasty-faced, staring zombie with a freakish white streak in his hair. He wears a pince-nez and enters petting a rabbit, speaking in a curious whisper. Two years after playing this Bogie-bogeyman, the actor would leap to top stardom with The Maltese Falcon and High Sierra (both 1941). When the war came Wayne Morris distinguished himself as a Navy flier, while Dennis Morgan became a popular homefront heartthrob, fighting the battle of the Warner back lot.

By Glenn Erickson

Return of Doctor X -

Actor and writer Vincent Sherman won his first directing assignment on the Humphrey Bogart picture The Return of Doctor X (1939), a bizarre thriller that barely qualifies as a horror picture. The film is not a sequel to the older Michael Curtiz horror hit Dr. X (1932), in which Preston Foster used 'synthetic flesh' to transform himself into a monster. The more light-hearted Return seems intended as a showcase for Warners' studio-bred hopefuls Wayne Morris and Dennis Morgan. Although writers Lee Katz and William J. Mahin's tale includes a doctor raising the dead and an ill-defined 'medical vampire,' nothing overly gruesome develops. A reporter (Morris) and a hospital intern (Morgan) instead investigate like overgrown Hardy Boys, at one point digging up a corpse to help solve the mystery. Humphrey Bogart took a break from second-banana gangsters to play surgeon's assistant Marshall Quesne, a role more suited to Boris Karloff. Bogart piles on the gimmicks: Quesne is a pasty-faced, staring zombie with a freakish white streak in his hair. He wears a pince-nez and enters petting a rabbit, speaking in a curious whisper. Two years after playing this Bogie-bogeyman, the actor would leap to top stardom with The Maltese Falcon and High Sierra (both 1941). When the war came Wayne Morris distinguished himself as a Navy flier, while Dennis Morgan became a popular homefront heartthrob, fighting the battle of the Warner back lot. By Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Boris Karloff was to star as Dr. X.

Humphrey Bogart said of this film: "This is one of the pictures that made me march in to Jack Warner and ask for more money again. You can't believe what this one was like. I had a part that somebody like Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff should have played. I was this doctor, brought back to life, and the only thing that nourished this poor bastard was blood. If it had been Jack Warner's blood, or Harry's, or Pop's, maybe I wouldn't have minded as much. The trouble was, they were drinking mine and I was making this stinking movie."

Notes

Although characters in the film address Wayne Morris's character as Walter Garrett, the onscreen credits and reviews list his name as Walter Barnett. Similarly, although onscreen credits list Cliff Saum as "Detective Sergeant Moran," reviews credit Jack Mower with the role. According to news items in Hollywood Reporter, Boris Karloff was originally slated for the lead in the film, but when his work on Enemy Agent prevented him from appearing, Warners began negotiations with Bela Lugosi for the lead. James Stephenson was then assigned to the role, but when he left to appear in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Humphrey Bogart stepped in. Another item in Hollywood Reporter adds that George Amy was originally scheduled to direct.
       The Return of Dr. X marked the directorial debut of former actor, screen writer and dialogue director Vincent Sherman (1906-2006). Sherman went on to direct dozens of films for Warner Bros., among them Old Acquaintance (1943, ) and The Hasty Heart (1949, ), as well as many television programs for that studio and others until his retirement in the 1980s.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1939

Released in United States 1939