Troy and I return to the Universal Horrors of the 1940’s well for another pail of mystery and madness. This time out it’s heavy on the mystery but the madness feels like it was nearly forgotten. When the script has almost nothing for Lionel Atwill to do, you know something was badly miscalculated. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things in THE STRANGE CASE OF DOCTOR RX (1942) to enjoy for horror film aficionados but it will help if you also enjoy the cinematic mystery series that were common at the time.
Patric Knowles returns to the Universal horrors as a successful private detective set on retiring who is forced by cops, mobsters and his own pride to solve a new case. It seems that a vigilante killer has been doing away with criminals that have escaped conviction. Soon after they are found not guilty this Doctor RX strings them up as a warning to others. The latest example that lucky scumbags must be made to pay the ultimate price is a gangster who avoids jail but can’t manage to make it out of the courtroom before he is struck down in full view of a dozen people – and no one knows how! Lawyer Dudley Crispin implores our detective to find this killer since three of Doctor RX’s victims have been his clients. Who is going to hire a lawyer good enough to get you assassinated after acquittal? Sprinkled into this mystery is a romance subplot, a couple of comedic characters, some ineffective cops and a caged gorilla! Or a man in a gorilla suit, anyway. It certainly is a pretty fast sixty-six minutes. Some might even call it overstuffed! But not us.
The story of how the movie’s unfinished script led the cast to rewrite or ad-lib certain scenes is related as we point out some of the sequences where this seems evident. We discuss co-star Anne Gwynn’s tales of making this movie and her little known ‘scream queen’ history. We quote Patric Knowles’ comments on how he and Lionel Atwill got along during the shoot. And we spend a lot of time trying to unravel the thought process of the killer who seems to be very confused about his life goals.
We end the show with a dip into the mailbag with messages from our email@example.com email account. Some kind words are shared and a few great ideas about who might have made a better version of my beloved MARS ATTACKS film. Please drop us a line if you have any comments or suggestion. And thank you for listening.