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  Return of Doctor X, The The Bogie Man Will Get YouBuy this film here.
Year: 1939
Director: Vincent Sherman
Stars: Wayne Morris, Rosemary Lane, Humphrey Bogart, Dennis Morgan, John Litel, Lya Lys, Huntz Hall, Charles C. Wilson, Vera Lewis, Howard C. Hickman, Olin Howland, Cliff Saum, Creighton Hale, John Ridgely, Joseph Crehan, Glenn Langan, William Hopper
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Walter Garrett (Wayne Morris) is a newspaper reporter who wants to make a name for himself and is always on the lookout for a good story. Today he takes it upon himself to telephone famed stage actress Angela Merrova (Lya Lys) for an interview and she invites him over to her hotel room but when the eager Walter arrives there, he has a surprise waiting. He knocks on the door, and there's no reply, then he accidentally leans on it and tumbles in. To his shock, Angela is lying dead on the floor of her bedroom and he realises someone has murdered her. However, he doesn't call the police straight away, but phones the newspaper to register his story, and the first the law hears about this is when they read it in the late edition. Walter returns to the hotel room with the cops, but there's another surprise awaiting him: the body is gone!

Humphrey Bogart and horror movies seem an unlikely pairing, and no-one thought that more than Humphrey Bogart. He believed he was being punished by studio head Jack Warner by taking a role that would have been better played by Boris Karloff, and when you see how he is made up, with his glasses, pasty face and white streak in his hair, you have to admit it doesn't really suit him. But before you reach him there's about half of the movie to get through, and rather than being a shocker, it comes across as more of a detective story, especially when Angela reappears, looking strangely pale and wan, and threatening to sue the newspaper for printing that she was dead when she wasn't.

Ah, but all is not as it seems, and at least for its horror credentials there is a strain of squeamishness about blood, both the conventional red stuff and a certain "synthetic" variety. This is the link to the previous Doctor X of seven years earlier, but otherwise there's no continuity, although there is a character by that name but we don't know it at first. Walter, known as Wichita in the office, has meanwhile lost his job, understandably, and is out to clear his good name so goes to his doctor friend, Mike Rhodes (Dennis Morgan) to find out if it's possible for someone to come back to life after being pretty decisively dead. Rhodes works with Dr Flegg (John Litel), who is carrying out his own research, and his lab assistant is none other than Quesne, played by Bogart with a white rabbit in his arms.

The conspiracy deepens when a professional blood donor (I didn't know there was such a thing) is murdered on the same day he was supposed to attend the hospital to assist in an operation, and the female lead, nurse Rosemary Lane, has to step in. Intriguingly, the donor was drained of blood when he died - you'll notice blood is the running theme here - and this leads Walter and Rhodes to Flegg's house, where they meet Quesne. The plot doesn't make an enormous amount of sense if scrutinzed, but bubbles along quite competently and the mystery element is well sustained, possibly because the solution is so preposterous that you'd have difficulty guessing it, although the killer could be only one of two characters. It all builds to a final act of chasing the villain before he kills again, but you'll want to see this for the bizarre Bogart turn which, being his least favourite of all his films, has a small place in history. Also with: a cheeky monkey.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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