31 Days of Horror: Doctor X

Every so often I run across someone who think that movies were really tame in the old days and that movies only became gruesome and violent in more recent years. They clearly haven't watched enough movies. From mayhem to murder, from cannibalism to rape, this movie has it all. This classic Pre-Code movie (from 1929-1934 movies were pretty much unrated until the big crack down in 1934) was also shot in 2 strip Technicolor, making it one of the earliest colour movies.

The Moon Killer attacks on every full moon. Six women have been found so far, all of them strangled, scalpeled (a scalpel was inserted into the back of their heads) and partial eaten. Cannibalism is the name of the game and the brilliant Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill) is called in for his expertise and a little more. It seems that most of the murders have happened around his college and the good doctor and his colleagues have fallen under police suspicion. His colleagues include Dr. Wells (Preston Foster), an amputee who has made a study of cannibalism, Dr. Haines (John Wray), Dr. Duke (Harry Beresford) and Dr. Rowitz (Arthur Edmund Carewe). It is later learned that Haines and Rowitz were stranded in a boat with another man, and that while they claimed he had died and they had thrown him overboard, it was suspected that they had, in fact, cannibalized him. Mmmm good eating.

Meanwhile ace reporter Lee Tailor (Lee Tracy) has been snooping around and manages to sneak into Doctor Xavier's place and makes time with Xavier's daughter Fay Wray. Xavier is going to try and solve the murders by using his new invention - a truth detector that monitor's peoples heart rates so they can figure out who's lying.

The early Technicolor adds a creepy element to the film. Being only a 2 strip film - it's not like the more colourful 3 strip films that came at the end of the 1930's. The colours seem to be mostly green and red and it gives the movie a moody grim feeling. Oscar winning director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, Captain Blood, Angels With Dirty Faces) directs this horror film with the right amount of tension. The only real draw back is the more slapsitck antics of the reporter, but they can be overlooked. Then there's the revealation of the Moon Killer. It's not just the who - it's the why - brilliant and creepy is all I can say.

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