While the plot of Doctor X is far from original, it's the cinematography that's the star of the show. Director Michael Curtiz [Casablanca, Mildred Pierce] and cinematographer Ray Rennahan [Mystery of the Wax Museum, For Whom the Bell Tolls] utilize a two-strip Technicolor process to full effect. Doctor X was also filmed in black and white but don't miss out on the UCLA Archive's beautiful restoration of the Technicolor film. Rennahan is often credited as being the father of color cinematography and this same two-strip technique was used in other early horror films such as the Masquerade scene in Phantom of the Opera (1925) and Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). It is very effective and adds a depth to the film that is beautiful to behold.
However, if you're not impressed with the cinematography Doctor X is still a fine little crime drama with touches of horror. The film is greatly helped by the acting talents of Lionel Atwill [Son of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man ] and Fay Wray[King Kong, Mystery of the Wax Museum]. Both are great in the film, especially Atwill who can make the most ridiculous scientific dialogue seem believable. He is one of my favorite early actors and doesn't disappoint in Doctor X.
The movie also employs comedic elements, supposedly to soften the horror elements which were quite frightening to 1930's audiences. The main comedic bits are handled well by Lee Taylor who plays a very nosy and ambitious reporter. While these comedic bits aren't as humorous to modern audiences they were standard fare in the 1930's.
The basic plot of Doctor X involves a series of grisly murders in which cannibalism was also involved. The police give Doctor X 48 hours to find the killer and that's exactly what he does for the rest of the film. There are no big surprises here but by the sheer force of Atwill's performance, the film works rather well.
Doctor X is a film that is not very familiar to casual fans of horror. But it's quite good and certainly beautiful to look at.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.
P.S. I could only find the black and white trailer. Sorry!