Dr. X (8/27/32) Wanting a bite of the Dracula/Frankenstein apple, Warner tries to out Universal Universal. Serving up an inherently B list picture with A list trimmings, Michael Curtiz’s direction, Anton Grot’s set designed, and Max Factor’s makeup (yes, he was a real guy like Jack Pierce) and cutting edge two strip technicolor, they do manage to polish it up a bit, but it’s still a trashy horror film underneath. Very few people do pseudoscience gibberish like Lionel Atwill; surround him with lots of scary looking fake science equipment and a creepy butler who has probably killed a few people and top it off with Fay Wray, and you really can’t go wrong.
Warner takes the horror film out of the 19th century European foothills and brings it home to New York where it belongs. It resembles their specialty, the crime drama with corpses, cops and a crime reporter, it even sounds like one, I can hear Ben Hecht’s script patter whenever it shows up…until half way through when the action withdraws to the strangest damn house on Long Island: Part mad science laboratory, part funhouse, part gothic castle, part bondage room, comes completely furnished along with crazy cannibal lab assistant and screaming mimi maid. I confess a fondness for two strip technicolor, it just tries so earnestly to be modern, and it just manages to look like a vintage handcolored post card.
Another way I know when Ben Hecht has had his hands on a script is when the reporter IS the hero and gets the girl. In later years the reporter becomes the comic relief and a dull as dishwater leading man is brought in to wrestle the villain in the last reel. But the reporter character will still get all the best lines.