(1932) director Michael Curtiz
This obscure, oddball film is an utter hoot. Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca (1942)), Doctor X is a strange horror/comedy/thriller in the “Old Dark House” vein, shot in a 2-color Technicolor process (very unusual for 1932!), and it includes some pre-Hollywood code fun, features Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray, and is all kinds of weird and surprising. I loved it!
The story follows a wiseguy reporter (played with goofy moxie by Lee Tracy) who is following a series of bizarre murders, known as the “Moon Killer Murders”, committed under a full moon and including unusual scalpel work and involving cannibalism. This leads him and the police to a medical academy, run by Dr. X (Atwill), where the suspicion falls on his staff of creepy weirdo physicians. He concocts a plan to isolate the doctors in his estate house and conduct a series of psychological experiments to unveil the killer.
The film has a great design, somewhere between Expressionism and early Noir, and with the unusual color palette, it is shadow and hue and very striking. The art design is this wonderful artificiality that is just plain awesome. And Curtiz, who would go on to many bigger and better things, squeezes a lot of juice out of this comic yarn.
Great little film!