Probably Humphrey Bogart’s strangest role is as a living corpse in “The Return of Doctor X” (1939) a 62-minute programmer and a sequel in name only to “Doctor X”, which had been a big hit for Warner Bros. in 1932.
Despite the similarity of the titled medico, the films have nothing in common, not even characters. The only similarity I can see is a pre-occupation with synthetic body parts. The 1932 film has to do with a mad scientist experimenting with synthetic flesh that he would don on his murderous prowls around town during the cycle of the full moon, while the 1939 flick has scientists experimenting with synthetic blood and its uses to raise dead people.
Bogart looks uncomfortable in his pasty white make-up with a white streak in his hair, and probably wishes he had never made the film, but he’s fine in it. He’s suitably creepy, and the climax involving the heroine (Rosemary Lane) strapped to a laboratory table in an old farmhouse while Bogart stands over her with a syringe is pretty good.
The heroes are played by a couple of likeable leads, Wayne Morris and Dennis Morgan, it moves along and it’s a relatively painless way to spend 62 minutes.
The DVD transfer, paired with the aforementioned “Doctor X” is a thing of beauty. Because some of these lesser-known films were not re-issued to theaters over the years, they look and sound better than many of the so-called classics.
Rating for “The Return of Doctor X”: Two stars.