The Strange Case of Doctor Rx Blu-ray Review


Needs More Strange

The best bits of Doctor Rx involve Shemp Howard and Mantan Moreland. Although Moreland is stuck in the degrading role of a forgetful, uneducated butler, paired with Shemp, their Stooge routine is the standout piece of crummy crime story.

Doctor Rx is a movie where nothing happens. Even in the climax with a raging gorilla swiping for the hero, tension is nill, character matters not, and the murder story wholly barren. Universal contract player Patrick Knowles stars as a private detective, torn between leaving New York and solving a serial killer case.

The doctor kills those acquitted of crimes. A judge spitefully, verbally lashes a jury for their “not guilty” verdict in a mobster tiral. Soon, the mobster dies, right there in court. Doctor Rx was too late for the gangster era and the vigilante angle never comes into focus.

The uneventful reveal is of incredible disinterest and excitement

Prominent on advertisements, Lionel Atwill takes only a bit part, memorable for his magnifying spectacles that appear to indicate he’s the culprit. Spoiler: He’s not. The uneventful reveal is of incredible disinterest and excitement, the type of climax expected from such C-grade, barrel bottom material.

Here’s the rare film so inconsequential, it leaves practically nothing to discuss or dissect. Pacing sags even with a paltry one hour runtime, scenes mostly concerned with Knowles prancing around the screen, frazzled by something or other. Occasionally, it’s his wife adding to the stress, another demeaning role, this one leaving Anne Gwynne to portray a nagging stereotype who tries keeping her stock, masculine detective husband from danger.

If there’s an image that sticks after Doctor Rx, it’s not a positive. It’s of the black Moreland, pinned into a defensive position by the masked villain who wears an alarmingly familiar hood to hide their identity. That’s not the lasting iconic imagery of a classic.

Video

If a movie must flunk out in terms of video quality inside Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Collection 2, at least it’s Doctor Rx. Based on flicker and notable splotchiness (causing consistent problems on both sides of the frame), the print used was not in great condition. Additional specks of dirt and few scratches pile on.

Then the transfer fails, chugging and choking on grain. Processing leads to smearing and encoding to mosquito noise. Doctor Rx does not look like film, rather a coarse digital replication. In other words, everything not wanted from a transfer of this kind.

Black levels stand out and some great contrast as well. A scene with Knowles reading a note while in his car offers both. It’s night, with enriching black levels and shining chrome, dazzling enough in terms of range to look like HDR. While most of Doctor Rx runs routine in lightning, where needed, this presentation works with high-end range.

Audio

Light static continues for nearly all the runtime. Thankfully, this stays controlled and does not impede on the dialog or score.

Highs wobble slightly, but do hold together. Sharpness in cymbals and horns keep the score lively. Lows perform well too, smooth and accurate.

Extras

A 19-minute appreciation of Lionel Atwill is presented by Gregory William Mank, Atwill’s biographer. That’s the lone bonus other than an image gallery.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Strange Case of Doctor Rx
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
2

Movie

A wasted C-tier effort from Universal, The Strange Case of Doctor Rx is at its best when dealing with campy comedy, not the crime story.

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