The Mad Doctor (1933) Kino Studio Classics 11/2/2021
Directed By: Tim Whelan
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Ellen Drew, John Howard
Other Horror/Thriller Reviews:
The Spider Woman Strikes Back HERE
The Secret of the Blue Room HERE
Theater of Blood HERE
In chiller, Dr. George Sebastien (Basil Rathbone) is a insane physician who marries wealthy women and kills them for the money. The Mad Doctor (1933) is interesting as its an early thriller that deals with psychiatry as a main focus. This pre-dates movies like Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945) and The Snake Pit (1948) which also dealt with the subject (although in greater depth). Director Tim Whelan directs the movie in a very matter-of-fact workmen like manner, which is solid though doesn't allow for any creative flourishes. Indeed, this seems very like (and most likely is) a Paramount B-programmer.
Still, the movies simple premise never feels the need to do any needless heavy lifting. And though the movie lacks some creativity there is some nice black humor and bitter irony that keeps things enjoyable. Basil Rathbone truly makes this B-material into something totally watchable. Rathbone, probably best known for playing Sherlock Holmes and in 1939's The Son of Frankenstein (as the titular offspring) is, in my opinion at his best when he's playing these villainous roles. Amazingly, even for the early '30s Basil has a cool, stoic dry wit lens itself to a fine performance.
The Mad Doctor isn't one of the more daring '30s films, in fact I think it plays it rather safe sadly. Basil Rathbone is great and makes this somewhat plodding thrilling worth watching.
Picture: The Mad Doctor comes to 1080p and considering it's over eighty-years old it looks pretty solid. The overall film seems to have been brightened with some sharpness to locales, sets and costumes. For the most part the black-and-white photography is nicely balanced. The film does have a great deal of noise, artifacts and scratches. This is no doubt due to not being able to do a new scan in 2 or 4k due to the films age/original material and frankly, restorations of films this age costs a lot of money.
Sound: The Mad Doctor has a healthy DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely, as does the sound design and minimalist score. No unwanted background noise that I could detect.
Extras: The Mad Doctor has a great brand-new commentary by David Del Valle. As always Valle provides a extremely lively, interesting and well researched track. Certainly a worth while listen. Also includes trailers.