Well, it's both Basil Rathbone's b-day AND Friday the 13th, so I thought I'd pick a spooky-type picture for this special occasion x2! There aren't too many unplumbed options for ol' Basil, wot? I mean, Son of Frankenstein? A great movie, but completely talked to death. Sherlock Holmes? Jeez, I might as well talk about Casablanca, or Gone With the Wind. Otherwise, our diction master was a support player, and what fun is that on the man's day of birth? So, I dug about in the memory banks for the solution: the 1941 film, The Mad Doctor!
In this very fun but minor suspense chiller, Rathbone plays the conniving-but-debonaire Dr. George Sebastian, a man with an evil heart and dark secrets. He has a peculiar habit, our doctor; he marries very wealthy women, and somehow they end up dead! In the beginning of the film, his last wife has died under mysterious circumstances, and already he's on the prowl. He sets his eyes on the beautiful-and-wealthy-but-depressed Linda Boothe (nicely played by the hauntingly lovely Ellen Drew, who was in a personal Dick Powell fave, Johnny O'clock). Linda is in pretty bad shape; there's a suicide attempt even, near the beginning of the story...just the ticket for our murderous male gold digger! He unleashes his seductive and hypnotic charms on this poor woman, and she's putty in his hands.
Fortunately our damsel has friends in her corner: The dogged Dr. Downer (Ralph Morgan, support player in a billion amazing b-reelers), who suspects foul play in Dr. Sebastian's past love life, and Linda's boyfriend, Gil Sawyer (played by the somewhat William Powell-esque John Howard, Ronald Colman's successor in the killer Bulldog Drummond film series), who thinks our mad doc is "half-baked", and a "quack". It's amazing to watch these two men hard at work, detective-like, foiling our suave Bluebeard's dastardly machinations!
The ending is very satisfying, and more brutal than one might expect...
The Mad Doctor is really very fun. It's very much in the style of the Crime Doctor or Lone Wolf series, and quite the thing with which to celebrate the man who has been so great in so many top-level films. It's something that should certainly be in the "have watched" pile for any serious Rathbone devotee!
Feel free to check out my Old Time Radio Rathbone birthday post HERE, as his voice was so perfect for that medium!
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Here is my (ever-growing) list of Mountie movies and serials! Enjoy!
Classic Film & TV Cafe'
RIDING THE HIGH COUNTRY
SHADOWS & SATIN
LAURA'S MISC. MUSINGS
LADY EVE'S REEL LIFE
They Don't Make 'em Like they Used to
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear