Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Ordway (Warner Baxter) is visited by Jimmy Trotter (Lloyd Bridges) and his fiancé Ellen (Lynn Merrick). Jimmy is a former client who had been found guilty for a murder he didn’t commit. Ordway got him a new trial and Jimmy was then found not guilty of poisoning his employer. Jimmy is visiting Ordway to ask if it is a good idea for him and Ellen to marry since Jimmy had so much trouble with the law in the past. When Ordway finds out that Jimmy is working for a retired real estate agent named Walter Burns. Ordway suggests that he find a new job at a business instead of working for one man since that was how he got into trouble in the first place. Jimmy tells Ordway that it was the only job he could get since no one else would hire him.
Ordway decides to talk with Burns. He gets to the real estate tycoon’s mansion just in time to find out that he has been poisoned. He is greeted at the door by the eccentric housekeeper Patricia Cornwall (Virginia Brissac). In Burns’ bedroom are his wife Diana (Rose Hobart), his brother Addison (Sam Flint), Mrs. Kepler the cook (Gloria Dickson) and Paul Ashley (Reginald Denny), Burns’ nephew.
Everyone is a suspect and just about everyone has a reason to kill Burns. His wife Diana would be wealthy, his brother Addison is a potential heir, and the housekeeper is carrying a torch for Burns from when she was younger. The cook turns out to be Evelyn Fenton Cartwright, the daughter of Burns’ missing partner George Fenton (Ray Walker). He went missing 30 years ago along with $50,000. Naturally police Detective Rief (Barton MacLane) and his partner Detective Yarnell (Thomas E. Jackson) are out to prove that Jimmy is the killer. It doesn’t help that he’s running around at supersonic speed trying to stay away from the cops.
“The Crime Doctor’s Strangest Case” was released in 1943 and was directed by Eugene Forde. It is a murder mystery and is the second of ten “B” mystery films done by Columbia and based on the radio series.
I liked this film so much better than the first one. Ordway plays the doctor sleuth with a bit of a tongue in cheek flare that adds an amusing touch to his character. It’s much more likable and interesting than in the first film. Also, here we actually get murder with some unusual suspects and a couple red herrings. Some of the characters in the mystery date back thirty years and there is a flashback that adds more clues to the present day murder. The film includes an unusual dream sequence when Ordway hypnotizes Miss Cornwell that has a combination noir and Salvador Dali feel to it. There are also a few comic relief moments with Evelyn Cartwright’s husband, Mallory (Jerome Cowan), setting fire to everything including a couple of cop cars.