“One of us in this room may be a murderer.”
Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) is a reporter for the “Daily World”. He is investigating a series of murders that take place whenever there is a full moon. There have been several murders over several months. There are signs of cannibalism on the bodies. Witnesses describe a horribly disfigured "monster" as the killer.
Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill) runs the “Academy of Surgical Research”. He is called in for his expert opinion. The police are also suspicious of Dr. Xavier. The scalpel used on the victims is a type only used by his school. The police visit the school and even though the students are on holiday, there are a few professors working on personal projects. The police interview each of them. Dr. Wells (Preston Foster) has made a study of cannibalism. He is missing his left arm. Another professor on staff is Dr. Haines (John Wray). The third doctor on hand is Dr. Duke (Harry Beresford). He is in a wheel chair. Last is Dr. Rowitz (Arthur Edmund Carewe). Dr. Rowitz is conducting experiments concerning the psychological effects of the moon.
In the meantime Taylor has been snooping around Xavier’s home. He meets Dr. Xavier’s daughter Joan (Fay Wray). He is smitten.
Xavier is concerned for the reputation of his school. He tells the police he wants to find the killer quickly and clear the school. The police give him 48 hours to find the killer in his own way. To do so, Xavier has everyone gather at his estate in Long Island. Xavier intends on doing an experiment using a machine he invented that he believes will ferret out the guilty party. A sort of lie detector. With the help of his butler Otto (George Rosener) and his maid Mamie (Leila Bennett) he reenacts one of the murders. During the experiment one of the doctors is murdered. Dr. Xavier is running out of time. And if this keeps up, he will be running out of suspects.
“Doctor X” was released in 1932 and was directed by Michael Curtiz. The movie was based on a play called “The Terror”. It is a blend of science fiction, horror and mystery. Added to that are nuances of “old dark house” in the second half of the film. The film is a "pre-Code" era movie. It includes themes of cannibalism and rape. The cannibalism theme is prominent throughout the movie. Plus the idea of a serial killer was fairly new to the movie going public. It’s easy to state that this movie would never have been made a couple years later.
The movie was the second Warner Brothers film to be shot with the “improved” Technicolor two strip process. There was also a black and white version of the film. At one time the Technicolor version was considered a “lost movie” until a copy was found in Jack Warner’s private collection.