Dudley Crispin (Samuel S.Hinds) is a brilliant attorney, yet all his
clients who get free - murderers, invariably - are murdered by
strangulation soon afterwards, including one (Matty Fain) who was
strangled right in court, except there was nobody there to strangle him
... plus, all the stiffs carry a note claiming a certain Doctor RX murdered
For a mystery like that, it needs a master detective, and somehow,
Crispin manages to persuade super sleuth Jerry Church (Patric Knowles) to
take the job.
During most of the film, Church doesn't seem to be doing much
investigating, instead he constantly teases his cop friend Captain Hurd
(Edmund MacDonald), bullies his valet (Mantan Moreland) around, gets into
arguments with lovely mystery writer Kit (Anne Gwynne), marries lovely
mystery writer Kit (Anne Gwynne), decides to give up investigations, then
is forced by a gangster boss (John Gallaudet) to continue investigating,
and in the end he is abducted by Doctor RX (who wears a mask) and is
threatened to have his brain exchanged for that of a gorilla (Ray Crash
Corrigan) ... that though was only a ploy by RX to scare Church witless.
But Church doesn't scare easily, and in the end, he can reveal lawyer
Crispin to be the perpetrator, claiming he is a schizophrenic, who is a brilliant attorney by
day but a wicked executor by night, and he used a poison from
Africa shot from his pen to kill ... and that poison causes symptoms of
strangulation in those affected ...
Lionel Atwill has a pointless but slightly amusing role as Church's
companion tieing up all the loose ends in the end.
On the plus side, The Strange Case of Doctor RX is solidly
acted, has a fine cast and even some good (if by no means great) moments
... the problem with the film though is that ir desperately lacks
direction, much of the short running time of this murder mystery is wasted on scenes about the romance, marriage and marital disputes between
Patric Knowles and Anne Gwynne which do not help the film move along one
bit, then there are many subplots one could have done without either, like
the whole story about the gangster forcing Knowles to continue
investigations or Knowles teasing his cop buddy ... with all these scenes,
one occasionally forgets what the movie is actually about - and the mock
horror ending with the gorilla is nothing short of ridiculous (but not in
a good way). The only scenes that actually seem to hold the film together
are those featuring the comic reliefs Mantan Moreland as valet and Shemp
Howard as ineffective detective, but that's not enough to save the film ...