The Mysterious Doctor (Benjamin Stoloff, 1943)
[note: review originally published 29Nov2008]
Ultra-prolific potboiler director Stoloff, probably best known for his 1932 adaptation of Destry Rides Again, turned in this war film gussied up like a ghost story towards the end of his career (he would direct five more pictures between now and 1950, then disappear until 1959, when he began to direct episodes to the TV series Home Run Derby; this continued until his death in 1960. Despite the obvious implication of the dates, I can find no information on whether Stoloff was blacklisted.), an interesting, if somewhat predictable, little tale of a tin mine haunted by a headless ghost and a traveler who may not be all he seems.
Dr. Frederick Holmes (Lester Matthews, much-uncredited character actor you might recognize from Now, Voyager or The Far Horizons) wanders out of the mist one night and begs a ride to town from a passing carriage. While he and the driver are on their way, he reveals he’s on a walking tour of the area. When he gets to the town, he finds it rather provincial, its inhabitants suspicious of outsiders; there’s a war going on, after all, and a parachutist was seen coming down near where the doctor appeared on the moor. They may be right to be suspicious; the doctor may not be all he seems to be…
It’s not a bad little movie (and “little” is the operative word here, with a running time of fifty-seven minutes). Technically, it’s quite nicely done, but everything else– the script, the predictability of the plot, the clumsiness of the big reveal (that requires an “ah, Constance, this is how I did it!” explanation scene), all contribute to the movie still being a pretty forgettable experience. Still, if you run across it on late-night television or in a dark corner of your video store, it’s certainly not a bad way to spend an hour; you could do a great deal worse. ***
[sorry, no trailer… the movie is just too obscure.]