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The Return of Doctor X

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The Return of Dr. X - Humphrey Bogart
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The Return of Doctor X  (1939) starring Humphrey Bogart

The Return of Doctor X begins as a more mundane mystery, as a reporter publishes an account of the death of actress Angela Merrova–who shows up alive and threatens to sue the paper, leading to the reporter’s firing.   Unable to believe that the dead woman is alive, he investigates and finds a connection between the returned actress and a Dr. Francis Flegg — an expert of rare blood types, and the friend behind the revival of both the actress and the murderous Dr. X.

The Return of Doctor X  is a very unusual Humphrey Bogart movie — nearly unique.   In a role that would have been better suited for Boris Karloff (who was originally planned for the role), Humphrey Bogart plays Dr. Maurice Xavier, an unscrupulous doctor who has been revived from the dead by a treatment by his colleague that depends on an artificial blood.   The artificial blood, in turn, depends on a rare human blood type; and the unscrupulous Dr. X(avier) tracks down and murders people with that rare blood type, to maintain his blood supply and stave off his second death.

If you’re a fan of old-time monster movies or a fan of Humphrey Bogart, you’ll likely enjoy this, otherwise, feel free to pass on by.

Editorial review of The Return of Doctor X (1939) starring Humphrey Bogart, courtesy of

The Return of Doctor X (1939) is more of a curio than a full-fledged horror movie, as it has Humphrey Bogart, resplendent in a Bride of Frankenstein hairstreak, in a rare supernatural outing.

Movie quotes for  The Return of Doctor X  (1939)

Detective Roy Kincaid: What is this Group 1, Group 4 business?
Dr. Mike Rhodes: Well, you see, medical science has discovered that human blood is divided into four different groups, #1 being the most rare and #4 the most common. We must see to it that certain of these types are not mixed in the transfusion.
Detective Roy Kincaid: Then would you say that whoever came into Rodgers’ room to kill him was looking for #1 blood?
Dr. Mike Rhodes: It’s possible. That’s why I think the coroner made a mistake in his report, so do you mind if I make a test of these stains for myself?
Detective Roy Kincaid: No, go ahead, Doc. 1,2,4,7,11 – it doesn’t matter to me. All I know is this poor guy’s number was up!

Walter ‘Wichita’ Garrett: Maybe she’s not dead.
Editor: If she’s not dead, they’re playing a dirty trick on her because they’re taking her over to Bixby’s Undertaking Parlor.
[to both Rhodes and Garrett]
Editor: Now get out of here both of you!
Walter ‘Wichita’ Garrett’ Garrett: Yes, sir!
Editor: [angrily] And don’t come back!
[they leave]
Walter ‘Wichita’ Garrett’ Garrett: [to Rhodes] I won’t believe she’s dead ’til I see it with my own eyes. Even then I won’t believe it!

Dr. Mike Rhodes: Thank you very much.
Walter ‘Wichita’ Garrett: Well, I hope to see you again sometime.
Undertaker: I’m sure you will!
[Garrett does a reactive ‘take.’]

Dr. Francis Flegg: Interesting stuff, blood.

Trivia for  The Return of Doctor X  (1939)

  • Humphrey Bogart said of this film: “This is one of the pictures that made me march in to Warner Bros. studio chief Jack L. Warner and ask for more money again. You can’t believe what this one was like. I had a part that somebody like Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff should have played. I was this doctor, brought back to life, and the only thing that nourished this poor bastard was blood. If it had been Jack Warner’s blood, or Harry’s, or Pop’s, maybe I wouldn’t have minded as much. The trouble was, they were drinking mine and I was making this stinking movie.”
  • Boris Karloff was to star as Dr. X.

Cast of characters

Updated May 9, 2022

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