THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE

(1938)
With Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, Humphrey Bogart, Donald Crisp, Allen Jenkins
Directed by Anatole Litvak
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

"No, no, no - it's Clitter-HOUSE... Clitter-HOUSE!"      THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE is yet another example of a Warner Brothers movie that works simply because it is a Warner Brothers movie.  The plot is almost impossible to take seriously, certainly not as seriously as the film itself takes it.  I can accept that a high-class doctor (Robinson) would be so interested in the workings of the criminal mind that he would work his way into a local mob for a first hand look.  But would he really become a criminal beforehand to test the waters, and be able to pull off four perfect robberies?  Is this film a drama?  A comedy? A film noir?

     I don't know.  What matters is that Edward G. Robinson gets to play against type once again, this time as an articulate, erudite and unfailingly polite doctor.  It is the kind of subtle characterization that would come in handy later in the classic films noir SCARLET STREET and THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW as well as others.   Unfortunately, the other characters are not as interesting.  Bogart is saddled with one of his least rewarding and most unsubtle gangster parts, and Claire Trevor is wasted as the gangstress with the heart of gold.  As with several Warner films that want to be five movies at once, it all ends up in the courtroom, where we are treated to one of the most ridiculous verdict scenes ever captured on celluloid.

     It's all good fun, but ten years after THE AMAZING DOCTOR CLITTERHOUSE, Robinson, Bogart and Trevor would star in KEY LARGO, a much better film, directed by John Huston, who cowrote the script for DR. CLITTERHOUSE.  So think of scheduling this film as part one of a double feature. 3 - JB

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