Bonus Reviews: The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) and The Strange Case of Dr. R(X) (1942)
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 151
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of surprising good oldies. We just watched Hitchcock’s “Psycho” in our regular newsletter this week, so we thought we’d also take a look at one of his first films, “The Lodger” from 1927. We’ll also look at a Lionel Atwill star vehicle, “The Strange Case of Dr. R(x)” from 1942.
Don’t forget, the first week of each month, we publish ALL our reviews, including the bonus content in our monthly “Horror Bulletin” print magazine (also available as an eBook). If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you! The “31 Days of Christmas Terror” issue is now available!
1927 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
• Director: Alfred Hitchcock
• Writers: Marie Belloc Lowndes, Eliot Stannard
• Stars: June Tripp, Ivor Novello, Marie Ault
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Link to watch the whole film:
A woman screams. Later, someone finds her dead body, and the police start to investigate. They find a note on the body— “The Avenger.” Witnesses say he was tall with his face all wrapped up. This is the Avenger’s seventh victim; he’s a serial killer who kills women with golden hair every Tuesday. It’s in all the newspapers, radio, and everyone in town is talking about it.
Daisy is a fashion model, and she’s nervous after hearing all about the killer. Her friend has started wearing a brunette wig, since the killer has only gone after blondes.
The landlord and landlady, the Buntings, have a lodging house, and Daisy is their daughter. They all talk to Joe, a policeman and one of their tenants. He likes Daisy, but she’s not into him.
There’s a knock on the door. It’s a tall, mysterious man with his face partially obscured with a scarf. He wants to rent a room from them. The landlady takes him upstairs, and he notices the paintings of all the blonde women on the walls. He pays a month in advance. He’s got a little black satchel, and he acts very creepy. Could he be the killer? He hides the satchel in a desk and locks it.
When the landlady returns with some food, she’s surprised to see he’s turned all the paintings backwards so they face the wall. Joe, Daisy, and the Buntings are a little nervous about the man upstairs.
The next morning Daisy takes the man tea, and he still acts creepy, but in a charming way. After a few days, the lodger plays chess with Daisy. “Be careful, I’ll get you yet,” he smirks. He comments on her “beautiful golden hair.” Joe returns home and announces that he’s now on the “Avenger case.”
“When I put a rope around the Avenger’s neck, I will put a ring around Daisy’s finger,” Joe claims. Daisy cringes and Joe forces himself on her, and the lodger watches angrily from upstairs. Joe asks Mrs. Bunting if the lodger means Daisy any harm, and she laughs.
It’s Tuesday once again, and Daisy is in the dressing room at work. The police are out in full force, and we see the lodger leaving the house with his face covered. Mrs. Bunting hears him leaving, and now she really is suspicious. She searches his room but doesn’t find anything.
We see one of Daisy’s friends walking home alone, but then she’s murdered by the Avenger. It’s all over the papers in the morning. Joe confronts the lodger, and it's clear that he's jealous.
Mrs. Bunting obviously approves of Daisy getting together with Joe, but she has her doubts about the lodger. Mr. Bunting starts to wonder as well. Too many things all point the same way.
Meanwhile, the police notice a pattern in the Avenger’s murders, and they predict that the next killing will take place in a certain area, so they focus on that block. It’s near some boarding houses…
The lodger goes to see Daisy’s fashion show, and he’s enthralled with the whole thing. They make eye contact during the show, and it’s clear that she’s not afraid of him. He buys the dress she wears in the show and sends it to her. Mr. Bunting returns the dress to the lodger, saying they can’t accept it.
Daisy and the Lodger go out on a date, and it’s Tuesday night! Mrs. Bunting freaks out. Joe interrupts the lodgers romantic advance, and Daisy tells him off; she’s not his property! The lodger returns Daisy home, safe and sound. They kiss.
Joe and the police show up to question the lodger. He opens the door and finds the lodger and Daisy kissing. The cops search his room and find his satchel. Inside, it’s holding a gun and a map… of the murders! He’s also got a bunch of newspaper clippings about the Avenger murders as well as a photo of the first victim.
The lodger breaks down, crying, and explains that the first victim was his sister. Joe doesn’t believe any of it and arrests him.
The lodger whispers to Daisy, “Meet me by the lamp,” and then escapes and runs off, still wearing handcuffs. She catches up with him at the lamp a little while later. The lodger explains everything to Daisy about his sister and her murder at the ball. His mother died from shock afterwards, but first she made him swear to find the Avenger and make him pay. He’s been tracking the killer ever since.
The couple goes for a drink, but some of the pub patrons notice the lodger isn’t using his hands. They leave just before the police come in, and all the patrons start following them. Joe calls it in to the police station, who notify him that the real Avenger was taken into custody ten minutes ago. Joe realizes that the lodger was innocent.
The lodger is chased by the mob, and Joe has to catch up and save him before the mob tears him to pieces. He gets hung up on a fence and beaten by dozens of angry people. Joe and Daisy fight to free him before he’s killed. Joe is thankful he was in time to save the lodger.
The lodger wakes up in the hospital with Daisy by his side. He’s going to pull through— with her help. The fact that he turns out to be rich and owns a mansion isn’t going to hurt either.
We are never told The Lodger’s real name, and we never see the actual murderer.
In this film, Ivor Novello got top billing over Alfred Hitchcock; I bet that never happened a second time. Hitchcock had done a few really minor films before, but this was his first serious suspense film, at least in his own opinion. Hitchcock had just returned home from Berlin, and you can definitely see some expressionist influences in the sets and lighting. Note: Hitchcock’s first cameo is “extra in the newspaper office” (or so I’m told; I could never spot him).
It’s more of a thriller, or even drama, than horror, but Hitchcock became known as a master of suspense with several true horror films, and you can easily see some his style even as early as this film. Still, there’s murder, mistaken identity, and a serial killer, so that’s a win!
1942 The Strange Case of Doctor R(X)
• Directed by William Nigh
• Written by Clarence Upson Young
• Starring: Patric Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Anne Gwynne
• Run Time: 1 Hour, Minutes
• Link for clip/trailer:
At the Drexel Club, the waiter brings a drink for Mr. Carter. He finds him dead; hanging from the bed. He finds a note “RX 5” pinned to Carter. The newspapers report “Dr. Rx Strikes Again!” And “Dr. Rx Tags Fifth Victim.”
Two months ago, Carter was tried for murder and acquitted due to a great attorney, who also got four other men off the hook for the crime. All five were later killed and tagged just like Carter.
Horatio Washington gets a telegram from Mr. Church asking him to come to the airport tomorrow morning. He completely forgets to pick him up the next morning. Church is a famous detective just back from South America. The Captain Hurd of the police calls, and he refuses to get involved in the Dr. Rx case.
Mr. John Crispin comes in needing help for his brother, another lawyer whose business is being destroyed by Doctor Rx. Church goes to see Mr. Dudley Crispin the lawyer that night and runs into Crispin and his wife. He does end up taking the case. When he returns to his car, he gets a note to go see Barney Scott.
Mr. Zarini is on trial, and the jury comes in, declaring his innocence. The judge calls it a miscarriage of justice, but dismisses the case. Zarini keels over dead right then. “Dr. Rx 6” is in his hand.
Church finds that his apartment is bugged. He follows the wires to a nearby apartment where he finds the listening device tuned into the police station along with a bunch of women’s clothes. He finds Kit, a mystery book author and very soon, his wife. The two of them play a practical joke on Captain Hurd.
Through handwriting analysis, D.A. Mason’s handwriting matches the writing on the RX notes. Not really, because Church is just using the misinformation to mislead Captain Hurd. Kit finds the note concerning Barney Scott and goes to the address. Barney Scott had been working on the Rx case, but he’s now an invalid and mentally insane. His mother doesn’t know exactly what happened to him, but it had something to do with Doctor Rx.
He goes to see the Crispin again, and they find his dog dead. “Dr. Rx” left a note. This, along with what Kit learned, convinces Church to quit the case. Then the newspapers find out about it, and Church doesn’t like being called a quitter.
Some goons kidnap church and take him to Mr. Paul’s house, and Paul wants the cops off his back. He “convinces” Church to stay on the case, which causes Kit to walk out.
Horatio gets kidnapped. Horatio is used to lure Church to an isolated spot. Kit and Hurd chase the car, but they run off the road.
Dr. Rx takes Church to a room with a caged gorilla. Rx wants justice for those who have avoided justice. Doctor RX turns on all his electrical mad-scientist devices soon. He plans to do a brain transplant into the gorilla.
The next morning, Kit hears that Church has been found wandering aimlessly along the highway, and he’s in extremely serious condition with complete loss of memory. Church did, however, give them a clue to Dr. Rx’s identity.
Dr. Fish specializes in mental cases, and the police bring him in to examine Church. Turns out Crispin had a hidden poison injector in a pen. Dr. Fish is actually Church’s old partner. Fish explains the whole thing. The whole thing with the gorilla was just to scare Church’s wits out of him like he did with Barney Scott. He wasn’t really going to do surgery at all.
Brain transplant into a gorilla? That escalated really quickly! It’s like they decided at the last minute (literally seven minutes before the end credits) to make this a horror movie; there was no foreshadowing or hint at all that the film was going that route. Since Crispin knew he hadn’t done any operation, the fact that Church was wearing a skull cap at the end doesn’t make any sense.
Mantan Moreland and Shemp Howard are here for comic relief, and there’s a lot of it. Still, it’s not the rapid-fire wisecracks and silliness of some Universal films, this is calmer, classier, and actually still funny today.
Lionel Atwill, on the other hand, follows characters in cars and acts creepy, but otherwise doesn’t do anything until the very end of the film. He gets second billing, but he’s just there for name recognition. We expect he’ll turn out to be the killer, but he’s just a red herring in this film.