Sunday, December 1, 2013

Please pronounce the last name correctly!

TCM is running the immensely entertaining The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM.

Edward G. Robinson stars as the titular Dr. Clitterhouse, a well-to-do society doctor. You might think he's not well cast to play such a character, but in real life Robinson was an art collector with very refined tastes, so this is actually a good role for him. Besides, the script allows for Robinson to play a variation on all those gangster characters he had been playing for much of the 1930s. In this case, that means Dr. Clitterhouse has an interest in figuring out how the criminal mind works, as he's writing a scholarly work on the subject, presumably wanting to use psychology to get the minds that want to commit crimt not to do so. But this is a movie about crime, not psychology, so Clitterhouse has come up with an idea that breaks all the rules of scientific propriety, but without which we wouldn't have a movie. He's going to investigate the criminal mind -- by committing crimes himself! Really. He starts off by pilfering the jewels of his society friends, but that isn't good enough. He needs some experience with real criminals.

To this end he looks for Joe Keller, supposedly a well-known fence for those jewels he's stolen. It turns out, however, that Joe Keller is actually Jo Keller -- a woman (played by Claire Trevor)! And she's not just a fence, she's practically running the gang, or at least co-leader with her boyfriend "Rocks" Valentine (Humphrey Bogart). Against Rocks' better judgment, Jo lets Clitterhouse into the gang, where he earns the nickname "The Professor". Rocks is right to question whether the Professor should be a part of their gang. He's got some different ideas, but even worse, Jo is falling for him. This, unsurprisingly, causes Rocks to get even angrier, to the point that when the gang is commiting a fur heist, Rocks locks the Professor in a cold-storage locker. Either the Professor will die, or the poilice will catch him there, but either way, it's the end of Rocks' problems with the Professor.

Oh, of course it's not the end. Clitterhouse figures a way out of the place, and eventually goes back to his real job, working on that book about the criminal mind. Everybody can live happily ever after, Clitterhouse as a society doctor, and Rocks and company getting rich on all that stolen loot. Yeah right; that's not going to happen either, as there's no way the Production Code could ever let Rocks get away. Rocks eventually figures out that the "Professor" was in fact the society doctor, and goes to confront Clitterhouse. Clitterhouse offs him, and since he used a drugged drink to do it there's no way anybody is going to be able to claim self-defense.

The movie climaxes with one of those 1930s vintage courtroom scenes, which bear no resemblance to any reality, but which can serve as a convenient deus ex machina to get the desired ending as long as it's OK by the Productoin Code. But don't let the courtroom scene dissuade you from watching this movie. It's a breezy, fun ride, expertly mixing comedy and drama. Robinson could have pulled off roles like this in his sleep, and is as always a joy to watch. Humphrey Bogart supposedly really disliked this film, as he knew he was ready for bigger things but couldn't get Warner Bros. to give him those bigger parts. And yet he's fine here. Claire Trevor is pretty good, although she's also clearly the thrid character. The rest of the cast has a bunch of standard supporting players, including Donald Crisp as a police detective, and Allen Jenkins as one of the gang members.

I've briefly mentioned The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse in the past, suggesting that it wasn't available on DVD. That is of course wrong, as you can find it as part of the Warner Gangsters box set, Volume 4.

1 comment:

Personal Injury Attorney Tempa said...

I am a big fan of
Edward G. Robinson and I love watching suspense and detective genres. That helps me to solve criminal cases for my clients.

Kristo Jackal