Return of Doctor X, The (1939): Vincent Sherman’s Sci-Fi Horror, Starring Wayne Morris and Bogart in his Only Film of that Genre

Vincent Sherman directed The Return of Doctor X (aka The Return of Dr. X) is a sci-fic-horror film, starring Wayne Morris, Rosemary Lane, and Humphrey Bogart as the title character.

Return of Doctor X

Theatrical release poster

It was based on the short story “The Doctor’s Secret” by William J. Makin.

Despite being sequel to Doctor X (1932), also produced by Warner, the two films are unrelated.

This was Bogart’s only sci-fi or horror film, but he didn’t like to talk about this film or Swing Your Lady, which he believed were among his worst.

Two bizarre murders occur wherein the victims are drained of their rare Type One blood type. Reporter Walter Garrett consults with his friend Dr. Mike Rhodes, which leads them to Rhodes’ former mentor, hematologist Dr. Francis Flegg.

Flegg is initially unhelpful, but Garrett and Rhodes notice a striking resemblance between Flegg’s strange assistant, Marshall Quesne and the late Dr. Maurice Xavier in press cuttings.

After opening Xavier’s grave and finding it empty, they confront Flegg, who admits using new scientific methods to bring Xavier back from the dead; he has employed synthetic blood to sustain his life.

However, the blood cannot replace itself, and therefore, Quesne-Xavier must seek out human victims with rare Type One blood type, contained in the formula in order to stay alive.

Hunt begins for Quesne, who has discovered that Joan Vance, a nurse and Rhodes’ girl, is carrying the rare blood type. He escapes with her in a taxi, claiming to take her to Rhodes.

In the end, Barnett and Rhodes, accompanied by the police, track them to their location. Quesne is shot dead, buy Joan is saved.

Wayne Morris as Walter Garrett (Barnett in on-screen credits)
Rosemary Lane as Joan Vance
Humphrey Bogart as Dr. Maurice Xavier, aka Marshall Quesne
Dennis Morgan as Dr. Mike Rhodes
John Litel as Dr. Francis Flegg
Lya Lys as Angela Merrova
Huntz Hall as Pinky
Charles Wilson as Detective Ray Kincaid
Vera Lewis as Miss Sweetman
Howard Hickman as Chairman (scenes deleted)
Olin Howland as Undertaker
Arthur Aylesworth as Guide
Cliff Saum as Detective Sergeant Moran
Creighton Hale as Hotel Manager
John Ridgely as Rodgers
Joe Crehan as Editor
Glen Langan as Interne
De Wolf Hopper as Interne


Directed by Vincent Sherman
Screenplay by Lee Katz, based on “The Doctor’s Secret,” 1938 story in Detective Fiction Weekly, by William J. Makin
Produced by Bryan Foy; Hal B. Wallis (uncredited exec producer); Jack L. Warner (exec producer)
Cinematography Sidney Hickox
Edited by Thomas Pratt
Music by Bernhard Kaun

Production and distribution company: Warner

Release date: December 2, 1939

Running time: 62 minutes