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The Mysterious Doctor (1943).

April 11, 2008

The Scoop:
This low budget production, set in Britain, manages to wring some good atmosphere out of its limited sets and personnel.

In the small Cornwall village of Morgan’s Head, residents live in fear of a headless ghost that stalks the local tin mine. The villagers get suspicious when a doctor (Lester Matthews) on a walking tour of the area turns up at the local inn one evening. Their suspicion turns to paranoia when someone spots a parachutist landing in the moors. Pretty soon the doctor turns up dead, the ghost is running wild and the village is in a tizzy. Along for the ride are the obligatory bland romantic leads (Eleanor Parker and Bruce Lester), the sympathetic village idiot (Matt Willis), the hooded innkeeper (Frank Mayo) and the local squire (John Loder).

Even though this is an American production (made at Warner’s), it’s full of that stiff-upper-lip British wartime spirit. The moody cinematography by Henry Sharp and taut direction by Ben Stoloff are both top-notch, and at only 57 minutes, the story flies by at a brisk pace. In that sense it fits the B-movie mold perfectly — a fun, engaging appetizer that still leaves you hungry for the main feature.

Best Line:
You’ve got to love a dramatic climax that begins with, “I see you don’t know much about the early history of tin mining in Cornwall.”

Side Note:
Although she kind of gets short shrift here, in one of her earliest roles, Eleanor Parker went on to have a wonderful (but unjustly overlooked) career in Hollywood. She later costarred with the likes of Charleton Heston in “The Naked Jungle” (1954) Frank Sinatra in “The Man With the Golden Arm” (1955), and Kirk Douglas in “Detective Story” (1951).

Companion Viewing:
“The Cat Girl” (1957), “The Undying Monster” (1942) and “The Man From Planet X” (1951).

1,000 Misspent Hours.

Take a Look:
The trailer, which seems to lean awfully heavily on our bland lovebirds, is over at TCM.

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