Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


DR ERLICH'S MAGIC BULLET (1940). Director: William Dieterle.

In Germany before the rise of the Nazis, Dr. Paul Erlich (Edward G. Robinson, pictured) experiments with controversial methods to cure different diseases, including tuberculosis. Short-sighted and mean-spirited colleagues at the hospital don't see that the compassionate Erlich has more to offer than the average doctor. In time he comes up with "magic bullets" or synthetic drugs that can combat disease, and eventually even gets into an early type of "chemotherapy" -- which causes a break between him and his closest friend, Emil (Otto Kruger). Attempting to cure syphilis, Erlich allows a new drug to be administered, but when some of the patients die he is accused of murder, resulting in him suing for slander. Although the film is a bit talky and slow in the first half, it eventually becomes quite intriguing and dramatic, bolstered enormously by the performances of Robinson and the other cast members. Although she isn't seen too often, Ruth Gordon is lovely as Erlich's wife, Hedy. Kruger, Donald Meek, Donald Crisp and the inimitable Maria Ouspenskaya are also wonderful. Ouspenskaya figures in an amusing and daring [for 1940!] dinner party scene in which Erlich discusses his work on syphilis! Max Steiner's touching score is another plus.

Verdict: "Syphilis" at the dinner table! ***.

No comments: