The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse is a 1938 American crime film starring Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor and Humphrey Bogart. It was directed by Anatole Litvak for Warner Bros. and written by John Wexley and John Huston, based on the first play written by short-story writer Barré Lyndon, which ran for three months on Broadway with Cedric Hardwicke playing in London.
- Cast notes
- Ronald Reagan‘s voice can be heard as a radio announcer, a job that Reagan held before he started as a film actor.
- Max “Slapsie Maxie” Rosenbloom was a boxer who converted his fame in the ring into a film career playing Runyonesque characters.
- Susan Hayward had a part in the film, but her scenes were deleted.
Whether He’s Sane or Insane, Edward G. Robinson Is Terrific
Author: evanston_dad from United States
26 March 2008
What a fun movie!
Edward G. Robinson plays a respected doctor who decides that the only way to truly understand criminal behavior for an academic study he is writing is to become a criminal himself. He joins a thieving ring run by Jo Keller (Claire Trevor, looking hotsy-totsy) and proceeds to both help the thieves with their crimes while at the same time studying them for the biological and psychological effects of their actions. Trouble arises when Jo’s right-hand man, played by Humphrey Bogart, begins to feel like a third wheel, and blackmails Robinson when he discovers his true identity.
This film is a real treat. It’s funny, creepy and suspenseful, all at the same time. Robinson begins to enjoy being a criminal, and his detached approach to crime makes him capable of committing murder without a second thought. Is he sane or insane? That’s the question a jury must answer at the film’s climax, and one the viewer still won’t be able to answer after the movie’s over.
Robinson, Trevor and Bogart have enough chemistry together to start a fire, and the three of them would team up again 10 years later for another terrific film, John Huston’s “Key Largo.” Anatole Litvak provides the fluid direction.
Sane or Insane?
The prominent Dr. Clitterhouse (Edward G. Robinson) becomes a burglar to study the criminal mind. After four heist, he meets the fence Jo Keller (Claire Trevor) that has a hotel to cover-up her activities. He decides to team-up with her gang to observe the thieves in action using the alias The Professor and becomes close to Jo. However the gangster “Rocks” Valentine (Humphrey Bogart) decides to get rid of The Professor and double-crosses him up during the heist of a store. When Rocks discover the true identity of The Professor, he blackmails Dr. Clitterhouse that sees only the ultimate crime to resolve the situation: murder. What will happen to Rocks and Dr. Clitterhouse?
“The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse” is a cynical black-humor comedy with Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart and screenplay by John Huston. The plot is funny, with hilarious situations of Dr. Clitterhouse, a prominent doctor that uses his relationship with the high-society and the chief of police to rob and understand the criminal mind. In the end, is Dr. Clitterhouse sane or insane? My vote is seven.
Bogart Burning and Biding his time, while Robinson is a Gentleman
Author: theowinthrop from United States
17 April 2006
As was pointed out in another review, THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE was a play, originally , starring Sir Cedric Hardwicke as the polished society doctor who is writing a book on the criminal mind, and needs to become a criminal to get his research. I would have liked to have seen the film with Hardwicke, who probably was a better fit in the part. Screen audiences knew Eddie Robinson could be a brutal, thuggish gangster, like Enrico Bandello in LITTLE CAESAR. He could be funny, like Arthur Jones and Killer Mannion in THE WHOLE TOWN IS TALKING or as Remy Marko in A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER. But they had little idea of the polished intellectual that Robinson, the art collector, was in real life. He would not really reveal this part of his personality until the 1950s, when he occasionally appeared on game shows and talk shows discussing art. But Hardwicke looked the part of the learned doctor, and had enough restrained threat to look like he could plan and carry out real crimes as well.
But Warner Brothers starred him in THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE, presumably to give him a chance to play another comic role, and also to let him stretch his acting abilities. He does well with the role, but he seems less natural in the part (as Hardwicke would have been) than slightly mannered. I think, having seen Sir Cedric on stage, Robinson was trying to overcompensate – and it does not quite work.
As the doctor Robinson was convincing as a lucky dilettante, but not as a serious researcher. It is really the performances of the supporting cast, particularly Humphrey Bogart as “Rocks Valentine”, Claire Trevor, and Maxie Rosenbloom. They give real color to the story, particularly Bogie as a vicious type who hates seeing how effortlessly the brilliant Clitterhouse takes leadership of his gang away from him. Bogie’s Rocks keeps looking for his opportunities, and even tries to freeze the doctor to death (leading to a powerful moment on the film when a furious Rosenbloom almost pounds him in retaliation). And his attempts to get the goods on Clitterhouse, inevitably, lead to an unexpected tragedy.
Robinson was less than happy with the film – he was right to be. Bogart considered this one of a series (with BULLETS AND BALLOTS, KID GALLAHAD, and BROTHER ORCHID where he and Robinson were rival criminals, and in two of which they killed each other at the conclusion).
He had made THE PETRIFIED FOREST two years before, and DEAD END the year before, and should have been on the way to stardom, but found himself second banana to Robinson or to Cagney, and he was getting fed up. He felt that CLITTERHOUSE was an absolute waste of time, and referred to it by another name, THE AMAZING DR. CLITORIS. It would still be three more years before Bogie would make HIGH SIERRA and THE MALTESE FALCON, and find the stardom that had eluded him in the 1930s.
Ivars from Tasmania doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Author: Blooddrinker6 from United States
10 August 2006
This film is an excellent gangster film. The negative reviews I’ve read here are the remarks of mere quibblers, people who don’t have a true appreciation for the 1930’s Gangster Film. I used to have a 16mm print of this film. And every time I screened it people would come up afterward and say how much they liked it. No self respecting fan of Warner’s gangster films would dare say a bad word about this film and others I’ve seen poorly reviewed on this site. Perhaps people brought up on Good Fellas and The Godfather cannot help but try holding older films up to current sensibilities. I don’t know. But I see it a lot.
Anyway, don’t believe the hype: Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart are great as are the rest of the cast. Character roles are well cast. Writing is solid. There’s a great scene where Bogart gets slapped for misinterpreting a double entendre.
This film has something that I think is significant for the time. It deals with possible psychological reasons for crime. The good doctor who is doing experiments to fully understand the criminal mind was probably represents some sort of extension of public interest as well as paying lip service to the growing acceptance of psychology as we currently know it. The fact that the doctor is actually corrupted by the excitement and challenge of crime and getting away with it are interesting to note and may, again, parallel public interest.
The ending has an irresistible twist as the doctor incorrigibly revels in his bizarre circumstances as the camera closes in on an excited Robinson as chaos ensues all around.
I rate this film a strong 8 and recommend that Ivars give this film another chance.
This is an enjoyable Edward G. Robinson vehicle with a bit of everything, as his studious criminologist perpetrates a series of robberies to investigate the physical effects of crime. His efforts attract the attention of a foxy fence (Claire Trevor), while evoking the ire of the tough guy now forced to play second fiddle (Humphrey Bogart).
Robinson is in peak comic form, playing a role a little different to anything he’d tried before – Clitterhouse’s unshakable assurance borne not of brute force but intellectual superiority – while Litvak’s handling is sporadically stylish, and the script, co-written by John Huston, is a touch classier than usual for one of Warner’s crime comedies, as it blends mild humour, fair suspense and admirable erudition.
The film takes a sharp left turn with 20 minutes left, only to make the most of its change of direction, leading to a stagy but satisfying wrap-up. Sadly that’s not the end of proceedings, as the strict rules of the Hays Code necessitate a dreadful, tacked-on five-minute ending complete with Irving Bacon as an irascible jury foreman.
For all that, it’s good fun for old movie buffs, particularly those who harbour a fondness for the wide, effortlessly commanding Robinson. Or want to see character comic supreme Allen Jenkins pretending to lose his voice.
Sucker as I am for movies with goofy (or really, just bad) titles, and as a die-hard Edward G. Robinson fan, it was inevitable, I guess, that I would come across “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse” (from 1938, directed by Anatole Litvak), and love it.
I am adding this to that long (and getting longer) list of great movies that almost no one anymore has heard of or remembers – but probably should. The silly-sounding title is the only bad thing about this movie; everything else about it really is (believe me!) great. Yes, you could say that it was just another one of those Warner Brothers Great Depression crime movies but that doesn’t explain the humor and suspense and worthwhile commentary about law and American justice, good guys and bad guys, science and psychology, education and ignorance, men and women, etc.
There is a lot to enjoy and get into – interesting directing; expert acting; surprising plot twists and character developments, so to keep it brief, I will just highlight:
*The fun brains vs. brawn rivalry between Edward G. (who’s, of course, the “amazing” doctor) and Humphrey Bogart, who really excelled (pre-Casablanca and pre-nuptials to Lauren Bacall) at playing a no-good gangster thug. Robinson so lovable and Bogart truly hateable – it’s fun.
*Claire Trevor – wish there were more movies of hers to enjoy, she’s a real pleasure to see; another great “tough girl” dame of the 1930s who also had acting chops. (She was in Stagecoach, which reminds me, that it’s time to see Stagecoach again; it’s been too long.)
* and **Edward G. Robinson!** I’m not sure how to explain why he’s one of my favorites. I guess it’s simply because I completely trust him to do a great convincing job in every role of his – he always takes command, reels you in and never bores. He never did a clichéd or overdone or too-obvious anything, that I can recall, and when he’s “on,” my eyes are glued to his every word and action.