USA, Anatole Litvak (1938)
Hilariously implausible but great fun, this movie stars Edward G. Robinson as the title character, a doctor fascinated by the physiology of crime. By studying the physical effects experienced while committing crime (increased heart rate, temp etc.,) the good doctor figures he can make his scientific contribution to the fight against crime. And how better to conduct this research than to join a gang of jewel thieves, of course. That’s just what Clitterhouse does—it makes perfect sense to him, so it makes perfect sense in the movie. That Clitterhouse is a natural criminal mastermind only adds to the fun, and puts him at odds with gang leader Humphrey Bogart. Without giving too much away, when the jig is up, the doctor’s defense hinges on his questionable sanity. The film’s conclusion prompted many diverse opinions in the audience at the La Salle Theatre after the lights came up, as people debated what did or didn’t really happen, and what the filmmakers’ intention really was.
Here’s the Gist: A clever script and great performance by Edward G. Robinson make this one to catch. [***]