Edward G.Robinson is a society doctor (Dr.Clitterhouse) who’s interested in crime and criminals.He is planning a book on psychological aspects of crime. He needs practical experience.
That’s the premise of this comedy directed by Anatole Litvak.
He begins by experimenting on himself – he burgles 4 houses in 4 weeks – and observes his own reactions!
He consults Inspector Lane (Donald Crisp) who is investigating the 4 burglaries (all jewellery). Lane calls the burglar an amateur Raffles, while the good doctor asks him about fences.
Lane happens to pick up the doctor’s medical bag which is where the jewels are stashed. Lane says,”If only we could get our hands on these jewels.”
The doctor (we never learn his first name) goes to a seedy hotel and meets ‘Okay’ (Allen Jenkins) who introduces him to Jo Keller (Claire Trevor) who fences stolen jewels. Rocks Valentine(Humphrey Bogart) is part of the gang .
Jo suggest they team up when Clitterhouse shows her a piece of the jewels.The gang calls him the Professor.Rocks resents the unusual thief.The doctor tells Jo that Rocks is “a magnificent specimen of pure viciousness.”
The ‘Professor’ even tests the gang when they are doing a job. They think he is odd and Okay says,”Maybe we ought to make him see a doctor.”
Eventually the doctor decides he’s had enough and tells Jo,”Tonight I felt myself beginning to enjoy crime – for its own sake.”
Rocks finally finds out who the ‘Professor’ is and blackmails him. Realising he has never investigated the greatest crime of all – homicide – the doctor poisons Rocks.
Finally Inspector Lane nails him and he goes on trial for murder. His lawyer pleads insanity but Dr Clitterhouse says he’s sane – he wants his book to be accepted.
The ending is a little weak but in a way in keeping with the far fetched plot. ( it originated as a play with Cedric Hardwicke as Clitterhouse).
There’s great support from John Litel,Ward Bond,Maxie Rosenbloom and Irving Bacon.
Edward G.Robinson of course plays it perfectly,always quiet spoken and polite as the doctor who delves into crime, all in the name of science. It makes for some funny scenes.
There’s a hint of romance with Jo (Claire Trevor good as always). Bogart cant do much with a thankless role which he could do eyes shut.
You have to wonder why Warners retained that name, Clitterhouse!
The film’s posters suggest a drama – quite misleading.