CRIME DOCTOR was a popular CBS radio program, created by Max Marcin, on Sunday nights from 1940-47. The role of the amnesiac turned criminal psychologist was played by four actors on the show. Two I was familiar with: John McIntire and Ray Collins, more familiarly known to me as Lt. Tragg on Perry Mason. It inspired a series of ten low budget films that starred Warner Baxter in all of them.
One interesting note I found on this one. The film was shot on some of the same sets the Three Stooges shorts were being done at the time. Also, Ray Collins appears in the film as the doctor that helps inspire our hero and later become his partner.
The film opens with a car dumping a body out as it rolls down a country road. The time would be in 1932 as the car passes a sign which says re-elect Hoover as prosperity is just around the corner. A later car finds and delivers the man to a hospital where he lays in a coma for a while. When he finally comes around, he has no memory of who he is. He takes the name of Robert Ordway from a plague in his room, a benefactor of the hospital. The nurses had been calling him that anyway while he was in the coma.
While recovering further in the hospital. Ordway is visited by a mystery man who calls him Phil and demands the location of the real valise. He beats it out of there when help comes. So now he knows his first name anyway.
When the time comes to leave the hospital, Collins’ character takes him in and continues as his doctor. After a bit of self pitying and drinking, Ordway is inspired to start over, challenged by Collins to make something of himself. We get a series of short scenes of him going to school, learning to be a psychiatrist, doing his internship, and eventually becoming Collins’ partner. At the same time, we see the mystery man who accosted him going away for ten years because he wouldn’t reveal the location of the two hundred thousand dollar payroll.
Ten years have gone by when Ordway gets appointed as head of the parole board. His work with convicts has made many of them productive citizens. Things start to unravel. He has the feeling he’s being followed. His lady friend, Grace Fielding(played by Margaret Lindsay), has seen the mystery man. A woman applying for parole knows him, he recognizes that, and gets her to admit it, giving him his full name, Phil Morgan, a master criminal who never got his hands dirty, but was double-crossed by his gang. He’d double-crossed them first by hiding the payroll before showing up to divy the loot. They didn’t realize it before they slugged him and dumped him out of the car.
As it comes back, Ordway captures the gang, returns the money, and demands an immediate trial.
The film sets up the next nine in the series. I have six more of them, though I haven’t checked them out yet. Nicely plotted and reading the reviews on IMDB, people seemed to think this was the best of them, though the series as a whole was better done than other similar efforts of the time. They mention Baxter’s declining health as the series progressed and he died of pneumonia two years aftyer the last one was shot.
The following clip is from another film in the series(all I could find):