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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Alan K. Rode to Explore The Horror Films Of Michael Curtiz at the 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival

TCM will premiere a recently restored version of the 1932 horror film, Doctor X, with Lionel Atwill in the title role, and pre-King Kong starlet, Fay Wray as the damsel in distress. This early sound film was promoted as a new sensation that mixes horror with comedy, and fright with smiles, with a love story to boot. The new two-color Technicolor master was restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment. Prominent author and restoration authoritarian, Alan, K Rode offers an exploration into the talents the immensely versatile director of the Golden Age of Hollywood before he became known for some of the greatest classics the screen has ever seen.


Before the advent of classic films on cable, video or streaming, Rode incessantly watched and catalogued movies he watched on television. He is the author of a pair of notable cinema biographies. "Charles McGraw: Film Noir Tough Guy" is a critically acclaimed saga of the rough-hewn actor’s life and times. "Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film" is the first comprehensive biography of the director of Casablanca, Mildred Pierce, Yankee Doodle Dandy and The Adventures of Robin Hood among other classic films. Rode has produced and hosted the annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs since 2008. He's also hosted and programmed classic cinema events for The American Cinematheque, the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Alex Film Society and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, among many others. As the charter director and treasurer of the Film Noir Foundation, Rode has been side-by-side with Eddie Muller spearheading the preservation and restoration of “lost” films, co-programing and co-hosting several of the annual Noir City film festivals. The man is imminently qualified to provide an examination on the man who cut his teeth on the early horror films of Warner Bros.

In Doctor X Lee Tracy (a forgotten actor of the pre-code era) plays a New York City reporter doing a piece on a series of grisly, cannibalistic murders that have all been committed under a full moon. For some inexplicable reason, the police suspect that the murderer works at the lab of Dr. Jerry Xavier (Atwill), a mysterious Long Island researcher who is doing an investigation of his own. Antsy for an inside story, Taylor breaks into the lab where he meets and falls in love with Dr. Xavier's daughter Joan (Wray). It's not high art, let alone a good example of the genre, but the film does deliver a fair amount of cheap thrills via a more than capable cast.


Academy Award winning director Michael Curtiz controls the helm here ten years before he directed the Best Picture winner, Casablanca, and thirteen years before guiding Joan Crawford to a Best Actress Oscar for Mildred Pierce. Known as the anti auteur, Curtiz was a journeyman with talents far beyond the expectations of his home studio, Warner Bros. Their blindness turned out to be a good thing, allowing the incredibly adaptable director to switch from one genre to another without being pigeonholed in one style. No other A-list director of the era can boast of such a broad representation of genres upon their resume. It just wasn't done. During his unprecedented twenty-seven year tenure at Warner Bros., he directed swashbuckling adventures, westerns, musicals, war epics, romances, historical dramas, horror films, tearjerkers, melodramas, comedies, and film noir masterpieces. The director's staggering output of 180 films surpasses that of the legendary John Ford and exceeds the combined total films directed by George Cukor, Victor Fleming, and Howard Hawks.


The 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival takes place Thursday, May 6 through Sunday, May 9 at two virtual venues: the TCM network and the curated classics on the HBOMax TCM Hub.

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