MOVIES, The Mad Doctor (1941)
Comments 40

The Mad Doctor (1941)

THE MAD DOCTOR (aka A Date with Destiny) has to be the best Basil Rathbone movie I’ve never seen. The Baz playing gorgeous but insane serial wife-killer, with the amazing Martin Kosleck as his heavily implied gay lover, John Howard as Ellen Drew’s nice but boring rescuer, Tim Whelan directing and a script partially written (or possibly) by Ben Hecht! – Who wouldn’t crawl over broken glass to see this film?

So, why is it almost impossible to find?!!

I’ve looked everywhere:even Youtube (where I’m informed by Scarlett-Streeters only the depraved go to watch movies) – but it’s just not out there! and the more I can’t find it the more I wants it, my preciousss!

See…seee the gorgeousness of it all……

From “In the middle of a rainy night, Midbury physician Dr. Charles Downer is awakened and summoned to the home of psychologist George Sebastien to treat Sebastien’s wife. When he arrives, however, Sebastien tells Downer that his wife has already died of pneumonia. Downer returns home sadly and considers ordering an autopsy because he is sure that his patient had been recovering….

“I’m so happy with my evil plan…”

….Shortly afterward, Sebastien leaves Midbury for New York, accompanied by his servant and companion, Maurice Gretz. In New York, Sebastien revives his practice as a psychoanalyst and is called upon to treat Linda Boothe, a beautiful young woman who is severely depressed and suicidal…..

“I’m not going to kill you darling”

…Even though she is engaged to newspaperman Gil Sawyer, Sebastien plots with Maurice to marry Linda…..

“I’m almost definitely not going to kill you darling”

…kill her and claim her inheritance, just as he had done with his first two wives….” —

“All right, I lied, I am going to kill you”

No – no more plot, in case it spoils it for anyone lucky enough to get to see it…instead some trivia and general info, and more photos…

No idea what is going on here – but look how pretty!

“The working titles of this film were A Date with Destiny and Destiny. Although screen credits and the Paramount Produced Properties listing indicate that the film is based on a screenplay by Howard J. Green, early drafts of the screenplay, titled The Monster and re-titled Destiny, were written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The contributions of Hecht and MacArthur to the final screenplay have not been confirmed…

The Baz, Kosleck and what could be a stethoscope – your guess is as good as mine

“I enjoyed working on Mad Doctor more than anything else in my career because of Basil Rathbone. He was a wonderful man . . . very precise . . . he rehearsed everything until it was perfect. Between scenes, we would walk around the Paramount lot and go over our lines . . . I loved that man.” Martin Kosleck

“…Perhaps it is the pulp fiction title, but The Mad Doctor has been lumped in with Universal’s latter-day monster rallies and gone down in history as something of a B-movie. Nothing could be further from the truth, alas. The appearance alone of Basil Rathbone in one of his most deliciously naughty roles — complete with plenty of homoerotic undercurrents — ought to persuade even the most skeptic viewer that this is no mere shock fest. Long in gestation, The Mad Doctor was originally titled “A Date With Destiny,” a much more appropriate title since that is exactly what is in store for lissome Ellen Drew, and was at one point or another planned as a vehicle for John Barrymore, and, believe it or not, Noel Coward…”

In all seriousness it sounds as though – quite typically for Rathbone’s career – what should have been a success failed to be so. THE MAD DOCTOR sounds like it might have been quite a daring psychological study, but luck dictated otherwise, and it got shunted off into the sidings as a bit of B-movie horror. Probably didn’t help that the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther evidently didn’t get it. Though the Hollywood Reporter apparently described the film as “one of the top efforts of its type” and described Rathbone’s performance as “stunning”…

I have to see this film.

Is there anyone out there who has a copy? Honestly, I’ll clean your toilet every day for a year if you can point me to where this little beauty can be found.

UPDATE, 2013 – I have a copy! No need to tell me how to find one any more!

Also check out The Mad Doctor at – the ultimate fansite for the Baz!


  1. GRETCHEN says


    The plot sounds similar to that of “Love From a Stranger”, but with the “gay” thing thrown-in…I’ve just GOTTA get it on DVD!

    (Note-to-self: attempt to accomplish the daunting task of owning a copy of EVERY Basil Rathbone film made in the 1930s-40s that involves murder, sex, inheritances, and EXTREME male-gorgeousness.)


  2. Aw, this was an incredibly good post. Spending some time and actual effort to produce a very
    good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and never manage
    to get anything done.


  3. Marie says

    I find it really hard to believe the gay subtext is as blatant as you say. It seems we see gay subtext in everything these days. Back then people didn’t think of such things the way we do now. I think we see a subtext where there is none


  4. Cedric Bazzanella says

    Merci pour votre commentaire merveilleux! J’ai vraiment apprécié la lecture. Je veux vous encourager vous continuez votre excellent écrit, have a nice day!


  5. assBandit says

    My mother never told me serial killers looked like this. I’m his. Who cares about the knife in the night table.


    • Even I felt it did.Enjoyed and so want to see it again.Basil always said people needed to accept homosexuality as a fact of life,otherwise,how can anyone accept Hollywood.Basil was responsible for the film having the undercurrent it did of gay men.It had to be inexplicit because of the times.It’s there if you have an open mind.But one definite plus for Baz,George did love his soon to be widow,even if he did try to kill her.And based on real life Bluebeard,who died old in his bed,unpunished.


  6. johnlock fanatic says

    OMG – such feels, such longing they could have played it more explicitly gay


  7. fRAN Goodacre says

    I personally enjoyed this film even with its flaws. Basil is sexy, vulnerable, complex and also frightening.


  8. Ulirika says

    YES! I finally saw this film last night. I can’t believe how gay Basil is! I shrieked and screamed as I watched him and Martin. I though they were going to actually kiss at one point though I knew they couldn’t.


  9. Arethra says

    i’m very glad i found your site. I am looking for a copy of this film, but it never seems to have been on DVD or VHS, can anyone help me?


  10. BigBazFan says

    I am in love with your blog. Please keep updating. How about an occasional series on his biography. There’s no proper biography of Basil been written to date so his fans have only sketchy ideas about his life.


  11. Basil's Girl says

    Hello what a lovely blog. Thank you thank you for starting it. When I was a little girl I was in love with Basil Rathbone after seeing Adventures of Robin Hood on the TV and I used to sing “I wanna be Basil’s Girl” to the tune of Bobby’s Girl if anyone remembers that old song.

    Anyhow thank you NeveR your blog is beautiful


  12. Hey girls – I’ve had flu all weekend and this is my first port of call on being upright again – how dedicated is that!? 🙂

    Lolita – I’ll email you

    Mary – wow – hold that thought! You have Baz-gold there!


  13. Mary P says

    I actually have a copy of this movie on DVDr – a friend gave it to me, and it got filed and buried, but rang a bell when I found this site on IMDB. So if anyone needs it, all I ever ask is a bit of help with the packaging and postage.


  14. Thanks, love! I found the file now, but how to get it to you? Do you use Skype? In that case, add lolitasclassics there! I don’t think I can mail such a big file (985 MB). Any idea? Send me an email at, I have one other idea 🙂


  15. Well, honey. I may just have it. As a file on an external hard drive that I need to get a cord to. The sound is bad as hell and the picture quality is below VHS standard… but it’s better than nothing. I seriously thought I had written a review of the film, but it doesn’t look that way… Bad of me. Especially since I haunted that copy down with the same passion as you seem to have! I’ll have a look for it when I can access that hard drive, okay? Looks like a lovely, lovely blog! //Lolita


    • Lolita! You are amazing! Thank you for saying nice things about this place – and please start updating yours again. The blogosphere needs your cool.


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