Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Medical Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 23, 1940 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Richard Gilliam

Written by Norman Burnside, Heinz Herald, and John Huston, this biopic features one of the most literate screenplays of the 1940s. The film generates a sense of discovery and excitement as Erlich (Edward G. Robinson) and his research team gather around the microscope to view the dreaded virus that causes syphilis. The film is an anomaly in a couple areas: its reference to venereal disease was taboo in mainstream studio films, and the film's protagonist was German, a daring move for Warner Bros. given the U.S.'s growing disdain for Germany and its leader, Adolf Hitler. The film is aided by an unusually fine supporting cast, including notable turns by Ruth Gordon as Erlich's wife and Maria Ouspenskaya as his benefactor. Though Dr. Erlich was not Robinson's most famous role, many critics consider his work to be the high point of his career. Among the tech credits, the cinematography of James Wong Howe and the orchestral score of Max Steiner are both major assets.