Doctor Detroit

Doctor Detroit is a 1983 American comedy film directed by Michael Pressman with writing by Bruce Jay Friedman, Carl Gottlieb, and Robert Boris. The film stars Dan Aykroyd, Howard Hesseman, Lynn Whitfield, Fran Drescher, and Donna Dixon, with a special appearance by James Brown. It is the first film Aykroyd made after the death of John Belushi as well as the first one where he is not sharing the top bill with other actors. Aykroyd and his co-star Dixon married soon after the film's release.

Doctor Detroit
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Pressman
Produced byRobert K. Weiss
Written by
Music by
CinematographyKing Baggot
Edited byChristopher Greenbury
Distributed byUniversal Studios
Release date
May 6, 1983 (1983-05-06)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million
Box office$10,375,893[1]


Introverted geek Clifford Skridlow (Dan Aykroyd) is a professor of comparative literature at the financially strapped (fictional) Monroe College in Chicago.

Smooth Walker (Howard Hesseman), a pimp, owes $80,000 to "Mom" (Kate Murtagh), a gruff Chicago mob boss. Attempting to weasel out of his debt, Smooth invents a fictitious mobster, the flamboyant "Doctor Detroit", a ruthless chiropractor who allegedly is overrunning Smooth's turf. Clifford meets Smooth and his girls Monica (Donna Dixon), Jasmine (Lydia Lei), Karen (Fran Drescher), and Thelma (Lynn Whitfield), and has the best night of his life partying with them. The next morning, during a faculty meeting, Clifford learns about their troubles with Mom, that Smooth has skipped town, and that according to Smooth, they are now Clifford's girls. Clifford agrees to assume the persona of Doctor Detroit in an effort to help them out of their jam.

Meanwhile, Monroe College anticipates a corporate endowment from Rousehorn Consolidated Industries to be presented by its CEO, Harmon Rousehorn (Andrew Duggan). If the contribution is large enough, it will allow the college to remain open.

While Clifford is teaching classes, grading papers, catering a faculty party and assisting in hosting the visiting CEO, his Doctor Detroit alter ego has to find a way to get Thelma out of a solicitation charge, hold Mom at bay, and appear at the Players Ball to be proclaimed the new King of the Pimps while simultaneously appearing at Monroe College's annual Alumni Dinner. When Mom shows up at the Players Ball, she figures out that Doctor Detroit and Professor Skridlow are one and the same, and duels him with sword-length kebab skewers in front of the assembled academics. Following the defeat of Mom, the two functions combine into one joyous, spectacular party, as the ultimate fates of the characters are revealed, ending with the reveal that Clifford married Karen.



The film was shot on location in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois, as well as at the University of Southern California and Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California, during the summer of 1982.[2]


Doctor Detroit
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic link

James Brown makes a cameo appearance in the film, performing "Get Up Offa That Thing/Dr. Detroit." Devo performed the "Theme from Doctor Detroit," which plays over the opening credits, as well as "Luv-Luv," and released an EP including both tracks and a longer dance remix of the theme song. A music video was also produced for the theme song, incorporating footage from the film.

A soundtrack album for the film was released on the labels Backstreet, MCA and WEA.

Track listing

Side one
1."Theme from Doctor Detroit"Devo3:10
2."Hold Him"3:22
3."King of Soul"NewbornJames Brown2:40
4."Yo Skridlow"
5."Working Girls"
  • Newborn
  • Brooks
  • Pattie Brooks
  • Dan Aykroyd
Side two
6."Get Up Offa That Thing/Doctor Detroit"James BrownJames Brown3:23
  • Mothersbaugh
  • Casale
8."You Are the One"Pattie Brooks4:05
9."Get It on and Have a Party"
  • Newborn
  • Brooks
Pattie Brooks6:09
Total length:35:53


The film received generally negative reviews from critics. Writing in the Chicago Tribune, critic Gene Siskel gave the film two and a half stars and called it "a mess, but a genial mess."[3] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 33% of six critics have given the film a positive review.[4]

In her autobiography, Enter Whining, Fran Drescher commented that Doctor Detroit was expected to be a major hit for the summer of 1983 but fell short of expectations, grossing $10.8 million on a budget of $8 million. Despite this, Doctor Detroit has developed a cult following over the years.

See also


  1. Doctor Detroit at Box Office Mojo
  3. Siskel, Gene (May 6, 1983). "Aykroyd's 'Detroit': Funny flawed and filmed in Chicago". Chicago Tribune. p. c1.
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