(85 mins) $24.95
|Region 0 Rated R
|Video: Widescreen (1.85.1)
|Audio: DD Mono 1.0
|Chapter Stops: 21
|Packaging: Keep Case
Directed by Anthony Balch
This obscure 1973 British black comedy
certainly has cult appeal. This film caters to the gore mongers, the biker
crowd, British gothic horror fans, 70ís era rock n rollers, and especially
people into black humor. Because the film manages to successfully combine these
elements, the film earns its place in cult filmdom. The film stars British
horror veteran Michael Gough as the demented head surgeon, Dr. Storm. Gough has
starred in such varied genre offerings as HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, KONGA,
and SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, but is most familiar to mainstream audiences as
Alfred the butler in all four BATMAN movies. The lead actor is Robin Askwith who
has also appeared in other genre films from the same period such as TOWER OF
EVIL and THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW. Ellen (THE WICKED LADY) Pollock plays Aunt
Harris, Dr. Stormís diabolical assistant and aunt to Vanessa Shawís
character. Kurt (FRAGMENT OF FEAR) Christian portrays Abraham, the young man who
comes to the hospital searching for his missing girlfriend who went there for a
holiday (and never returned).
As the film begins, the sinister Dr.
Storm and his dwarfish assistant Frederick (Skip Martin) are in a black sedan
chasing bloodied hospital escapees. As the vehicle drives by the fleeing
patients, a large machete pops out of the sedanís exterior and beheads the two
runaways. Dr. Storm gleefully takes the heads back to the hospital. Cut to an
acid rock club in London. Young musician Jason is pissed off at the performing
band (called the Mystics) for stealing his songs and his performance ideas. The
band leader responds by punching Jason in the nose, sending the stressed out
rocker complaining to his friends in the club. But instead of helping him, his
friends suggest heís burnt out and that he needs to take a vacation and get
away from London for a while. Jason notices flyers around the streets of London
for a health spa, and decides to book a solo trip there to rejuvenate himself.
On the train trip to the suburban
hospital, Jason meets up with Judy (Vanessa Shaw), a depressed young woman who
is heading to the same health spa to visit her only relative (whom she hasnít
seen since she was a child), Aunt Harris. So Jason and Judy share the train and
travel to the spa. They are greeted by two silent motorcyclists wearing leather
jackets and helmets. The motorcyclists take the young couple to the spa, and
they are shocked to discover that the "spa" resembles a creepy old
insane asylum! Aunt Harris greets them at the door and is not too happy to see
her niece. Frederick the dwarf (who acts like Peter Lorre) takes them to their
room, and invites them to dinner to meet the others and their host, Dr. Storm.
Later, at the dining table, the other hospital residents are pale white (to the
point of resembling zombies) and appear to be lobotomized. Dr. Storm enters in
his wheel chair and informs the puzzled Jason and Judy that these people are
part of his radical new health treatment.
The couple decide that they are not
hungry and return to their room. They suspect something is up, and plan to sneak
out that evening. But Jason insists on taking a look around first (mistake #1).
This of course leaves Judy alone, and sure enough, a disfigured human creature
with no facial features leaps out of the darkness and captures Judy. Jasonís
snooping is cut short when he runs into Dr. Storm and his leather-clad biker
henchmen. Dr. Storm insists on showing Jason the hospital layout, and while
doing so reveals his plan to lobotomize his patients in order to make them his
slaves. Jason realizes Storm is batty and tries to escape the hospital grounds,
but Storm warns him escape is futile, and has his biker squad retrieve the
The doctor keeps Jason in isolation
while preparing Judy for surgery. Aunt Harris, who normally assists the doctor
in his ghastly operations, reveals that she is backing out and leaving before
the authorities catch on, and that she wants to take Judy with her. Suddenly,
the intruder alarm goes off. A young man named Abraham (Christian) arrives at
the hospital to look for his missing girlfriend. The motorcyclists quickly
capture Abraham and throw him into the same containment cell as Jason.
Mysteriously, the disfigured faceless creature appears and does away with Aunt
Harris, and the mad doctor is about to begin brain surgery on Judy. How will
Jason and Abraham escape from their containment, overpower the motorcycle gang,
save Judy, and escape the horror hospital alive? And what is the secret of the
disfigured, faceless creature?
There are a lot of scenes of graphic
- The black sedan decapitates
numerous individuals throughout the movie in bloody fashion.
- A motorcyclist drowns in a
pool of quicksand.
- A bathroom tap drips blood
instead of water.
- Dr. Stormís
"patients" all have large scars on their craniums.
- A motorcyclist is split with
- Dr. Storm is shown
performing surgery while carrying on conversations with his demented
As grim as it all sounds, there is a
thick layer of black humor to the whole thing. For instance in one scene, the
masked motorcyclists are chasing the young heroes through the hospital kitchen,
and one of them stops to eat some of the food, then runs again. Frederick the
dwarf is also a centerpiece of humor, as most midgets are in these films. The
seventies haircuts, sideburns, bellbottoms, and post flower child clothing are
pretty riotous as well (even though these things are all "in" again,
just put on MTV and see!)
The movie does have a few flaws. There
are problems that plague most low budget horror films, like acting quality,
pacing problems, and story structure. One other problem is numerous fight scenes
between our group of young heroes and the masked motorcyclists. These fight
scenes are ridiculously staged, though to be honest its not the fault of the
stuntmen playing the silent cyclists. In fact, it seems the more of these
leather-clad baddies they dispose of, the more jump out to take their place. Itís
like, how many security guys does the crazy Doctor Storm have?
The special effects work is somewhat
primitive by todayís standards of course, but they still look believable. The
surgery scenes themselves are surprisingly tame, with most of it left to the
imagination, with the exception of Dr. Storm removing what appears to be an
occasional vein. The faceless creature is particularly hideous, while not going
overboard in the makeup. Rather, the director lets him linger in the darkness
for most of the movie, for a more mysterious effect.
Director Anthony Balch does a good job
of photographing the film. He uses some angled camerawork and sharp zooms to
give the film some urgency and pacing. Balch does a lot in the sense that he
makes the most of the filmís low budget. Though the movie has some problems
with structure, pacing, and narrative, the filmís overall visual look is
impressive. The filmmakers manage to compensate for the scripts faults by
applying a level of detail and authenticity to the filmís look and tone.
Elite presents HORROR HOSPITAL is itís
original aspect ratio of 1.85.1. Considering the age of this low budget film,
Elite has done a superior job with the transfer. The image is razor sharp.
Colors are vibrantly bright, with the exception of the exterior scenes of the
smoky moors and British hillsides. Contrast and brightness are excellent and
with good shadow detail. What really makes the difference on this transfer are
the deep blacks, since the film displays many shades of black which help create
that authentic, dreary British atmosphere. The numerous blacks also help to
separate the vibrant colors, such as the crimson blood. Flesh tones are a little
pale, but there are always clouds over there (no one has a tan). There is a
scratch here and there on the print but itís nothing to worry about. Grain is
visible, but not distracting; you really have to look for it hard just to detect
it. The eerie looking hospital and the surrounding landscape including the high
walls, the gates, and the architecture all look excellent. The detail level here
is tremendous, and really contributes to the grim vibe of the film. The interior
scenes of the hospital are just as finely detailed and look exquisite. David
McDonaldís cinematography is to be commended, as is Elite who did Mr. McDonaldís
visuals justice with this transfer.
Elite serves up a strong Dolby Digital
Mono 1.0 soundtrack. The mono track has a good range and is not flat at all like
most mono mixes. The highs are crisp and clear, although the lows are almost
nonexistent. The score, the sound effects, and the dialog are well synchronized
and combined make for a good sound mix to support the visuals. I also enjoyed
the driving score. There are also some acid rock themes throughout, but they are
never overpowering. The only negative thing I can say about the audio is that
throughout the first two minutes, some background hissing can be heard (but then
goes away). But that is not going to stop horror fans from picking this one up.
The only extra is the theatrical
trailer (1:02, widescreen 1.85.1, mono) which really only shows one scene from
the movie! The trailer states that the film is being released on a double bill
with THE CORPSE GRINDERS.
This quirky low budget horror/black
comedy may have some flaws, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I usually
donít enjoy movies that are considered horror comedies, but this one is an
exception. Horror fans who are sick of todayís generic teen horror films like
the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID crap and the SCREAM wannabeís should check out this
nasty little film. And Elite does some tremendous work here restoring the
visuals to near mint quality. I always have liked and supported Eliteís recent
DVD efforts, and seeing how they just announced they are going to be doing 16x9
enhanced transfers, they will get only better! The only weak spot on this DVD
are the extras, but it must be nearly impossible to dig up material for a film
as obscure as this one. But chew on this: if an overlooked cult film turns up on
DVD, then it is no longer obscure.
HOSPITAL is available at DVDEmpire
Rating (out of 5):
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