Color, 1973, 91 mins.

Directed by Anthony Balch

Starring Michael Gough, Robin Askwith, Vanessa Shaw, Ellen Pollock, Skip Martin, Dennis Price, Kurt Christian, Barbara Wendy / Produced by Richard Gordon / Cinematography by David McDonald / Music by De Wolfe

Letterboxed (1.85:1) / Dolby Digital Mono

Format: DVD - Elite Entertainment (MSRP $29.95)

An obvious, gory attempt to cash in on the success of the British Dr. Phibes films, Horror Hospital (also known as Computer Killers and Doctor Bloodbath) never musters up that same level of wit or twisted violence, but it certainly does try. Besides, any film offering a hammy lead role to horror veteran Michael Gough (now best known as Alfred in the Batman movies) is always worth a look.

Two escapees from a local hospital stumble down a lonely country road. Their heads are bloodily bandaged, and their torn clothes show signs of a violent struggle. A sleek car pulls up behind them, and the passenger in the back seat intones, "Make a clean job of it; after all, we just washed the car." Lo and behold, a blade springs out from the side of the automobile and lops off the escapees' heads. Thanks to a handy basket, the wicked doctor manages to catch the heads and decides to hold on to them for safekeeping. Shift gears now to Jason (Robin Askwith), a stereotypical early '70s mod rocker who decides to go to the country for a little R&R. On the train he meets the lovely Judy (Vanessa Shaw), niece of the eccentric Aunt Harris (Ellen Pollock). Jason and Judy strike up an immediate rapport and wind up staying at the hospital owned by Aunt Harris' husband, Dr. Storm (Gough). Unfortunately, it seems Dr. Storm has taken to brain noodling with his visitors, and the young couple may very well be next on the list.

Filled with mordant black humor and largely inconsequential killings, including an appearance from Dennis Price (Venus in Furs, Kind Hearts and Coronets) solely designed for a sick, gory laugh, Horror Hospital certainly delivers as a party movie. In the tradition of Psychomania, the lucky viewer also gets some '70s motorbikers and lots of outrageous hairstyles. Not to be taken seriously for one second, this gory cult item definitely won't appeal to the mainstream but should find more acceptance among devotees of European black humor.

Long unavailable on video after a brief, mediocre release on VHS from MPI, Horror Hospital looks much better on DVD than anyone could have possibly expected. The 1.85:1 framing looks balanced, removing only a sliver of extraneous information from the top and bottom while adding much to the sides, and the color and richness of detail are excellent for an early '70s British title. Somehow it's just perverse that this film looks so smooth and gorgeous while similar films like Theater of Blood and the Phibes films remain unavailable on DVD at all! The disc also includes the original trailer, which contains only one quick snippet of actual movie footage and mostly consists of some amusing voiceover hyperbole.

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