Uncut, uncensored (and in some cases, uncircumcised), this let-it-all hang out '73 slasher and skeevy love-in is a black comedy along the lines of The Rocky Horror Picture Show — yet, as the moderator in the DVD extras points out, this pic predates that one — without all the singing, dancing, and cool corsetry.
However, there is a madly theatrical, sexual-sadist scientist (played by Michael Gough — Alfred, from the Batman movies), and a lot more horror than Rocky. Skip Martin (Vampire Circus) and Dennis Price (Theater of Blood) have cameos. So, you basically know what you're in for when you see the cast and crew list.
Main cast is Robin Askwith (and with movies with titles like Stand up Virgin Soldiers and Let's Get Laid under his belt, I'm sure even now he doesn't mind "little Robin" being a costar in one rather salacious Horror Hospital scene) and Judy Peters (she might have minded, though… this was her last film) as two young lovers caught in a storm and forced to seek shelter in the proverbial old, dark house. Sure enough, it turns out their host is a devious doctor doing experiments and this couple are the perfect next specimens.
Plot isn't overly important, but there's enough meat on the bare bones to justify the shady shenanigans as the bad doctor's intentions are slowly revealed. Also released under the title of The Computer Killer, Horror Hospital makes Dr. Storm out to be a cool combo of Dr. Frankenstein and (the yet-to-be invented) Dr.s Michael Brace and Michael Brace. He's a great character, and his mini-me sidekick Fredrick (the aforementioned Skip Martin, who was also an incredible Igor in Son of Dracula), is ever better. At the very beginning of the film the two are introduced in a most unforgettable fashion (I won't spoil it!).
While there's a lot to love about Horror Hospital — and the DVD is definitely a must-have for fans of early 70s schlocky-yet-arty fright flicks of the cult variety — it's not perfect. The running time slows to a walk about an hour in, and I'm assuming it was intended for an audience that was either smoking dope, dropping acid, or otherwise open to long, drawn out sequences of strangeness which ultimately lead nowhere. Unlike those poor souls in the drive-in back in the day, we have a fast-forward buttons on our remotes. I hit all the highlights, and didn't miss a beat.
Overall, I have to say Horror Hospital is worth checking out (or checking into, as the case may be). Best things about this new DVD (thank you, thank you, thank you for caring, Dark Sky Films people!) are the restoration, the widescreen aspect ratio (transferred from the original 35mm film), and the amazingly in-depth commentary from producer Richard Gordon (moderated by Tom Weaver). Gordon's a goldmine of info on what it was like to be right in the middle of the active British horror film scene in the late 60s and early 70s. Great stuff!
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson