Monday, October 4, 2010

Horror Hospital (1973)

Micheal Gough isn't exactly a stranger to genre fair. A veteran actor whose credits include the pre Nolan "Batman" films (he was Alfred), as well as several Tim Burton films ("Sleepy Hollow" and "Alice in Wonderland"), films from Derek Jarman and Ken Russell and episodes of "Pride and Prejudice" and "The Avengers." His genre credits are numerous-"Dr. Terror's House of Horrors", "Horror of Dracula" and "Horrors of the Black Museum" for example, all had him-and had the same word in their title. Well, you can also add Antony Balch's "Horror Hospital" as another horror film starring the man.

60's rocker Jason Jones (Robin Askwith) is a man who needs a break. So, what better than a Countryside retreat to relax? Well, there's a bit of a catch though-the place is run by one Dr. Christian Storm (Gough), who seems be up to something. Of course he is, since this is a movie called "Horror Hospital", and as it turns out, he's got his plans set on his niece Judy (Judy Peters), our hero, and anyone else who comes by. As it turns out, he's been doing some experiments that turn the inmates into computer controlled zombie killers.

Though it runs into some problems (most of the performances are bland), "Horror Hospital" is a fun piece of anything goes camp filled with bent sex appeal (gratuitous female nudity, leather clad biker boys), bloody violence, off the wall humor, a dwarf assistant named Fredrick (Skip Martin), zombies, a monster, and so much more. In some ways, the film could almost be described as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" with a bit more bloodshed, no transvestites and no musical numbers. Hell, Dr. Storm's home practically resembles the Frank N' Furter castle!

Adding up to all of it is a really enjoyable performance from Gough, who makes for a villain whose both menacing and amusing. While most actors would play the character of Dr. Storm with camp histrionics, Gough manages to find the right balance, making the character a believable villain while clearly having fun with the material.

I can't say that "Horror Hospital" will be everyone's cup of tea, but those who enjoy oddball British Horror will be sure to lap this all up.

Rating: 8/10
Apart from this, director Antony Balch also made the offbeat sex comedy "Bizzare." Also worthy of note are his collaborations with author William S. Burroughs, including "William Buys a Parrot", "Bill and Tony", "Towers Open Fire" and "The Cut Ups."

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