Monday, 7 September 2009

L'ORRIBLE SEGRETO DEL DR.HICHCOCK/The Terror of Dr.Hichcock (1962)

The first time I saw this film was on a dreadful VHS copy that was so badly cut that it was quite incoherent. I really wondered if it deserved its reputation as one of the best Italian horror films of the 1960s. To see a good DVD copy of what, by the title, I take to be the English release print leads me to say that it certainly deserves its reputation. Italian Gothic often look good and Riccardo Freda's film is no exception but it is also very well directed and Freda seems much more capable of telling a story than some of his contemporaries. Freda's directions gives us one of Barbara Steele's best performances and she looks gorgeous with those amazing eyes highlighted by lashes that must be at least an inch long. Of course, much of the film's reputation also rests on its somewhat perverse subject. Dr.Hichcock likes his females dead and cold and his wife is happy to indulge his little sexual peculiarities by allowing herself to be injected with an experimental anaesthetic which renders her corpse like before sex. Hichcock, seeking something more closely resembling a corpse, accidentally overdoses and she seemingly dies. Twelve years pass and the Doc is back with his new bride (Miss Steele) who soon starts hearing strange noises and seeing ghostly figures in the garden...and does the sinister housekeeper really have her mad sister locked up ? Freda gives his subject the full Gothic treatment with billowing curtains, screams in the night, black cats, thunder and rain, lightning flashes and a superior score by Roman Vlad. Not least of the film's plus points is the performance by English actor Robert Flemyng as Dr.Hichcock - just melodramatic enough for the subject but subtle enough to make the character more rounded and believable that the average mad doctor. He conveys Hichcock's mounting sexual frustration (at one point he attempts to have sex with a corpse in the hospital but is interrupted) at not being able to indulge his necrophila quite superbly. This is obviously a much better vehicle for his talents than the dire THE BLOODBEAST TERROR where he took on the role at the last minute to replace Basil Rathbone. All in all Freda's film is an excellent, even outstanding, example of the Italian horror film. Rating ****

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Ain't she sumpin'!!!