Monday, September 12, 2011

Doctor Bloodbath (1987)

... aka: Butcher Knife

Directed by:
"Nick Philips" (Nick Millard)

A doctor shows up to a female patient's house, informs her she has an infection from an abortion he gave her, gives her a "vitamin shot" that turns out to be a sedative, carries her into the bathroom, places her in the tub and then stabs her to death with a butcher knife. The killer turns out to be Dr. Roger Thorne (Albert Eskinazi), who runs "Thorne's Pregnancy Counseling Center" (which must be down the road from "Shady Palms Clinic") and seems to have been driven crazy by spending his days terminating pregnancies. His cold, unaffectionate wife Claire (Irmgard Millard) certainly isn't helping matters. While her husband is off at work, Claire is out having an affair with an unemployed Polish poet (!!) who's constantly bumming money off of her. Roger has his nurse / secretary, Mrs. Carmichael (Frances Millard), give him a list of all of the women he's given abortions to in the last month, and sets out to kill them all. He chops the neck of one patient with a cleaver while yelling "Murderer!" at her, stabs one repeatedly with a screwdriver and bashes in the skull of another with a hammer. Detective Lt. David Chandler investigates as the body count increases, but isn't able to trace the killings back to anyone in particular.

Director / writer Millard (billed as "Nick Philips") churned out quite a few porn movies - both softcore and hardcore - in the 60s and 1970s, but also dabbled in several other genres, which resulted in a pair of cheap horror films; the minor camp classic CRIMINALLY INSANE (1973), and the lesser-watched SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING (1974). His career stagnated for around ten years, but then he made a comeback of sorts during the video boom era of the late 80, with a sequel to Criminally Insane (featuring the same star and titled either CRIMINALLY INSANE 2 or CRAZY FAT ETHEL II on video), as well as the spin-off DEATH NURSE, which was followed by its own sequel; DEATH NURSE 2. Despite the fact that all of those films are little more than inept home movies shot with a camcorder, they were amazingly well-distributed. The same cannot be said for Doctor Bloodbath, which was sold via mail order by Incredibly Strange Filmworks and didn't make it out to many video stores. Same goes for the director's CEMETERY SISTERS (1987), which I still haven't been able to find a copy of.

Bloodbath (aka Butcher Knife) features all of the director's trademarks of ineptitude. It's poorly made, full of astoundingly wooden acting and (like every other one of Millard's 80s cheapies) runs less than one hour (57 minutes to be exact), reuses the opening credits from Criminally Insane regardless of the fact none of the actors listed are even in the film and is padded out with footage from several of his earlier films. Since the 70s footage was shot on film and the 80s footage is shot on video, it's hardly a seemless fit. Horribly spliced-in scenes or shots include a close-up of a needle going into an arm, trolleys, cars driving, a few peripheral characters (a maid, detectives, etc.) standing around, graveyard scenes and more. The film reuses many of the same actors and was primarily shot at the same red house as the other 80s movies, as well.

That said, and despite the fact this one doesn't have Priscilla Alden's campy line-delivery to fall back on, dare I say it, but this is actually better than Crazy Fat 2 and Death Nurse. Well, maybe not exactly better, but definitely far more interesting and entertaining. Don't get me wrong, this is still a terrible movie, but it's a little more tasteless, a little bloodier and slightly better made than the others. More care was taken with the videography and Millard seems to have actually paid some attention to the lighting and sound this time out. It also has something of a plot (silly as it may be), a larger cast and not just the same five-six people that are in all of these other movies, and even a few hilariously 'arty' shots of the killer sitting around brooding.

Certain aspects of this film are also just plain bizarre, such as dozens of close-ups of eyeballs blankly staring off into space and the killer twiddling his thumbs over and over again. There are also several abortion sequences that involve a water-filled turkey baster (!) and the doctor fantasizing that he's stabbing a bloody baby doll that must be seen to be believed. The bitchy wife character also has a few memorable moments. When she gets knocked up and abandoned by her lover ("Dirty rotten no good Pollock!"), she turns to her husband to give her an abortion, telling him she cheated because he's inadequate in the sack and that she wants him to "...kill the little bastard before he gets any bigger!"

It's strange. It's crude. It's incompetent. And it accomplishes what Millard's other 80s films do not - breaking past that barrier of brainless and boring into a parallel universe of enjoyable bad movie oddness. Now someone get this hot mess out on DVD pronto!



CavedogRob said...

Great review! Sounds terrible. Can't wait to see it!

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Best of luck finding it! Have you seen any of the director's other films?

Anonymous said...

A new company put out DVDs of some Millard films not too long ago. I think Cemetery Sisters was one of them.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I may have to look into that! Thanks for the info.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I just checked this out and see it's a "25th Anniversary Edition" released by Slasher Video:


Pretty cool new ad art!

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