Monday, September 12, 2011

Death Nurse 2 (1988)

Directed by:
"Nick Philips" (Nick Millard)

Picking up right where DEATH NURSE (1987) left off, a detective discovers the corpse of elderly social worker Faith Chandler (Frances Millard, methinks) in the garage of the Shady Palms Clinic. As he attempts to enter the home, he's immediately greeted by hefty nurse Edith Mortley's (Priscilla Alden) butcher knife. Despite recent attention from police officers investigating multiple disappearances and health inspectors wanting to shut them down because of a rat infestation and strange odors emanating from the basement, Edith and her murderous doctor brother Gordon (Albert Eskinazi) decide to keep their usual routine going. And by usual routine, I mean killing their patients for the insurance money and then feeding them to the rats. Or as Edith puts it, "It's good business Gordon. The patients eat the rats and the rats eat the patients." Yes, the deadly duo also save money on food by feeding their patients either rats or human remain "stew." Meanwhile, a cop decides to start utilizing the Shady Palms facility to get some scum off of the streets.

First up is knife-wielding, dumpster-diving indigent "alky" Brownie (Irmgard Millard). She doesn't last too long after she pulls a knife on Edith for threatening to take away her beloved brown bag o' hooch. Edith stabs her a bunch of times and sticks her in the basement, but Brownie isn't quite dead yet. She sneaks back upstairs, stabs Gordon and then is finally taken out with about a dozen blows to the back with a meat cleaver. Edith puts Gordon on bed rest, and goes about her business while he sits in bed acting depressed for the rest of the film. Their next patient is a mentally-ill, "self-stylized philosopher" named Mischa Brudinsky (played by the same actor who played the "Polish poet" in the same team's DOCTOR BLOODBATH). Mischa constantly screams out his long, ultra-conservative and incomprehensible political rants, thinks the income tax should be abolished and lives in fear that this country will turn into a socialist nation. What the hell? Is this suddenly turning into some kind of political statement? Who knows, but I must admit that I laughed when Edith pulled out her freshly-sharpened cleaver and started chopping him up after he yelled "Capitalism is good!" at her.

We discover that the siblings aren't even actually what they claim to be. Edith was thrown out of nursing school before graduation because of her bad behavior and is thus not even officially a nurse, and Gordon is just a veterinarian who would have preferred to have been a surgeon. Faith's twin sister Charity (also played by Frances Millard, who talks kind of like Edith Massey) pops in looking for her missing sister and promptly files a police report because of Edith's suspicious behavior. When the fuzz start breathing down her neck, our beloved death nurse attempts to cover the smell by throwing lime on the corpses, but it's all for naught. Rats have carried human tissue samples out onto their front lawn and the police have already discovered them and had them analyzed. Director Millard shows up at the very end as copper Sgt. Dave Gallagher to reveal the bad news and put the kibosh on Edith and Gordon's future activities.

Possibly behind only Jerry Warren, Millard may actually be one of horror cinema's thriftiest filmmakers, seeing as how he managed to slap together a half dozen 80s horror features using next to no money, a consumer grade camcorder, his friends and family as 'actors' and a bare minimum of new footage. Here, he again liberally recycles scenes from both CRIMINALLY INSANE (1973) and SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING (1974); passing them off as Edith's nightmares. Since this is a follow-up, he's also able to pad things out even further by including clips from the first Death Nurse to help push the run-time up to a paltry 60 minutes. Again, there's a new title card for the film, but the same credits from Criminally Insane are re-run. The music from that film is also reused. It's set in the same exact Pepto Bismol-colored San Francisco house the other movies are set in, features most of the same 'actors' from the other movies and features the same aluminum-foil-covered weapons for the close-up hacking / stabbing scenes. There are countless zoom shots, many close-ups of Edith's scowling face and numerous scenes of people sitting, sleeping, lounging on a couch or walking through the house that never seem to end.

Criminally Insane, Satan's Black Wedding and CRAZY FAT ETHEL II (1987) were all released together on one DVD, but none of Millard's other 80s genre efforts have been. Both Death Nurse films were released on VHS by the obscure company The Incredibly Strange Filmworks.

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!


La settima tomba (1965)

... aka: Seventh Grave, The

Directed by:
"Finney Cliff"
(Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo)

Extremely-rare and long-forgotten; this Italian horror / mystery (with a very old-fashioned 'old dark house' plot) has never been officially released to DVD or VHS. A murky bootleg copy which appears to have been videotaped off a TV screen some time during the 80s is sadly all that's available at the moment (though some custom English subtitles [thanks "NIKKO!"] are at least attached). Though I wish I could say that this is some kind of unjustly neglected gem that doesn't deserve its obscurity, it really isn't. Plot-wise, the film is dull and highly predictable, it's stagy and talky, it's very tame even for its era, the cast is pretty forgettable and there's next to nothing in the way of visual style or atmosphere (one aspect known to at least partially redeem some of these older, poorly-written [or poorly-dubbed] b/w European cheapies). Also somewhat disappointing is that much of the horror content is either a smokescreen for other goings-on or, as in the case of a woman temporarily speaking in a dead man's voice, not even followed up on.

Things begins as three Americans; brothers Robert ("John Anderson") and Fred ("John Day" / Gianni Dei) Jenkins, and Robert's lover Mary ("Kateryn Schous"), show up via stagecoach in 'Old Scotland.' They stop by the Rooster Inn for dinner, agree to give a ride to a young barmaid ("Germaine Gesny") who works there (she's the owner's daughter and headed to the same destination) and go to Nofis Castle for the reading of a will. The castle's former owner, scientist Sir Reginald Thorne, had passed away three years earlier, and his assistant, Dr. Quick, apparently went mad with leprosy and has been institutionalized ever since. But hey, the place used to belong to Sir Francis Drake and rumor has it there's a treasure hidden somewhere on the premises. Worth risking your life for, eh?

Upon arriving, the three Americans meet up with three other heirs; Colonel Percival ("Gordon Mac Winter"), his psychic daughter Katryn ("Stephany Nelly" / Stefania Nelli) and clergyman Parson Krabb ("Richard Gillies"), as well as notary Bill Elliot ("Fernand Angels" / Nando Angelini), who's in charge of reading the will, and groundskeeper Patrick ("Edward Barret"). As they await the arrival of yet another heir (who never shows up because she's been dead for several months), everyone decides to have a séance. This sequence, with everyone seated in a circle around a table linking hands, is easily the best-directed scene in the entire film and utilizes both different camera angles and (gasp!) actual camera movement.

Soon after the séance, a killer dressed in a cloak and top hat, who may or may not have been resurrected from the dead, shows up and starts bumping people off. We learn that Sir Reginald was a murderous mad scientist type who needed blood for his experiments (and whose corpse has strangely disappeared from its tomb), and it's also revealed that a now-possibly-disfigured Dr. Quick has managed to escape from the asylum and is probably lurking the grounds. Police detective Martin Wright ("Armand Warner") shows up to investigate after several people turn up dead. The title refers to the fact that Reginald's body occupies the seventh spot in the family crypt.

If you're not expecting too much, this is all mildly watchable, I suppose. It's short (clocking in at just 73 minutes) and the film has a pretty haunting music score with usage of Theremin and organ. The sets (including crypts, secret passageways and a laboratory) are sufficient, though unimpressive, and because of the horrible quality of the print I watched, the film has lots of overly bright or overly dark sequences. Not that I hold that against the film or anything, but even in pristine condition, this wouldn't rise above mediocrity. It's certainly not up to par with other Italian productions from the same era.

I'm not familiar with anyone in the cast aside from a young Gianni Dei (who'd later appear in GIALLO IN VENICE, PATRICK STILL LIVES and other sleazy genre flicks) and since the names in the credits have all been Anglicized, it's impossible to track down their true identities. Ditto for much of the crew, and the director doesn't seem to have made anything else.

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