Starting at age 16, Alicia Terrón (Maribel Martín - THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED) began suffering from severe back pain, which was first diagnosed as rheumatic arthritis but then led to her paralysis and confinement in a wheelchair. Her father (Adrián Ortega) has already taken her to all of the best specialists in the world but thus far no one's been able to help. Six years have passed since they first started their journey and, now desperate, he turns to the highly unorthodox Clínica de Recuperación in Los Angeles. The facility is a huge recovery clinic located out in the middle of nowhere that seems to cater mostly to the rich, powerful and elite and is run by the peculiar and shady Dr. Bustos (Narciso Ibáñez Menta). He tells the father to leave Alicia there for 15 days and by then he'll have a good idea whether or not they'll be able to cure her.
Alicia settles in and initially enjoys the fact the clinic is bright, scenic and doesn't have that stuffy, depressing, bleak feel that most hospitals do. She's quickly befriended by a young blind man name Daniel Gutierrez (Tony Isbert). Seven years earlier, Daniel lost his fiancée Charo (Loreta Tovar) in a car crash just a few days before they were to wed. While witnessing the accident, he briefly closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he could no longer see. He tells Alicia that since he's been there, he's regained his sight briefly a couple of times, so there may be hope for her as well.
The clinic is staffed entirely with greedy, jealous, miserable and highly immoral people who constantly bicker about money, therapy techniques and other slights. Dr. Bustos and his colleagues, Dra. Vázquez (Mónica Randall) and Dr. Mestre ("Henry Gregor" / Heinrich Starhemberg, also one of the executive producers), take most of the money off the top but it isn't being split to everyone's satisfaction. Bustos gets more than the others (it's his clinic after all), which has some of the others bitter and plotting against him. Vázquez, who is having an affair with Mestre, can't even enjoy sex without seething about their pay. There's a lot of gossip about the clinic as well and Bustos worries about negative publicity hurting their bottom line. He and his colleagues are desperate to come up with a miracle cure for any of their ailing patients.
Alicia begins to suspect sinister things are afoot there. For starters, she keeps hearing sounds (footsteps, screams, sinister laughter...) coming from the second floor, which the staff claim is uninhabited and not being used. Second, she's made her fear of the dark well known, yet someone sneaks into her room while she's sleeping and turns off her light. And then there's the mysterious death of the wealthy Blanca (Estela Delgado), who is happy and cheerful one day and then being hauled out on a stretcher the next. During her first examination, Bustos tells Alicia their plans to cure her will never work if she has the wrong mindset and that "It is essential that you blindly trust us." Never a good sign!
The horrors continue as Alicia thinks she sees a dead man standing over her bedside and is led into a room (by a dog) where she sees Blanca's corpse on a bed, which is gone when the staff goes to investigate. This all turns out to be part of Bustos' new medical technique called "Terror Therapy." His hypothesis is that certain medical conditions can be cured by creating extreme states of fear and panic, which will send extremely intense currents through the nervous system and thus, like a light switch, flip back on their abilities to see, walk, etc. Dr. Vázquez is in full opposition to all this and threatens to report him to the medical board, but she soon vanishes, and then a series of murders follows.
There's an attempting drowning when someone pushes Alicia's wheelchair into a pool, hallucinations, some grave robbing, an induced heart attack, threatening phone calls, an axe decapitation and a head bashed in with a crowbar. A victim is placed in their car and sunk in a lake, but then the car disappears. Daniel is up at all hours of the day and night wandering the corridors and sneaking upstairs, where he gradually explores the contents in various padlocked rooms, which include skeletons, horror props, coffins, rubber bats and dead bodies (both real and fake). The finale features double crosses, faked deaths, more murders and lots and lots of paranoia and plot twists.
With over a dozen genre credits, Klimovsky is likely the second most prolific Spanish horror director of the 1970s, behind only the impossibly prodigious Jess Franco. I actually went on a Klimovsky bender when I first started this blog, so I have reviews for most of his work up (still need to do screen caps for most of them, though) and, by my estimation, he's sometimes good and sometimes average. None of his films are downright awful, but none of them are superlative either. My favorites have been THE DRACULA SAGA (1972), I HATE MY BODY (1974) and STRANGE LOVE OF THE VAMPIRES (1975), but his two most viewed films - the Paul Naschy vehicles THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN (1971) and VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1973) - are really on the lower end of the spectrum. This one joins those.
While nearly all of Klimovsky's other 70s horror films received decent international distribution, this one did not. It was barely released in Spanish theaters (posters appear to be trying to falsely market it as a sexy film when there is barely even any nudity in it) and I've found no evidence of any kind of legitimate home video release anywhere in the world, though the version I viewed was clearly taken from an ancient VHS copy. Sad to say, it's easy to see why this one's been allowed to slip through the cracks over the years. While competently made and well-acted, it fails to generate much excitement, is presented in a visually flat, unimaginative manner and the mystery elements aren't particularly interesting. In short, there's absolutely nothing memorable going on here. Having just watched the film, I also have no clue what the significance of that ambiguous title is.