Doctor Storm (Michael Gough) is a crippled, demented genius who has a laboratory where he performs lobotomies on his young patients - making them cooperative, brainless zombies. With the help of Federick (Skip Martin) the dwarf, the 'Bike Boys' and Doctor Storm's infamous decapitating limousine, the new patients are guaranteed all the 'rest' they will ever need.
An axe murder a day keeps the doctor away
- Horror Hospital review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 3
Antony Balch, a sort of cross between Ed Wood and Kenneth Anger, is one of the most unjustly neglected bloody awful directors. Almost unbelievably, this movie is his highest-budget and most professional-looking piece of work. Then again, he only managed to release two feature-length films before his untimely death.
Michael Gough, who back in the day starred in shedloads of incredibly strange films, has said regarding his performance that Balch screened "The Devil Bat" (1940) for him and told him to play the demented Dr. Storm just like Bela Lugosi in that movie, and I think he does a pretty good job. Robin Askwith, the deeply unattractive star of numerous dreadful early seventies soft porn films like "Confessions of a Window Cleaner" (did women genuinely find men like him irresistible back then? I find that very hard to believe!), is his same old unbearably smug self, but for once he manages to come across as a fairly competent actor simply because so many of the cast aren't actors at all; the hunky-in-a-very-seventies-way guy who shows up late on as a completely unnecessary second hero is presumably the director's boyfriend, and most of the smaller rôles are clearly played by anyone Balch knew who fancied being in a movie.
The plot, which was apparently made up in a great hurry after funding had been obtained on the strength of the title alone, involves a mad scientist running a "heath spa" which turns every last one of its guests into radio-controlled lobotomized zombies, apart from the ones who get decapitated in a ludicrously contrived way just because. Naturally, this has been going on for years without anybody noticing. Why does he do it? No coherent explanation is provided for this or anything else.
But ultimately, who cares? This is a woefully inept, utterly chaotic film, yet it's strangely enjoyable. Irrelevant soft-core groping and painfully unconvincing fight scenes that are stretched out way too long to pad the running-time aside, quite a lot happens, none of it remotely plausible, and much of it genuinely surprising due to its sheer randomness. It was obviously a massive influence on "The Rocky Horror Picture Show": at one point, Robin Askwith manages to get beaten up by a drag queen, and there's even a hilariously terrible Spinal Tap-ish band thrown in for no reason at all (some of the director's pals looking for publicity, I assume). It's actually very gory, but in a totally undisturbing way because you don't take any of it seriously for one second. And Skip Martin, who was in even more of these things than Michael Gough because every bad horror movie needs a dwarf, steals it hands down as far and away the most complex and interesting character. Which isn't saying a great deal, but still.
I wanted to give this 2.5 stars but that's not an option, so I'll be generous and award it an extra half-star for not giving a hoot about anything whatsoever, including the actors' ability to act, the director's ability to direct, or the fact that it doesn't involve an actual hospital in any way. Definitely in the "so bad it's good" category, but never mentioned in the usual internet listicles because they just recycle the same old turkeys they can find on other identical sites. Oh, and as insults go, describing somebody as "a lemon meringue pie on heat" is truly inspired!