Friday, February 10, 2012

Mondo Millard: DOCTOR BLOODBATH (1987)

We previously touched upon the chaotic cinematic career of director Nick Millard with SATAN’S BLACK WEDDING (1974).  Even if the man made some truly awful movies, we could always find solace that they were shot on film. So what happens when you remove that tiny aesthetic veneer?  You get something like DOCTOR BLOODBATH.  Yup in the 1980s Millard made the switch to video and proceeded to show the world that the only thing separating CRAZY FAT ETHEL (1975; aka CRIMINALLY INSANE) from BOARDINGHOUSE (1982) was a chemical visit to the darkroom.  It was a move that looked as if Millard stood tall and screamed “I can suck with the best of them” from the streets of San Francisco.

DOCTOR BLOODBATH lets you know right away how things are going to be by opening the credits with the onscreen title BUTCHER KNIFE.  Screw matching the title on the box!  And these aren’t just any old credits, no sir.  Millard reuses the blood smearing credits from ETHEL, even though no one listed in that film is in this film.  The film proper begins with Dr. Roger Thorn (Albert Eskinazi) arriving at the house of a young woman to tell her there has been a complication in her post-abortion tests.  “I didn’t know you made any tests,” she says before letting him inject her, making her obviously not the smartest girl in the world.  She faints, he takes her upstairs into the bathtub, he walks downstairs to get a knife, he walks back upstairs and then he stabs her to death.  Doctor Bloodbath certainly lives up to his name.

Later he arrives home to catch his wife Claire (Irmgard Millard; hey, it rhymes!) just before she leaves for the Garden Club Awards Banquet.  But this crafty chick is actually cheating on him with a Polish poet who lives in downtown San Francisco in a one room apartment.  Wow, talk about trading up.  We’re not quite sure if the good doctor knows this, but he doesn’t really have the time to care because he is busy killing off all of his old abortion patients.  He kills a girl with a meat cleaver, he kills a girl with a screwdriver, and he kills a girl with a hammer.  The cop on the case somehow knows this is all the work of the same guy.  “It’s him. This guy just used a different weapon this time,” he says with perceptive authority.  We also see Thorn perform an abortion where he hallucinates that he is stabbing a bloody baby doll with his butcher knife.  Man, this is some deep stuff.  Things take another dramatic turn when Claire finds out she is pregnant and her lover wants nothing to do with her (“that dirty, rotten no good Pollack” she says) and she asks her husband for an abortion.  He obliges and then kills her in bed the next morning. He then kills the maid (footage from SATAN’S BLACK WEDDING) and then calls the police to confess.  We then get shots of Thorn in a mental asylum.  The end.

And the winner for best supporting unibrow is...
Goddang!  This is the kind of film that defines our tag cinemasochism.  Running just 57 minutes, it felt like it was going on for days.  Like Millard’s shot-on-video CRIMINALLY INSANE 2 (1987), this is about as ugly a film as you can get. No joke, I made better looking videos as a teen.  You get wind whipping the microphone with fervor; there is no music during 99% of the movie; you get choppy editing; the color balance is so off that the blood appears black sometimes; and you get “cinematography” that seems to point out every single flaw on the actors’ faces.  Seriously, lead Eskinazi’s hair between his eyebrows should get a co-starring credit. Even more bizarre is Millard reusing old footage from his other films for the most random stuff.  For example, he uses one shot of a detective from an earlier film just to have a guy say, “We’re all done down here.”  He even tries to wedge Priscilla “Ethel” Alden in crazy house climax by putting in footage from the end of CRAZY FAT ETHEL.  The fact that these inserts were shot on film makes their inclusion stand out even more.  If I were an academic type, I’d theorize Millard is getting all Meta on us.  Alas, I’m just a Vidoe Junkie and know he is one cheap mofo.

Despite the lack of any sort of production values, the film did hold my attention for the simple fact that we once again get to see more of Millard’s troupe in action and visit the Millard’s impressive San Francisco abode.  Eskinazi will be instantly familiar to fans of Millard’s action flicks (he was one of the hitmen in .357 MAGNUM [1977] and the teacher/terrorist in THE TERRORISTS [197?]).  And Millard’s own wife Irmgard was also the female reporter in his one-hour action epic THE TERRORISTS.  Here is the truly amazing scene where she reveals to her lover that she is pregnant.

Fans of Millard’s films will also recognize the interiors of his house that he has used over and over and over in his career.  Hell, the first murder shows Dr. Thorn walking up the stairs past that familiar rug thing hanging on the wall. Then he drives to his own home and his wife comes down the exact same stairs.  Even funnier to me was a nurse walking into a room that is supposed to be the doctor’s office and I spot the bullet holes in the door from his magnum opus .357 MAGNUM (1977).  Classic!  Like the interior of his home, Millard doesn’t seem to have changed much as we jump from one decade to the next.  I’m willing to bet those filled in bullet holes are still there and for that, I love him.



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