Scorpion Releasing // 1973 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 22nd, 2010
He's a specialist in his field!
And his field is terror!!!!
Fred just lost his wife and there's no way he can handle the grief. He's desperate to bring her back from the grave, no matter what. He tries psychics, séances, and even demands the cemetery gravedigger keep her crypt unlocked (for whatever creepy reason, the less we know about that the better). Surprisingly, none of it works.
Then he meets Doctor Death (John Considine), a charismatic showman with awesome eyebrows who has mastered the ability to transfer souls from living people into corpses. Needless to say this appeals to Fred, who we've already established has some serious coping issues. But this business deal may not be what Fred bargained for. Huh. Turns out a guy named "Doctor Death" that sucks out souls is a shifty character
Not so sure about this one. John Considine is pretty awesome and the soul-sucking gimmick is halfway interesting, but this movie just can't escape its pervasive insipidness. For example:
Fred is nuts
He's supposedly the one we're rooting for, though it's hard to back anything this guy does. He's upset by his wife's death. I get it. But at some point you just need to grieve responsibly and move on as best you can with your life. Fred? He embarks on all manner of desperate and disturbing occult practices (my favorite: the séance where it takes a moment for him to realize the voice of his dead wife is actually coming from a woman standing behind a curtain) until landing on the most desperate and disturbing of all: Doctor Death.
Fred is cool with the fact that Doctor Death is a mass murderer
DD makes no effort to hide this fact. He gladly spills the beans to Fred, while they talk about resurrecting the body of his dead wife. Doctor Death is over 1,000 years old and, in his first incarnation, he discovered a way to suck out his own soul and transfer it into the body of another human. So that's what he's done for centuries, murdering and soul-sucking, murdering and soul-sucking, murdering and soul-sucking. Fred: Where do I sign up?
Even if the soul transfer works, what's the upside?
Because in the best of outcomes, here's what Fred has to look forward to: the lukewarm corpse of his wife, inhabited by the spirit of a bound and gagged stranger. How about you take out an ad on Craigslist instead, Fred?
The special effects are...special
Maybe "quaint" is more politically correct. The go-to effect is the handy superimposing, whether it's a scary skull on the face of a woman, or the eerie flames on the head of the poor schmuck that got a face full of Doctor Death's alien acid blood.
The DVD: a very nice looking 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer; Dolby Digital mono; audio commentary with John Considine; and interviews with Considine and (for some reason) his son.
One masterful, scenery-chewing performance and lots of stupidity. That's Doctor Death.
It's a guilty pleasure, but still guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated R