Paul Scrabo // 2003 // 135 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // December 3rd, 2005
It's everything you expect in a B movie, but not the way you expect it.
The above statement is only partially true. Modern B movies quite often showcase bad acting, writing, and direction, as does this movie. However, modern B movies also quite often showcase copious amounts of sex and violence, which this movie most certainly does not. And there's the rub.
After losing 500 bucks at the track, washed-up horror movie writer Frank (Michael R. Thomas, Spiderbabe) finds himself in desperate need of cash. Frank's old buddy Conrad (Conrad Brooks, Plan 9 From Outer Space), a former Saturday afternoon creature feature host, hatches a scheme to come up with the money. Passing himself off as a sex therapist named Dr. Horror, Frank doles out advice to a hapless trio of sexual malcontents. First up is Valerie (Debbie Rochon, Tromeo and Juliet), who cannot keep a man in her life regardless of how hard she tries. Next we have Ashley (Nathan Sears), who fears he is about to marry the wrong woman and has a tendency to become apoplectic whenever he sees a lesbian. Rounding out this group of losers-at-love is Mark (Trent Haaga, Tales from the Crapper), who seems to be in therapy just so he can hook up with loose women. Things go great for Frank and Conrad until Dr. Horace (Robert Collins), the real sex therapist, decides to make an appearance.
I'm going to get nostalgic for a minute so bear with me. Remember when there were quality B movies? I thinking of some of the old Roger Corman flicks, or movies such as the original Narrow Margin; you know, the kind of movies where you went in hoping for a passable time-killer, but in the end you were genuinely entertained. Maybe it's just me, but old school B movies no longer seem to exist. These days studios are pumping over a hundred million bucks into movies that in the past would have been shot in two days for about ten grand, thus turning B pics into event and tent pole flicks (not that I really have a problem with this, as is evidenced by the number of Michael Bay and Tony Scott movies in my collection). Then there's the pseudo-exploitation end of the spectrum, in which mindless gore and softcore porn flicks are viewed as the B pics of today (not that I really have a problem with this, as is evidenced by my reviews of Lust Connection and Lust in Space). What irks me is the notion that anyone with access to a digital video camera, an empty basement, and enough friends to fill out the cast is working in the realm of B movies. I don't buy that. If you're looking for a letter to describe the no-budget works of delusional, no-talent dumbasses, you need to go to the other end of the alphabet. Okay, so where am I going with this? Uh, I forgot. Oh, yeah, now I remember -- Dr. Horror's House of Erotic Idiots sucks.
Director Paul Scrabo (who also co-wrote the script to Dr. Horror's with crappy movie goddess Brinke Stevens) has said he set out to make an affectionate send-up of/homage to the low budget, independent, direct-to-video fare of today. He has also said this flick was influenced by the films of Blake Edwards and the Marx Brothers. Okay, let me think about that for a minute. Nope, I don't see it. Sure, Dr. Horror's is meant to be a comedy, but it isn't funny. Not in the least. A send-up should be smarter than the films it pokes fun at, but that isn't the case here. Dr. Horror's is just as dumb as (if not dumber than) any other piece of direct-to-video junk you'll run across. (Come to think of it, why would anyone even try to make a send-up of such movies? Aren't you better off poking fun at movies that take themselves too seriously?)
The fact that this movie doesn't feature gratuitous gore or nudity is supposed to be a joke in itself. Think about it -- the supporting cast is peppered with booby-movie stalwarts, including Barbara Joyce (Satan's School for Lust), Ruby Larocca (Mummy Raider), Rachel Robbins (Vampire Lesbian Kickboxers), Tina Krause (Vampire Vixens), and Jasi Cotton Lanier (Vampire Call Girls). These women are known for revealing their assets, but here they all remain fully clothed. See, you would expect them to disrobe, but they don't. Get it? Come on, that alone is supposed to be funny? Well, it's not. I don't want to see these women "acting" fully clothed any more than I want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel in a production of I'm Not Rappaport. And Scrabo suggests the title is a jab at all of those cheap movies that toss in lesbian scenes simply to secure a distribution deal. I don't find that funny, either. (Scrabo calls it a joke; I call it false advertising.)
This movie is also a good forty minutes longer than any other piece of direct-to-video junk you'll run across. And it's slow as molasses. Scrabo name-dropped Blake Edwards and the Marx Brothers, but I'm wondering if he's actually seen any of their work. Look at the pacing and running times of those films. Those movies are tight, with zero wasted space. The gags in those movies, both verbal and visual, fly across the screen at breakneck speed. Unfortunately, Scrabo's movie just sits there; there's no momentum. The jokes are all telegraphed well ahead of time, and the punchlines fall flat. There's no need for this movie to go on and on and on and on past the eighty minute mark, but it does. (Somebody check for me -- do I owe Freddie Mercury ten bucks for using that last line?) Honestly, you could pop this flick in, watch about ten minutes, fall asleep for twenty minutes, and wake up having missed absolutely nothing. In fact, there's a pretty good chance the same scene will still be unfolding! Given that Scrabo shot the movie on digital video and mastered it on Digi-Beta, I'm assuming he used some sort of editing software to cut the movie. If I were him, I'd return the software, use the refund to purchase a chainsaw, and then take another pass at editing the flick.
This should come as no surprise, but when it comes to the cast, Debbie Rochon comes off best. She's been doing this long enough to know exactly what this type of material calls for. Everyone else pretty much blows. Conrad Brooks stumbles on his lines so much he comes across like a one-legged man in a sack race. (I'm not sure what that means, but it's all I got.) Brooks is like Shatner on Quaaludes. Compared to Brooks, Shatner looks like he cut his teeth working with Howard Hawks. Trent Haaga is essentially a non-entity. Michael R. Thomas should stick to doing Misty Mundae flicks, because at least then nobody will be paying any attention to him. And get this -- Nathan Sears is a Wal-Mart employee who was hired simply because the shirt his character wears was his size! If that's not an indication of the quality of work that went into the production of this movie, I don't know what is.
As I mentioned earlier, this movie was shot on digital video. For the most part the image looks good, but there are numerous shots in which macroblocking, smearing, and artifacts are visible. The stereo soundtrack is rarely called upon to convey anything other than dialogue, but too often the dialogue sounds canned; it's fairly obvious as too which scenes were looped, and the bits of narration dropped into the film have been mixed at too low a level. The only extra included on this release is a documentary entitled That's Independent!. This doc starts off as a loving look at low-budget independent filmmaking (including the early days of 8 millimeter and the VHS boom, as well as today's digital productions), then awkwardly segues into a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots. To be honest, I would have preferred the doc stick with the historical angle, as that material easily trumps what you'll find in the second half. (Scrabo sprinkles in footage of some old Chuck Jones-inspired animated shorts he created, and I think he'd have been better off had he stuck to cartoons. He gently chides these shorts in his narration, but I think they showed promise.)
Oh, wait, I forgot to mention the musical number. Yeah, you're right. We'll be better off if I don't talk about it.
Nowhere near as entertaining as the movies it purportedly satirizes and/or pays homage to, Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots is a love letter best left unread.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Paul Scrabo
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* That's Independent! Documentary Feature