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Case Number 04544: Small Claims Court

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Dr. Hackenstein

Troma // 1988 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 4th, 2004

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All Rise...

It's a good thing this doctor isn't on the preferred provider list for Judge David Johnson's HMO plan.

The Charge

Troma continues to bring long-dead films to life…no matter how far decomposed they are.

The Case

Dr. Eliot Hackenstein (David Muir) is a mad scientist. Obviously. With a name like "Hackenstein" there is little else you can do in this world. ("Hackenstein, for three…GOOD!") Like the dubious mad scientist whose moniker he emulates, Dr. Hackenstein is working in the field of regeneration. He is desperately seeking a way to bring the dead back to life, but for him the stakes are higher than just playing God. His test subject is his deceased wife, of whom he only has her head to work with.

The good doctor has worked out a deal with two local goons, one of which is Anne Ramsey (The Goonies); they grave-rob and bring him the bodies. Using these corpses, Dr. Hackenstein takes a piece here and there to assemble his wife. Just when he is approaching the end of his experiment, and is set to reanimate his wife-thing, he discovers he is a few crucial parts short: a leg, an arm, and the eyes. Add to that, there are no more dead young girls to be exhumed!

Lucky for Dr. Hack, three nubile young women have fallen on some ill fortune (an accident on the road) and have sought shelter in his house for the night. Unable to resist the urge to see his experiment through, he systematically stalks, sedates, and operates on the women.

It's not as easy as it sounds. He must deal with the nosy brother, who has caught on to Dr. Hackenstein's nefarious scheme, as well as hold the inquisitive sheriff at bay. Meanwhile, in a pointless cameo, Phyllis Diller swings by the police station to inquire about her children, who are now in the grasp of Dr. Hackenstein.

Goofiness ensues.

Another day, another Troma movie. Again, this is a repackaged Troma "discovery," not an original studio-produced film, which, in all honesty, I'm beginning to miss. Who doesn't love a trash movie? Usually, with a Troma brand on the disc case, you've a got an excellent chance at seeing some blood, breasts, and general bad taste.

Not so with Dr. Hackenstein. Director Richard Clark attempts to put forth an honest effort, going for straight-up, authentic laughs in his dark comedy. Well, points for trying, but about 12% of the movie is actually intentionally funny and not nearly enough is unintentionally funny.

The film plays more like a zany romp, especially as Dr. Hackenstein pursues the girls. The cheesy music plays and he's sneaking up behind the one girl with his syringe and just before he plunges it into her neck she turns and he hides the needle and smiles sheepishly, as if to say "Oh! Hi, how you doing?" That kind of stuff.

Clark includes some breasts, mainly because I think he felt he absolutely had to, and the gore—primarily Dr. Hackenstein operating off camera as blood is squirted into his face—is minimal (except for a jarring eye-ripping scene toward the end.)

Bottom line: Dr. Hackenstein is a horror comedy that's neither gory nor terribly funny.

Muir, however, is gleeful and psychotic as Dr. Hackenstein. It's just a shame he didn't have funny enough lines to tackle.

For true horror, take a listen to the song at the end credits.

The production overall was pretty slick, particularly for an obvious low-budget movie, and the several recognizable faces (pointless cameos not withstanding) helped elevate the endeavor above a complete film-school feel.

I don't think I've yet seen a Troma widescreen transfer, which is really annoying. The stock used to film Dr. Hackenstein was not very high-grade, reflected in the washed-out, "soap-opera-ish" look. Again, standard issue on Troma releases is a mediocre stereo mix. Two truly awful music videos, some random comedy spots, and a bunch of the same trailers you saw on the last five Troma releases comprise the bonus materials.

With a title like Dr. Hackenstein, I was expecting something cooler than I got. "Dr. Acccchhenstein" is more like it.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 68

Perp Profile

Studio: Troma
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Exploitation
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Music videos
• Trailers
• "How to do an arm rip"
• Tromadance PSA


• IMDb

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