New to Blu: Olive Films: The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) - Reviewed

olive films, barbara steele
New to Blu-ray
Now available on Blu-ray from Olive Films is the masterpiece of Italian gothic horror entitled The Horrible Dr. Hichcock. It is a visual feast of the gothic horror subgenre that demands and deserves more attention, offering up a uniquely dark tale and the smoldering hotness that is the stunning Barbara Steele. The story takes place in 1885 and involves a necrophiliac doctor (Robert Flemyng) who accidently kills his wife (Maria Teresa Vianello) after administering too much of a sleeping drug, which was being used for a funeral style sexual fantasy. He leaves the town and returns seven years later with a new wife (Barbara Steele), only to discover that his old wife survived and has aged terribly. Nefarious plans are afoot for the evil doctor.

The camera work from the combination of director Riccardo Freda and Raffaele Masciocchi is just superb, with nice camera movement and low angled shots that are almost voyeuristic in their placement. There appears to be a deliberate play with horizontal and vertical lines in the scenes, noticing that the camera placement leads to lines being created by the ceiling, doors, furniture, windows, paintings, and other items. The use of candlelight and minimal stage lights creates some wonderful looking shadows cast upon the actors and their surroundings. Freda is often referred to as the mentor for legendary horror director Mario Bava, so it isn’t too surprising that there may be some similarities in the look and style of this compared to Bava’s work. The music from composer Roman Vlad is a good classical orchestral horror score, primarily featuring the sounds of an organ. The sound effects that have been added in are very effective and help build some extra tension in key moments.

The story was written by Ernesto Gastaldi and contains some dark themes for the era, especially the subject of necrophilia. It is somewhat surprising that this was able to get made without any type of censorship because of these themes. The costumes, makeup, and sets are incredible, with the female actors being dressed in incredibly fancy and ornate period dresses. The authentic gothic mansion and other period locations really add to the visual appeal of this production. The mansion is spectacular and it is filled with all kinds of interesting furniture and other props. There is also an underground cavern and a hospital setting, containing a fascinating collection of old operating tools and metal machinery.

The acting is great. Flemyng pulls off the evil doctor with a simple tone in his voice and his facial expressions. Steele is at the height of her sex appeal in this one and while she isn’t vamping it up, she shows an excellent amount of fear portraying the victim. For those who aren’t familiar with the actress, she has a strong cult following amongst horror fans and has appeared in Black Sunday, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Ghost, Castle of Blood, Terror-Creatures from the Grave, Nightmare Castle, and Piranha.

olive films, barbara steele
I'm scared but still sexy.

This is a must see for horror fans, it is a true classic of the gothic horror subgenre.

[Note: The Olive Films release is a truncated version of the film with a running time of 77 minutes. An uncut version is available on DVD with a running time of 87 minutes.]

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-Raul Vantassle