Most people get a little nervous when they have to go to the doctor—but horror fans have more reason than anyone else. With the release of Pathology – a film about demented med students—coming up next month, I got to thinking about all the psychopathic, murderous, or just plain “not right” doctors we’ve seen throughout the history of horror movies. Let’s face it, there have been quite a few docs up on the silver screen who had no business getting past med school (unless it’s that Evil Medical School that Dr. Evil went to). Anyhow, here are ten nutjobs who give new meaning to the word “sawbones”…
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I’m thinking in particular here of the orb-like, white-faced Marlon Brando version of the character. Complete with off-putting primordial dwarf sidekick, Dr. Moreau is living proof that those old margarine commercials were right all along: It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. It’s also not nice to recommend that anyone watch this movie. (With the notable exception of the Fairuza Balk belly-dancing sequence. To quote the island’s residents, “Rrreoww rreoww!”)
When it comes to sadists, dentists win hands down over all the rest. Why else would someone get into a field where they take sharp objects to people’s mouths on a daily basis? And in this category, Steve Martin’s demented tooth-driller from 1986’s musical adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors takes the cake. Although, honorable mention has to go to Corbin Bernsen in the 1996 camp classic The Dentist.
He may be a well-meaning chap, but Logan—or as his friends call him, “Dr. Frankenstein”—is without question nuttier than a fruitcake. I’m no expert on medical ethics, but there has to be some rule somewhere against intentionally feeding human flesh to zombies. Even zombies as adorably endearing as Bub. And his ghoulish experiments strike me as somewhat inhumane, despite the fact that zombies aren’t really human.
I know I’ll probably catch major heat for not including Dr. Frankenstein on this list, but hear me out. One of my unwritten rules is not to include more than one character from a specific film or franchise. That said, we’re faced with two luney MDs from the Frankenstein movies. And quite frankly, when it comes to wackos, Bride’s Pretorius makes Dr. Frankenstein look like Dr. Phil.
In one of film’s most thoroughly unwatchable sequences, Hellraiser II’s Dr. Channard hands a scalpel to a delusionary patient and looks on as he fillets himself. He purposely seeks out the Cenobites in order to become one of them, and then becomes the most evil and twisted of them all, dispatching a room full of crazies—all the while spouting awful doctor-related puns.
Vincent Price is perfect as the hammy title character in both The Abominable Dr. Phibes and the aptly named Dr. Phibes Rises Again. He also had the record for worst movie haircut until Javier Bardem stole his coveted crown. Hmmm. A doctor who kills other doctors. Too bad Phibes wasn’t a lawyer.
Dr. Evan Rendell may be the name on his diploma, but we’ll always know Larry Drake’s character better by the title of his movie. An HMO’s worst nightmare, Dr. Rendell dispatches patients before they have a chance to pay (much like Weird Al Yankovic in his classic “Like a Surgeon”). And if there’s any doubt, the movie’s tagline said it all: “The doctor is in…sane.”
He’s been played by a total of 49 different actors—including the likes of Udo Kier, Kirk Douglas, John Malkovich, Michael Caine, Anthony Perkins, Jack Palance, Leonard Nimoy and David Hasselhoff. But the classic cinematic portrayals by John Barrymore, Fredric March and Spencer Tracy stand out from all the rest. I’ve always preferred March’s Oscar-winning turn the best—a performance that pulls off the miracle of being simultaneously charismatic and repulsive.
Not yet a doctor, but certainly a very promising medical student. After all, anyone who manages to bring the dead back to life is bound to be booked solid once he starts up his practice. Still, as with most movie doctors who revive dead people, the results are not especially pleasant. Especially for poor Megan, whose ordeal gives new meaning to the term “dead head”.
and finally, the most batsh*t crazy horror movie doctor of them all….
An appreciation for fine arts. A keen analytical mind. An overly acute olfactory sense. And a taste for properly prepared human organ meat. Dr. Lecter is so far beyond insane that he seems to be operating on another level entirely from the rest of humanity. He’s not evil so much as a force of nature, a heightened life form that exists to thin out the herd every now and then. As much as we fight it, it’s just hard not to like the guy. That is, unless you were one of his patients, then you might not be so fond of him. Of course, it would be tough to express that opinion with your lips chewed off.
Read more opinions on the world of horror, plus news and other interesting stuff, on Brian’s daily blog The Vault of Horror. This week’s highlights include a look at classic space monsters, a rundown of Asian horror cinema, and a fond recollection of first discovering The Return of the Living Dead.- By Brian Solomon