With a title like Doctor Blood’s Coffin, I was expecting something cheesier than the film offered; it was closer to melodramatic thriller than full blown horror, and kept the body count relatively low. Hell, the title wasn’t even being lurid for the hell of it – the character’s actual name was Peter Blood, and he was a real doctor. So I guess his decision to turn to mid-century horror movie mad science was probably for the best; it’s not like anyone is going to go to a chiropractor or podiatrist named Doctor Blood.
Anyway, the movie’s OK. Shaving 10-15 minutes from the runtime and/or adding another kill scene couldn’t hurt – there really isn’t a lot of meat on its bones, rendering its 91 minute length a bit excessive. They could have had a lot of fun with the idea of constantly asking former resident/poorly named doctor to help out on the deaths he himself was committing, but there are less than a handful of them over the course of the movie. And the only cop in town starts to suspect him around the halfway point anyway (though not as quickly as he should, considering his name is DOCTOR BLOOD), so there’s not enough to it to warrant making up for the movie’s dull spots.
It’s funny how the composer took it upon himself to make things more exciting though. During a transplant scene near the end, Doctor Blood just calmly does his thing, and the camera isn’t really moving much or anything – but if you shut your eyes and listen to the score, you’d swear you were listening to an incredibly tense chase scene or something. I mean, the whole movie is coming down to him trying this surgery – obviously SOMETHING’s going to happen, so there’s not really much excitement in seeing the process. And that’s part of the problem with the movie – it’s a Frankenstein tale where the monster doesn’t awake until the final 5 minutes.
In fact, it actually works more as a tragic romance, since Blood falls for a woman who (spoiler) was married to the guy he is trying to resurrect. Obviously if his experiment works, he will probably lose his new girlfriend in the process – an angle I wish they explored more, but instead save the resurrection of the guy for the final sequence, when it’s too late for any sort of quirky character stuff like that. I propose a remake where the dead guy is resurrected at the end of the 2nd act at the latest! I mean, we’ve seen a zillion Frankenstein wannabe movies, but none that were also love triangles, right?
It also works as a travelogue for Cornwall, as the ocean-side scenery is just wonderful to look at, and the village itself looks charming as all hell. The film was directed by Sidney J. Furie, whose name should be familiar to anyone who watched 80s and 90s action movies (including Iron Eagle!). Furie’s filmography is more random than Alan Smithee’s, so he doesn’t exactly have a noticeable style or anything. If you found an old Michael Bay horror movie and it didn’t have a bunch of orange-filtered shots or low angles that swoop around the actors, it’d be one thing, but there’s no signature Furie style for his fans to look for in this early work. “Ah, classic Furie shot.” – something no one has ever said.
MGM has released the film via their on demand service, and it looks pretty damn great. The film had been available on a few budget packs in the past, but from what I understand they were washed out (and full-frame – this is an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer), so if you’re a fan of this film it’s definitely worth the upgrade. On the other hand, they didn’t provide the trailer like they did for Quatermass, and once again it’s the sort of disc that won’t play in your DVD-rom drive, which just baffles me. Plus it’s hardly a movie you’d want to watch over and over. But the lurid title and intriguing love/Frankenstein mix definitely lends itself to a remake, so if that ever comes you should check it out so you’re not that guy saying “I never saw the original”. Even for not very good movies, you still sound like a chump!