Horror Hospital – UK, 1973 – reviews and now with whole HD film free online

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‘The operation is a success … when the patient dies’

Horror Hospital is a 1973 British black comedy horror feature film directed by Antony Balch. After the success of his episodic art/exploitation feature film debut Secrets of Sex (aka Bizarre, 1969), Balch envisioned his second film as an out-and-out horror movie and one with a continuous narrative. The movie stars Robin Askwith (Tower of Evil; Queen Kong), Michael Gough (Konga; Horrors of the Black Museum; et al), Vanessa Shaw, Ellen Pollock, Dennis Price (Twins of Evil) and Skip Martin (Masque of the Red DeathVampire Circus).

The film was produced by veteran Richard Gordon (First Man into Space) and has also been released as Computer Killers; Eastworld; Death Ward  13Frankenstein’s Horror-Klinik; Doctor Bloodbath and Madhouse.

Plot:

When attempts to break into the pop business leaves him with nothing but a bloody nose songwriter Jason Jones (Robin Askwith) decides to take a break with “Hairy Holidays”, an outfit run by shifty, camp travel agent Pollock (Dennis Price). After failing to chat Jason up, Pollock sends him to pseudo-health farm – Brittlehurst Manor (Knebworth House, in Stevenage).

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On the train journey there Jason meets Judy (Vanessa Shaw) who is also on the way to the same destination to meet her long lost Aunt. Both are unaware that the health farm is a front for Dr Storm (Michael Gough) and his lobotomy experiments that turn wayward hippies into his mindless zombie slaves.

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The wheelchair-bound Doctor surrounds himself with an entourage that including Judy’s aunt, and erstwhile brothel madam, Olga (Ellen Pollock), dwarf Frederick (Skip Martin) and numerous zombie biker thugs. Doctor Storm also has a Rolls Royce car fitted with giant blades that decapitate escapees and interfering parties…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

‘If it was made today, a modern audience would know that it was taking the p*ss. But back then, there was no such thing as irony or post-modernism. Truly, Balch was a man ahead of his time. What a shame he died before he had the chance to make another film.’ British Horror Films

Horror Hospital remains refreshingly hip and intentionally camp without going overboard. The film effortlessly walks such a fine line of seriousness and fruity absurdity – that its hard to tell if the people involved know how silly it really is. And that’s precisely its genius;  Horror Hospital may be one of the cheekiest horror films ever made.’ I Wake Up Screaming

‘This enjoyably and intentionally tongue-in-cheek, bawdy British horror movie is a gruesome good time for those with a taste for 70’s style European terror tales. Deliciously tasteless dialog benefits the witty and goofy script.’ Cool Ass Cinema

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‘ … the goings-on inside the house are pretty rote — but there’s a wee bit of nudity to spice up the first half and the film’s cheerfully ludicrous attitude goes a long way.’ Deep Focus

The director handles the film with remarkable aplomb and is careful to accentuate the underlying bad taste wherever possible, seldom missing an opportunity to inject black humour and even make the occasional lapse into slapstick.” John Hamilton, X-Cert 2

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[Spoiler alert]: ‘Even more bizarre is the very end of the movie. After being treated to the unique sight of Robin Askwith in a Michael Gough mask, we see Storm’s headless body seeming, somehow, to return to life, and a final shot of Benda lying dead and bloodstained on the train track. What?! Oh well, this sort of narrative incoherence would probably have been praised in Balch’s more avant-garde work, and the utter weirdness of it all just adds to the film’s wonderfully delirious feel.’ Jumble Sale  Frenzy!

Horror Hospital makes great efforts to be daring and shocking, but with its undeniably amateur air it now looks kind of quaint […] You can’t deny it’s padded, Martin’s business with the bolted door being the most patent example, but the film has a loopy, thrown together charm that goes in its trashy favour.” The Spinning Image

“Gough chews up the scenery and tears up the premise in this wacko Brit horror with a gallows sense of humor. No classic, but in the right frame of mind, you might enjoy this minor effort which plays out like some Hammer film left out too long in the sun.” The Terror Trap

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“To be honest, it’s often rather tedious, but there are some neat moments of deadpan humour and enthusiastic gore. There is also the occasional touch of sheer weirdness […] During the lulls, your best bet is to concentrate on the hilarious 1970s fashions.” Thoughts from Cinema’s Fringes

“Cliché after cliché is ruthlessly hammed into a telling stomach-gripper: one for sophisticates of undergrowth horror of the Chas Addams variety.” Time Out London

“The potentially interesting and biting satire is sunk by a hopelessly cheap production, Gough’s overacting, and Balch’s mundane direction.” TV Guide

“A highly enjoyable, dispensable romp from start to finish, Balch throws in camp, leather-clad, biker henchmen and the gloriously inept acting of Skip Martin as the creepy, but loveable dwarf sidekick, Frederick, to keep things suitably silly. Kitsch on all the right levels, Horror Hospital has no interest whatsoever in taking itself seriously, swaps frights for fun and is nigh on impossible not to like.” Video Tape Swap Shop

“The story is over the top with a Rolls Royce used for decapitating escapees, a gym full of zombies, an army of bikers in black leather, brain surgery and nightly burials in the garden. It reminds me of The Rocky Horror Picture Show but without the music.” Weird Press

Choice dialogue:

Jason Jones [Robin Askwith]: “Yeah, I fancy something a little hairy. Yeah, might be some nice birds down there.”

Doctor Storm [Michael Gough] “Women can be very troublesome Mr Jones. But then, so can little men!”

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Dario Proibito in un Collegio Femminile Horror Hotel

Blu-ray sleeve artwork by Graham Humphreys
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1978 reissue cashing-in on Coma

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Cast and characters:

  • Michael Gough … Doctor Christian Storm
  • Robin Askwith … Jason Jones
  • Vanessa Shaw … Judy Peters
  • Ellen Pollock … Aunt Harris
  • Dennis Price … Mr Pollack
  • Skip Martin … Frederick
  • Kurt Christian … Abraham
  • Barbara Wendy … Millie
  • Kenneth Benda … Carter
  • Martin Grace … Bike Boy
  • Colin Skeaping … Bike Boy
  • George Herbert … Laboratory Assistant
  • James Boris IV … ‘Mystic’ Rock Group (as James IV Boris)
  • Allan ‘The River’ Hudson … ‘Mystic’ Rock Group (as Allan {The River} Hudson)
  • Simon Lust … ‘Mystic’ Rock Group

Filming locations:

Knebworth House, Stevenage, Hertfordshire (Brittlehurst Manor exteriors, also a location for Haunted Honeymoon (1986), Lair of the White Worm (1988) and Batman (1989))
Wandsworth Old Town Hall, London, England (Brittlehurst Manor interiors)
Waterloo Station, London, England
Wimbledon Common, Wimbledon, London, England (grounds near Brittlehurst Manor)

We are grateful to Cool Ass Cinema and Temple of Schlock for some images and Super 8 Hobby for the German box artwork

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