The Film (3.5/5)
Though Riccardo Freda had directed in many genres, and for many decades before he began directing horror films in the late 1950's. It would be his work in the horror, and by extension the giallo genre that would leave it's most lasting impression on cinema audiences. In the late 1950's Freda would attempt to direct 2 films I, Vampiri and Caltiki, the Immortal Monster both of which would be finished by his protégé and cinematographer Mario Bava. However, in the early 1960's Freda would finally complete his first horror solo horrors in the then popular gothic genre. These would include 1963's The Ghost and the film finally receiving what amounts to its first domestic legal release on American shores The Horrible Dr. Hichcock.
The Horrible Dr. Hichcock stars Robert Flemyng as the titular Dr. Hichcock. Hichcock is a man obsessed with death, and not in the way most doctors are, he is a necrophiliac. His wife Margaret is fine with this, and using a concoction he has invented he frequently puts her into a state that simulates death so that he can make love to her. Unfortunately for both Margaret and Hichcock one day the injection works too well, and kills Margaret completely. Dr. Hichcock then chooses to leave his mansion and life behind to clear his head, but returns some time later with a new wife Cynthia (Barbara Steele). Unfortunately, Cynthia cannot acclimate to life in Hichcock's home, and both Hichcock and his long serving maid don't make it easy for her. As time goes on, she begins to learn more about life with Hichcock, and his actual plans.
The Horrible Dr. Hichcock is an interesting little example of the Italian gothic. The film has some wonderful chilling imagery courtesy of Freda, and a truly creepy atmosphere especially in the latter half of the film once things begin to pick up. The performances are solid across the board, Flemyng does excellent as the death obsessed Doctor who is increasingly losing his mind, and Steele as always does an incredible job here.
The Horrible Dr. Hichcock is an early example of dealing head on with necrophilia in horror cinema a good quarter century before Jorg Buttgereit would stick a pipe bomb into the subject with his Nekromantik. As this is one of Italy's earlier horror films the subject is handled in a more tasteful manner than it would have had it been directed 20 years later. The only real issue I had with the film was the pacing dragged. The film as presented by Olive is the 77 minute American cut of the film which is apparently 9-10 minutes shorter than the international cut, and yet I still felt the film dragged in the earliest portions of the film. Regardless, the last act of the film was an off the wall blast of gothic horror cinema, and offers a nice mix of atmosphere, shocks, and scares that really helps send the film off on a strong note.
Olive Films presents The Horrible Dr. Hichcock in a 1:78:1 1080p transfer that I'm oddly conflicted about. The transfer if I were to review on the basis of pulling it out the case, sticking it my player, and watching it site unseen is not impressive. Colors are solid, but occasionally washed out, grain isn't exactly rendered well, blacks are deep, there is quite a bit of damage including scratches and specks on screen, and there is softness throughout the film. With that being said I've only seen this film via bootlegs in the past, and it greatly surpasses those bootleg editions, so while it's not a wonderful Blu-ray transfer it is the first domestic release of the film, and the only Blu-ray anywhere internationally. There is also no digital tinkering so it is very natural looking.
The audio for the film is presented DTS-HD MA 2.0. The track is serviceable, but like the video is unimpressive. The dialogue is difficult to hear, and audio needs to be on higher volumes to hear it. Fortunately, Olive have begun to include optional subtitles so there is that. I did notice some hissing and popping on the track as well.
The Horrible Dr. Hichcock is an interesting, but flawed Italian gothic horror film. The Blu-ray looks and sounds serviceable, and is much better than any prior edition you are likely to have. The downside is that it is a cut American version. There are also zero extras on the release (seriously, no one could have sat Barbara Steele down for 5 minutes to talk about this one?). I have to recommend it, because it is the only legitimate American release of this film in any form ever, and even with my reservations on the look and sound, it is an improvement. RECOMMENDED.