Doctor Blood's Coffin (1961)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-11-21 00:34

Written by: Nathan Juran, James Kelley, and Peter Miller
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Starring: Kieron Moore, Hazel Court and Ian Hunter

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

A Monster created from the depths!

Iím almost surprised that Mary Shelley didnít receive a writing credit for Doctor Bloodís Coffin. The film is an obvious attempt to piggyback on Hammerís revival of the Frankenstein tale, and the producers even brought Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein) on board, as if they couldnít be any less transparent. Of course, one could do worse when it comes to ripping off properties, which is why itís sort of a surprise that Doctor Bloodís Coffin ends up being such a nondescript slog from director Sidney Furie. Actually, maybe it isnít all that surprising given the up and down nature of his career--this is the guy that gave us both The Ipcress File and Superman IV, after all.

This one falls squarely into the mediocre middle of those two films on the quality spectrum and follows the exploits of the younger Dr. Blood (Kieron Moore), a pariah in the medical field who returns to his fatherís practice after being kicked out of med school for mysterious experiments. Upon his arrival, people begin to disappear, and we soon learn that Blood is abducting people and taking them to a cave for some reason thatís being withheld from us. In the meanwhile, though, we get to see him strike up a romance with his dadís nurse (Court) as he continues to work on his experiments.

Said experiments are sort of vaguely referred to for about half of the movie; however, Blood regurgitates typical mad scientist tropes about how heís been ostracized because heís a misunderstood genius (thereís no shortage of confidence with this guy) on the verge of unlocking the secrets of the universe. Because of this, youíre pretty sure what heís up to (raising the dead), so Iím not quite sure why the script shrouds this in mystery. Once he reveals his grand plan, he is swiftly thwarted by an accident that you think might get the plot moving; instead, he simply writes it off and says heíll have to try again, maybe. Someday. I donít know, he doesnít really seem to be in all that big of a hurry, so he just hangs out with Hazel Court (one can hardly blame him) until another opportunity presents itself in the form of the village hermit.

Obviously, the drama is supposed to be in his, er, courting of Court, who doesnít know his dark, dirty secret. The entire film is leading to that blowup, only it lacks any steam due to Mooreís limp, milquetoast performance. Outside of a few instances of smarmy self-aggrandizing, heís not nearly prickly enough that weíre on the edge of our seat begging for his comeuppance. And, on the other hand, he isnít nearly sympathetic enough to where we can view him as a tragically ambitious scientist whoís reach is exceeding his grasp. While she is unfortunately hemmed up in a nurseís uniform for much of the film, Court is quite good, particularly during that climactic scene where she holds her own. Like the rest of the cast, sheís saddled with dialogue thatís rehashed from Shelley, but she delivers it with a fiery indignation that makes her a good foil for Dr. Blood (who should really be at the top of a suspects list with a name like that--one wonders how he and his father have managed to stay in practice for so long).

Courtís character is a widow, which isnít all that important to note until the end, as itís eventually the driving force for Dr. Bloodís final experiment. Quite possibly the most petulant Dr. Frankenstein derivative of all time, he eventually does make a monster thatís finally unleashed at the eleventh hour. By that point, the couple of somewhat gruesome operation scenes count as high points, so when this reanimated corpse comes shambling into the picture, itís hands down the coolest thing the movie has to offer. And then it ends rather swiftly and seemingly only because these Frankenstein-types must always be done in by their own unholy creations (and it is unholy--the script wastes no chance to remind us that Dr. Blood is ďplaying god,Ē so we can hardly be surprised by his fate).

If youíve ever wanted to see a half-hearted Frankenstein rehash where the monster is traded in for tepid romance until the very end, Doctor Bloodís Coffin is the movie for you. While itís handsomely shot and adequately acted, youíre better off sticking with any of the Hammer films that certainly inspired this. Or, hell, even something like Lady Frankenstein, whose batshit insanity justifies its existence. Despite the modest star power attached to it, this one has remained obscure for a reason, so much so that itís only now arriving on DVD (unless you count the shoddy unauthorized releases) as part of MGMís Limited Edition series. Though it carries a warning that its presentation is taken from the best source material available, it looks and sounds quite nice--the detail is fine, the colors are vibrant, and the dialogue is mostly audible. There arenít any supplements to speak of, but, again, this is one of those cases where obscuro-horror fans should just be satisfied to have it on DVD. Pick it up if this is your sort of thing, but most will be better off checking it out on Netflix. Rent it!

comments powered by Disqus Ratings: