In swinging '70s London, Jason (Robin Askwith), a Brian Jones doppelgänger, grows weary of the rock scene and decides it's time for a vacation. He responds to a flyer for a "Hairy Holiday" and meets up with Judy (Vanessa ... more »Shaw) on the way, but they soon find that their resort is actually a Hippie-to-Zombie Conversion Center, complete with crazed researcher (Michael Gough), evil midget, and lobotomized longhairs. The doctor harvests human heads with a retractable blade attached to his limousine and runs his zombies via remote control. A monster who appears to be made of Silly Putty stalks the grounds and claims an unlucky victim or two, until the midget and heroes plan their escape from the goonatorium. Gough claims some great chewable dialogue (Peter Cushing must have been busy), the midget has a great pathos-laden death scene, and a toxic waste site is also crammed into the overstuffed plot. It's not quite funny enough to be a horror comedy, but there's enough gore to give it the feel of a later-era Hammer film. Horror Hospital breathes some new life into the mad-doctor-and-zombification-facility plot and moves fast enough to keep things interesting, at least. If you don't go into it expecting stupendous effects or deep narrative, it's a fun ride. --Jerry Renshaw« less
"Take one part Woodstock, one part funky psychedelic music, two parts skintight jeans and "Right on, man," mix thoroughly, smother the whole thing in cheese, and you have the makings of the 1973 camp classic "Horror Hospital." Made by director Antony Balch on an obviously shoestring budget (and probably as an enormously sick joke), "Horror Hospital" ranks as one of the funniest films masquerading as a horror movie I have seen in some time. Personally, I suspect Balch and his compatriots actually got the idea for this quirky schlockfest when they attended Woodstock and accidentally ingested the brown blotter. For all I know, maybe a biker rapped Balch over the head with a blackjack at Altamont. Whatever the case, only a severe trauma to the cranium could instill such a warped idea as "Horror Hospital" in the human brain. It is a great shame more fans of the genre don't know about this movie. This film is great fun for those willing to put their mind on hold for a couple of hours.What you have in "Horror Hospital" is some nut case, a Doctor Christian Storm (Michael Gough), running an asylum out in the sticks where he performs weird experiments on hippies. His latest would be victim, Jason Jones, heads to Storm's hospital under false pretenses. After suffering a beating from a rock band at a local club, Jones decides he needs a vacation from the rigors of urban hippie life. After a decidedly uncomfortable meeting with an effeminate travel agent, Jones heads off on holiday with bell-bottoms and unkempt hair firmly in place. Little does he know that this agent is in league with the nefarious Doc Storm and his evil minions. On the way to the madhouse, Jones meets up with a groovy little number on the train, a woman who is also heading to the hospital in order to pay a visit to her Aunt Harris. That dear old auntie is a raving loony in cahoots with Storm is not apparent at this time. Soon after arriving at the Storm's fortress of solitude, Jones and his chick discover weird goings on: a bed drenched in blood, shambling zombies all over the place, and a demented little man with a bad attitude. It isn't too long before Jones learns of the evil machinations of Storm and attempts to save his girl by breaking out of this miserable backwater.Why is Storm such a malevolent figure? Well, he apparently worked as a psychologist of some note in his early days before a controversial research project caused him irreparable physical damage. Now confined to a wheelchair--from which he roars out orders and ultimatums in a hilariously histrionic performance--Doc Storm has restarted his grotesque experiments. Storm uses the idea of a bed and breakfast to lure in fresh young recruits for his special two for one deal: a lobotomy followed by an implant that allows the doctor to control the thought and actions of his patients. Anyone who tries to escape dies horribly when the doctor and his miniscule helper run the hapless dupe down in a limo outfitted with a retractable guillotine blade. Predictably, Jason Jones isn't about to stand for such nonsense from some old fogy conservative. With the help of the ultra laid back Abraham, an uber hippie who shows up on the scene looking for a missing girlfriend, Jones spreads peace, free love, and equality by destroying Storm's sick dreams once and for all. Well, that's the plan, anyway."Horror Hospital" is such an outrageous film, such a bad idea made worse by putting it on celluloid, that it is an absolute must see for fans of cheese cinema. The performances are, for the most part, atrocious. Michael Gough, an actor who has appeared in numerous films since this picture appeared in the early 1970s (notably as Alfred in the "Batman" film franchise), should have known better than to take this role on. As campy as his performance is here, without him the movie would have been forgettable. The actors who play Jones, his girlfriend, the evil Aunt Harris, Storm's dinky helper, and the boisterous Abraham all more or less tread water in their roles. Still, these characters are invaluable to the plot. The elfish cohort of Storm eventually sees the error of his ways and attempts to help our imperiled heroes. His death scene on the stairs transmits to the viewer a feeling of deep poignancy, an absolute sense of loss to the sum total of humanity. Yeah, right. If you believe that claptrap, I have a heck of a real estate deal in Florida to tell you about. "Horror Hospital" is a laughfest from beginning to end. The best guffaw in the film has to be the scene when Abraham cruises up to the castle gates. As he waltzes through the forest, a funky, happy psychedelic tune blares in the background, apparently as a signal that this guy is the height of hippiedom or some such nonsense. I don't know what it meant and you won't, either. It's so funny that it simply doesn't matter.You can forget about any substantive extras on the DVD release, but you do get an amazing picture transfer. There are scenes in this movie that look so fresh and colorful as to defy description. The movie often looks as though Balch and his crew lensed the thing yesterday. I liked the movie on a purely camp level, but I also thought the picturesque scenery of the castle and the forest grounds around the place added a nice touch. I would definitely watch this clunker again if I had the chance."
Cheesy and campy-the way all "B" horror flicks should be!
Jenna | Hillsboro, OR | 05/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love "B" horror flicks. I must confess. And when I saw this, my thirst for the true art form of "B" movies was sated. It was wonderfully done, and the silly putty monster was the greatest part of it all. This movie has it all from midgets to an "evil genius" and a ketchuppy substance that almost resembles fake blood. The dialogue is a bit lacking, but that adds even more to the ambiance of the picture. A fun time, and great for those of you that love campy horror movies."
The operation is a success...when the patient dies!
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 04/30/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If anything Horror Hospital (1975)...I think the original, British release date was 1973, with the American theatrical release date following two years later...has one of the most captivating, or should I say de-captivating...scratch that...decapitating, yes, that it...decapitating opening sequences in a film I've seen in a long time. To say anymore would ruin it, so I'll leave it at that (make sure you check out that pimpy hat worn by Gough...stylin'!)...but I will say the film effectively shoots its load with this sequence, taking a downward turn into a morass of mediocrity punctuated by flashes of the bizarre and genuinely odd. If ever the term `psychotronic' was applicable to a film, this be it...co-written and directed by Anthony Balch (as I write this, he's listed on the IMDb website as Antony), the film stars Michael Gough, whom I couldn't place right away, but he looked so familiar...and then I read another review on here pinpointing him as the Alfred character in the Tim Burton Batman movies...how could I have not recognized him more quickly? I'm getting daft in my old age...anyway, starring alongside of Gough is Robin Askwith, whom I did recognize from films like Tower of Evil (1972) and his later roles in the Brit sex comedies Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974), Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975), and Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), most of which I've seen on Cinemax back in the 80's (when I had de cable). Also appearing is Vanessa Shaw, Ellen Pollock (So Evil, So Young), Dennis Price (Theatre of Blood), Kurt Christian (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad), and the diminutive in size (but not in spirit) Skip Martin (Circus of Fear, Vampire Circus, Son of Dracula).
As I already mentioned, the film opens with a particularly spectacular sequence, and from there we meet Jason (Askwith), a young, swinging Englishman in dire need of a holiday after some difficulties experienced within his band (they ripped off one of his songs). After a creepy meeting with a lasciviously effeminate travel agent (Price), Jason decides on Brittlehouse (the price was right, i.e. cheap), a remote health spa in the country that can supposedly cure any hang-ups you have within a week. While traveling on the train, he meets Judy (Shaw), and learns she is also going to the spa, but on personal business involving her Aunt Harris (Pollock) who happens to run the place with her husband, the wheelchair bound Dr. Christian Storm (Gough), assisted by a disgruntled dwarf named Frederick (Martin), and various guards/orderlies who are always dressed in motorcycle gear (leather jacket and pants, crash helmets) earning them the name `biker boys' (although, as another reviewer mentioned, one close up in particular presented very feminine facial features from what we could see). Well, after arriving Jason and Judy discover the other guests aren't there so much for a vacation, but appear to be patients, as they all have giant scars on their foreheads, pasty complexions, and the general demeanor akin to that of vegetables. Seems the good doctor's treatment consists of something more than what was advertised in the brochure, perhaps a little brain salad surgery, and Jason and Judy are next in line...crikeys! And who (or what) is that mysterious, fleshy creature wandering the halls of the hospital at night? All will be revealed, if you decide to check into Horror Hospital, where you pay to get in, and pray to get out! Bwahahaha! (excuse my tendency for the melodramatic)
Overall I did enjoy the film, but I got the distinct feeling much of what I saw in this movie I had already seen before in other, previously released films. That's not a criticism, but just an observation. The story moves along pretty well, although it does seem plod in some parts, giving the effect of the movie being a bit longer than it actually was (it has a running time of about a hour and a half). There are a number of memorable scenes (most which I won't mention), including the one near the beginning with the lecherous travel agent was pretty funny...also, there's a protracted scene where Frederick (the dwarf) is trying to help Jason escape, and he has to employ an unusual method to reach the lock on the cell door, which is mounted higher than he could have reached normally. The characters were decent, the main standout being Gough's knuckle cracking (any villain worth his PhD in evil has a tic) mad, sadistic, egomaniacal, scientist experimenting on humans for his own, demented, perverted purposes. Oh yeah, he also has a tendency towards decapitation...why? Who knows, but it certainly livened things up...the movie had a lot more action than I would have thought, especially the scene where Askwith's character is trying to escape and fights with the biker boys/guards. The physical confrontations appeared pretty realistic (not painstakingly choreographed), and Jason really seems to get the beating but good in on scene. There's a few of good nekkid scenes, one featuring a short, soft core make out session between Jason and Judy, and another with a good looking, post-lobotomized woman and something which has to be seen rather than described. The final sequences of the film are pretty exciting, leading up to a satisfying, yet predictable, ending. By the way, does anyone know what Frederick was cooking up in that pot, prior to him serving it to the prisoners? It looked like some kind of pasty gruel, perhaps concrete filler...and what was the deal with that ticketing agent at the very end of the film? He may have been deserving of his fate, but it wasn't quite clear exactly what happened...
The non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) picture on this Elite Entertainment DVD is really sharp, but does have some very minor flaws (a little grain, a scratch here and there). The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is very clear and comes through cleanly throughout. The only extra feature available is an original trailer that's actually a double bill for this film and one called The Corpse Grinders (1972).
Confessions from a Horror Health Farm
Bartok Kinski | Prague | 06/13/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When attempts to break into the pop business leave him with nothing but a bloody nose, songwriter Jason Jones (Robin Askwith) decides to take a break with "Hairy Holidays" an outfit run by campy travel agent Dennis Price. Realizing chatting the young holidaymaker up is getting him no where- Price sends Jason to pseudo-health farm Brittlehurst Manor. On the way via train Jason meets Judy (Vanessa Shaw- whose only other film appearance-uncredited- was in the 1972 transvestite comedy `Ooh, You are Awful') a pretty girl en route to the same destination- always one for the ladies Askwith's choice chat-up line here is `there's no need to get uptight- I'm not going to rape you'.
Both are unaware that the health farm (i.e. `Horror Hospital') is a front for Dr Storm (Michael Gough) and his lobotomy experiments that turn wayward boys and girls into his mindless slaves `just like puppets- and I am the puppet master'. The wheel-chair bound quack also surrounds himself with an oddball entourage, including ex-brothel Madam Olga, Dwarf Frederick, and numerous Zombie bikers ready to dish out rough justice to any escapees.
Jason and Judy's stay offers few quiet moments- taps run blood, flashbacks reveal kinky misappropriation of lobotomy patients, and a Rolls-Royce fitted with a giant blade decapitates interfering third parties. The health-farm is also home to a hulking monster that resembles a badly turned out pudding, but whose real identity provides the film with one last plot twist- and it's a jaw dropper.
A long time favorite, Horror Hospital holds a special place in my heart and is still a film that I never tire of watching. Equally fascinating is the career of its director Antony Balch- an experimental filmmaker, exploitation film distributor, Bela Lugosi obsessive, William Burroughs collaborator and all round mischief maker who died young (of cancer in 1980). The best place to read about Balch is Colin Davis' 1988 article `Eros Exploding- the films of Antony Balch', while Barry Miles' Burroughs biography `El Hombre Invisible' also has some interesting tales to tell about Balch and Horror Hospital co-writer Alan Watson.
Larger than life characters that Watson and Balch come across in those two texts its perhaps no surprise that every Horror Hospital character is in their own way memorable, from the sinister rail-guard played by Kenneth Benda (also in Balch's Secrets of Sex and the pilot episode of Adam Adamant Lives!), Skip Martin's victim/victimizer dwarf who goes around shouting `Don't forget to brush your teeth', `Baron' Kurt Christian's wooden hippie whose fairly lobotomized to begin with, while Robin Askwith- in very much a warm-up to his star roles in slap and tickle comedies of the Seventies makes for a far more colorful hero than seen in the average UK horror film of that era.
Then there's Michael Gough who Balch apparently prepared for the Dr Storm role by screening him The Devil Bat with that film's star Bela Lugosi as Gough's `inspiration'. While there is certainly alot of Lugosi evoked in Storm and his mad doctor schemes Gough clearly injected a good deal of his own horror film persona into the part as well, and at a time when he was starting to play more sedate villains (The Corpse, Satan's Slave) the Balch film gives us one last look at the raving, scenery chewing Michael Gough of Horrors of the Black Museum and Konga.
Serving up its chills the tongue-in-cheek way, Horror Hospital's scenarios are deliberately exaggerated and over the top (upon discovering a blood splattered bed diminutive Fred tells Judy and Jason `I hope you'll be tidier than the people who had that room') yet at the same time the film works as a totally straight horror/exploitation piece, a balancing act often attempted but rarely pulled off in horror comedies.
References/send-ups of older horrors particularly the later Lugosi films and items like Mystery of the Wax Museum are also given an original spin by Balch's peculiar world view which combines these old horror film elements alongside finger on the pulse exploitation spectacles like severed head gore and shower scene nudity all cutting edge for a 1973 British production. Balch even throws in a glam/transvestite band whose prophetic wailings of `something isn't right, something is wrong' memorably open the film.
The DVD release offers some good and bad news- on the one hand the film, presented in wide screen and sourced from the original negative, has never looked better- but, save for the UK trailer ("the most horrific program ever shown in England") the lack of extras disappoints.
By all accounts this was quite a colorful production and a story worthy of an audio commentary- as such this DVD seems a bit of a missed opportunity. The packaging sells Horror Hospital well in horror film terms (quoting the immortal `the ultimate in blood and screams' Dilys Powell review) but doesn't quite capture the film's anarchic edge, the blood red box is a more inspired touch but call me a nit-picker is it too much to ask someone to spell Balch's first name right on the sleeve.
The rest of the Balch back-catalogue is comprised of a handful of experimental short films like Towers Open Fire and Bill and Tony (which would have made ideal DVD extras) while his only other feature was Secrets of Sex (aka Bizarre) a sometimes disturbing horror/sexploitation picture narrated by an Egyptian Mummy- that is quite unlike any other movie you'll ever see- providing you can get to see the ultra-obscure Balch debut feature in the first place that is.
Horror Hospital remains Balch's most straight-forward and entertaining piece of filmmaking, and a super introduction to a slender but always fascinating body of work. Obscure for most of the Eighties, this DVD release restores to its proper place one of the all time great Brit horrors of the Seventies."
It's Good For What Ails Ya...
Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein | under the rubble | 02/20/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Got problems? Feeling run-down and out of sorts? Well, a nice stay at Brittlehouse Manor will fix you right up! Doctor Storm (Michael Gough) along with his teeny tiny henchman, Frederick (Skip Martin) and his nefarious nurse (Ellen Pollock), will get you straightened out. Of course, you must not question their methods. What? You don't like being lobotomized? Scalpals make you queazy? Come on now, you simply must get over these irrational fears and hang-ups! Allow the doctor to work his magic, and join his growing legion of zombie slaves! It's all good therapy. Do watch out for the mysterious, murderous, pink goo-man though! He's bloody dangerous! HORROR HOSPITAL is packed w/ enough insane idiocy to keep any schlock-maniac as happy as a termite in a woodpile. Decapitations! Nudity! Mad science! Hippies! And so much more! Buy immediately..."