11/01/2016

"Doctor Butcher M.D.".- He's Still Making House Calls! (Blu-ray Review and Retrospective)

Also known as Zombie Holocaust (Zombi Holocaust), Doctor Butcher M.D. is one of the wildest and most fun of the extreme gore films that Italy was putting out in the 70s and 80s. It's legacy has made into one of the quitessential gorehound favorites.

Our story begins as a rash of limb robbing from corpses is occurring at hospitals and morgues across New York City. Soon, one hospital worker is caught chomping down on a human heart (hey, when you get hungry, ya gotta eat, right?). Our heroes, anthropology expert and morgue assistant Lori ( the beautiful Alexandra Delli Coli) and Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch from Lucio Fulci' Zombie) come to the realization that this all has to with a cannibal tribe. They are head off to the Asian islands, where said tribes can be found, accompanied by his assistant George (Peter O'Neal), and his hottie reporter girlfriend Susan (Sherry Buchanan). There they meet Dr. Obrero (Donald O'Brien), who Peter knows. They ultimately end up on an island where there not only cannibals but zombies, as well! Soon they begin to fall prey to them both. And, they learn that the good Dr. Obrero has been conducting experiments to resurrect the dead, resulting in the aforementioned zombies!
When, Zombie Holocaust was bought and distributed in the US, it underwent the ingenious title change and an even more ingenious ad campaign. They also added a 2.5 minute opening showcasing some zombies and taken from an unfinished flick called Tales that'll Tear Your Heart Out. They also re-edited some stuff for pacing reasons, as well as changed the musical score. The result was a HUGE hit in grindhouse theaters and, eventually, on VHS.
The movie was released, in the movies, by Aquarius Releasing, who also released bunch of exploitation movies, including Make Them Die Slowly (Cannibal Ferox) and Buried Alive (Beyond the Darkness). There is an excellent interview with Terry Levene, from Aquarius, on the brand new Severin Films Blu-ray release, where he talks about advertising these movies and more. It's a fascinating talk about an era long gone, of grindhouse sleazefests being played in Times Square. Levene knew how to promote movies like this, as there was a fucking Doctor Butcher M.D. flatbed truck (left) that ran promotions of it. Can you imagine a movie like this doing that today? Fuck no.

The movie, itself, might be seen by some film snobs as bad. But, fuck those people. As a good amount of its appeal is found in its inherit cheesiness. The acting ranges from adequate to bad, but it's always memorable and fits the film nicely. The makeup FX are much in the same vein. Some of it is great, some is far from that. One hilarious moment has the aforementioned cannibal that chewed on a human heart jumping out the window to escape capture. When he hits the floor we see it's a mannequin whose fucking arm falls off! The next shot is our actor with his arm intact! Too fucking funny!
The extreme gore in this movie rocks motherfucking hard. Cannibalism, bullet hits, brain surgery, autopsies, machetes to the head, immolation, a spectacular motor-blade to the head, throat slicing, and more make this S.O.B. hit a 10 on the splatter-meter. Yet, unlike most cannibal movies there is not a single once of mean spiritedness, and even better, no, real or otherwise, violence against animals.

This being an Italian flick, we also get lovely ladies and skin. And, said skin all comes from our lead lady, Alexandra Delli Coli, who has a truly spectacular body. She is fully naked and shows us some great full frontal, including her blonde bush!
There are also some choice bits of dialogue, many coming from the good Doctor Butcher, himself. Perhaps the best one is when he tells our hero how is "Determined to have" his "brain!" It's fucking classic! Both he and McCulloch play great against each other and are endlessly likable.
I first saw this flick on Shriek Show's old DVD release, which means I saw it in its original Italian cut. I fucking loved it! It would be a movie I would pop in every so often and even showed my friends, who had a blast watching it, too. But, now you can see both cuts on the aforementioned Severin Blu-ray release. The movie looks damn good, though, ya gotta understand that this movie will never look great due to its budget and inherit quality. The added beginning in Doctor Butcher looks particularly haggard, but there is something of an added charm in that, I think.

The sound is great regardless of which version you put in. Loud and pumping, the 2.0 mix really adds to giving it new life. Then there is the exhaustive special features, which I have only just begun to watch! They include a shitload of interviews with cast members and people from the exploitation film world (in particular those connected to old Times Square), trailers, and even documentaries of then vs. now NYC. It's all fascinating not just if you are a fan of this classick but of exploitation horror, in general .
The packaging is really cool, as you get a double sided cover, featuring poster art from both version of the movie. And, a limited amount of them come with a fucking barf bag! How fucking kick ass is that?!
The overall result is one of the best Blu-ray releases for horror fans this year. The movie has endured for this long because it is everything gore loving horror fans and B-movie fans want. Highly recommended, this Doctor is ready to come to your house in high definition!

Movie: 3.5 out of 4
Picture: 3 out of 5
Sound: 3.5
Extras: 5

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