(Riccardo Freda, 1962)
Sadly overlooked in favor of Gothic Bava favorites Black Sunday and The Whip & The Body, The Horrible Dr Hichcock is easily one of the best Italian horror films in many respects. It's heavy on the dark Victorian atmosphere, with expert use of colour and lighting. It features the stunning Barbara Steele, as well as American actress (and Italian horror veteran) Harriet Medin, who both appeared in a few Freda and Bava productions. Most importantly, it was likely the first film ever to delve unflinchingly into the realm of necrophilia!
Set in Victorian England, THDH follows the titular doctor's descent into madness and depravity. Bernard Hichcock has a nasty habit of getting frisky with the corpses of the recently deceased, and even goes so far as to drug his wife Margheretha and make love to her "corpse". During one such game, he unwittingly administers a fatal overdose and kills her, whereupon he leaves his home and profession for quite some time.
Years later he returns to the mansion with his neurotic new wife Cynthia (Barbara Steele), who is terrorized from the onset by the maid Martha (Medin), unexplained noises, and what she initially believes to be frightening hallucinations. Dr Hichcock too is plagued by demons of his own, and his colleagues soon grow suspicious of his nocturnal visits to the morgue. As the Dr's perverse lust and Cynthia's nervousness both spiral out of control, one begins to fear whether Cynthia will meet the same fate as Margeretha, or something much worse.
Though currently out of print, this title is fairly easy to find for the purpose of downloading, and I highly recommend one does so. One does need a decent attention span, though, as The Horrible Dr Hichcock is a bit on the slow side. Still, it's essential viewing for fans of Gothic Italian horror.
6 months ago