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  Horror Hospital You Can Check Out Any Time You Like But You Can Never Leave
Year: 1973
Director: Antony Balch
Stars: Michael Gough, Robin Askwith, Vanessa Shaw, Ellen Pollock, Skip Martin, Dennis Price, Kurt Christian, Barbara Wendy, Kenneth Benda, Martin Grace, Colin Skeaping
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doctor Storm (Michael Gough) is sitting in his chauffeur-driven limo in a country lane near his mansion home with his dwarf assistant Frederick (Skip Martin). When they catch sight of a couple of bloodied people running through the forest, Storm tells the driver to start the car, and they chase after the pair, releasing a blade from the side of the vehicle that chops their heads off. Meanwhile, rock musician Jason Jones (Robin Askwith) is watching his band from the side of the stage, immensely annoyed that they're playing his song without him. He gets into a scuffle with the leader, then retreats backstage where one of his friends suggests he should take a holiday - but this turns out to be not exactly what he needs...

One of a surprisingly few number of features directed by legendary distributor Antony Balch, only two in total, Balch's presence here as both director and screenwriter (with Alan Watson) leads some viewers to read a little too much into what is basically a straightforward exploitation film. That's not to say there aren't points of interest beyond the mayhem, but it's the mayhem that predominantly rules the atmosphere what with the beheadings, gratuitous nudity and seemingly endless punch-ups. With a pair of second division British film icons starring in it for the cult fans, Horror Hospital breezes along for the most part with low budget flair.

There are strong hints that this isn't to be taken too seriously, as we see when Jason visits the offices of "Hairy Holidays" which turns out to be run by a sole person, the camp Pollack (Dennis Price), who undresses Jason with his eyes. The vacation is sorted out and the would-be rock star is despatched to the mansion in the middle of nowhere by train. While on the train he meets Judy Peters (Vanessa Shaw) who by improbable coincidence is travelling to the same destination, and they quickly make friends, although Jason obviously wants things to go further.

When they arrive at the isolated station, there's no one to meet them so they ask the station master (Kenneth Benda) how to get to the mansion. They set off, are caught in a rainstorm and eventually picked up by two silent bikers, looking more like traffic cops. Judy had planned to meet the aunt she had never seen there, Aunt Harris (Ellen Pollock), but when they arrive the older lady is not best pleased to see her. We have known from the beginning that hanging around in Doctor Storm's converted home - converted into a hospital, that is - is a bad idea, and eventually after seeing the other residents, who are little better than zombies, Jason and Judy decide to leave.

But it won't be as easy as walking out of the front door; well, it never is, is it? Horror Hospital makes great efforts to be daring and shocking, but with its undeniably amateur air it now looks kind of quaint. Details like Jason carrying no luggage (where does he keep his bucket and spade?) and the way the plot strains to have almost everyone killed off offer a few easy chuckles, but the cosmic nature of Storm's experiments is left sadly unexplored. In fact, the evil doctor's work seems to be entirely focussed on getting into bed with one of his zombie women, so he views the younger generation with disdain (if there's one thing you can depend upon Gough for, it's haughty disdain) and grist to his mad scientist mill. You can't deny it's padded, Martin's business with the bolted door being the most patent example, but the film has a loopy, thrown together charm that goes in its trashy favour.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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