Tonight was a momentous repeat viewing of Dr. Butcher M.D. because we finally watched our Paragon VHS copy that I bought two months ago and have been saving for God knows what. To be in the mood, I guess, although how can one not be in the mood for an Italian movie with cannibals and zombies?
First off, I have to tell you how delighted we were to find out that before the movie starts there are eight trailers. There is a Boardinghouse trailer that claims the movie is shot in Horrorvision, and warns you that you see a black gloved hand clenching or hear a certain neeyyyyowwww synth sound before the really scary parts, so you have time to cover your eyes. The trailer looks like camcorder footage, which I know was the way the film was originally done, but I have only seen it until now in the form it took after it was transferred to 35 mm. Next there is a spot for the Nastassja Kinski joint For Your Love Only, where she evidently bashes some dude’s head in with a rock. Then Orson Welles in The Witching, a drive-in quality trailer for Molly and Lawless John, Just Before Dawn, The One Armed Executioner, and Funeral Home. After that, oh boy, a trailer for The Gates of Hell, with the title card way off center over to the left of the screen, and finally hicksploitation movie Hotwire. I think it was the entire Paragon catalog at the time this came out on tape.
I plan to rip the trailer sequence and post it here, including the Paragon logo and the Aquarius Productions distributor logo, as soon as we get the right kind of cord to rip VHS, a purchase that is many moons overdue.
But wasn’t there a movie after all that? Oh yeah. Dr. Butcher M.D. is the natural continuation of Zombie 2, seeing as how it stars Ian McCulloch playing a character named Peter, and also features Dakar as the doctor’s assistant. Not only those things, but I’m sure they used some of the same sets, and I believe some of the shots of zombies were lifted from Zombie 2 and recycled. Is Dr. Butcher M.D. as good as Zombie 2? Hell no, but it’s so bad it’s good, which is pretty amazing considering that some might consider Zombie 2 to fall under that category as well.
The story is this: someone has been stealing body parts from cadavers at a teaching hospital in New York. We follow a sexy and overdressed Alexandra Delli Colli home from the hospital to find that she has a big chunk of meat in her fridge and a special cannibal knife, and a reporter wants very badly to interview her. She tells the reporter chick to piss off. Later, an orderly is caught at the hospital eating a human heart, but he jumps out the window before being caught and questioned. Now this is the part I’m fuzzy on. For some reason, Delli Colli and McCulloch, along with the reporter and her boyfriend, decide to go investigate the cannibals on an island somewhere. It is never clear to me why they have to go, but Alexandra does not want to go because she grew up on the island where the cannibals live. Wut?
What is certain is that Dr. Butcher is the same actor who played the psychotic caretaker in Ghosthouse, and although the character pretends to be helpful when they get to the cannibal island where he lives, he is just itching to get his hands on some sweet sweet brains. And in one of the only plot points that improves on Zombie 2, this movie at least admits that the mad doctor is making zombies out of the natives.
But that’s not all. We also have a dummy falling from a skyscraper whose arm falls off, a terrible nose job on Delli Colli that is the butchery that should be investigated, Ian McCulloch looking much younger and more handsome several years after Zombie 2, horrible wallpaper that matches the furniture and bedsheets, Ian’s dapper safari suit which prompted my husband to say “I hope a tiger doesn’t steal his leg,” awful shot composition where the entire cast lines up in frame (at one point Delli Colli runs into frame and leaps over a half-eaten victim), and two guys pointing guns at someone so they can force him to lie down on the operating table and get killed. I’m telling you what, if you point a gun at me so I will be still and let you transplant my brain into a dead cannibal, you can go ahead and shoot me, because I am going to run. Despite all this tomfoolery, I’m marking this one down as an 80s essential, because it’s so much fun, and has some incredible music. Also, for an Italian cannibal movie, there is a delightful lack of rape and real animal murder. Bonus!
Fun fact about me: I am obsessed with VHS and film company logos and will sit and watch them on YouTube for hours. And you thought I couldn’t get any more self-indulgent!
P.S. As mentioned in the comments below, there was a trailer for this that completely misrepresents the movie. I’d actually like to see this version!