Thursday, August 18, 2005


This is great fun, btw:

Starring a young Robin Askwith (better known for successful 70's b-movie smut-comedies like "Confessions of a Window Cleaner", "Confessions of a Driving Instructor", etc...I, er, confess I saw one of these in the cinema when it came out, but darned if I can remember which one it was (It also starred "Blakey" from "On The Buses" who played a "Mr. Crapper", so I assumed it might be "Confessions of a Plumber's Mate", but, apparently, this was to be the fifth film in the series and they never actually got round to filming it, unless I hallucinated the whole damn thing)... it was assembled by english exploitation-producer Richard Gordon, who was also responsible for "Fiend Without a Face", an extraordinary and weird little Late Fifties Brit Horror Film featuring Marshal Thompson from "Daktari" and a bunch of floating parasitic brains that lay seige on an (Canadian?) airforce base...but I (huff...huff...) digress...

The point of interest here is that "Horror Hosptial" was directed by Anthony Balch, who made "Towers Open Fire" and "The Cut Ups" with William Burroughs and Brion Gysin in the mid-Sixties. He was also first choice to direct an abortive 1971 version of "The Naked Lunch" that would have starred Mick Jagger (Another of life's little lost What-Ifs).

Askwith is brilliantly clueless in this and spends most of the film (surprise! surprise!) trying to get his end away and getting into various comical misadventures. Meanwhile, Michael Gough hams it up as the ubiquitous mad doctor who has some elaborately inane/insane plan to, er, do something-or-other-which-escapes-me-now but possibly involved lobotomies. Professional piss-head Dennis Price (last seen awol in Franco's "Vampiros Lesbos") wanders in and out of focus, along with assorted dwarves, bikers, zombies and topless models: ooh, errr...crikey, missus!

Bras spontaneously fall off, people are decapitated or dismembered. A mad surgeon trepans hapless victims and Robin Askwith falls out of bed in his Y-fronts.

Cor! What a right bloody carry-on!

By coincidence I recently read an interview with Askwith where he spoke very fondly about this film and (Burroughs' groupie) Balch...he also told an anecdote about Dennis Price perpetually disappearing behind the scenery to neck entire bottles of spirits, then suddenly reappearing to do his scenes with a droll and somewhat camp line: "Just a bit of script revision, dear boy. I'm ready now!"

The film is great fun: there's bucketloads of blood and gore, along with some oddly surreal/anarchic moments. (Askwith was only 19 and is obviously having a whale of a time...) A genuine Brit Film curiosity well worth checking out (undoubtedly out on DVD by now, I would have thought) Aparently, the whole plot was concieved over dinner by Balch and Gordon, and it shows, but what the heck.

Balch died in 1980 from cancer, I believe. A shame.