(a.k.a. LASER KILLER)
Article #1752 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2005
Posting Date: 5-30-2006
Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis
Featuring Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Noel Trevarthen
When an accident scars the face of his fiancee, a noted doctor develops a way to restore her beauty with the help of the pituitary gland. However, the solution is only temporary, and the doctor takes to murder to get the needed glands.
I first became aware of this movie’s existence with the still picture in the Psychotronic Movie guide of Peter Cushing slicing up a topless woman; the scene from which this still comes was changed for release in this country to one in which the woman was clothed. My version of the movie features both versions in succession; the clothed one first and the topless one second. This gave me an opportunity to compare the two, and I’d have to say I opt for the clothed version. This isn’t so much because of my distrust for bald exploitation, but rather because the topless scene cuts out a key moment for Cushing’s character in which he works up the nerve to actually commit the murder.
This brings me to a question I had about the movie; it always struck me that the title was an odd choice for a horror movie, as I associate the term more with political intrigue rather than horror. Actually, the title was quite appropriate; though the movie has the basic hackneyed plot of a scientist killing women to recover the beauty of a loved one, it shows a much greater concern for the internal struggle of the doctor than these movies usually bother with. The movie explores the steps by which a respected doctor turns to murder and mutilation, which explains why an actor of the calibre of Cushing was necessary. It also explains why that missing moment in the above footage was essential, and why I miss it in the topless footage.
This intriguing approach does help the movie work for the most part; I found myself a lot more interested than I though I would be. Still, the movie fumbles the ball during the last fifteen minutes when a gang of sleazy robbers invade Cushing’s country home, an event which leads to a destructive sequence captured in the movie’s alternate title (LASER KILLER). This sequence wouldn’t be bad if it didn’t take the focus away from Cushing’s character changes, but that’s exactly what it does. And don’t get me started on the last two minutes of the movie, a winner of the DS Rubber Brick award if ever there was one.