“THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK”
Secret Desires and Perverse Passion
Dr. Bernard Hichcock (Robert Flemyng) is a man whose secret desires and perverse passions lead to the death of his wife, Margaret (Teresa Fitzgerald). Hichcock is a necrophiliac doctor’s first wife died from an overdose of an anesthetic that the doctor used on her to simulate death. Twelve years later, the doctor returns to his ancestral home with a new wife. Right away strange things begin to happen. We see that Hichcock suffers from necrophilia and this makes what we see all the more perverse. This is a well-made Italian Gothic horror film directed by the Egyptian-born Italian filmmaker Riccardo Freda. His direction is passionate and the film is based on a story by Ernesto Gastaldi.
Set in London in 1885. Hichcock is a respected surgeon who accidentally poisoned his wife during one of their strange sexual “funeral games.” Bernard has kept his wife’s corpse locked in the lab of his gloomy country mansion. When he returns to the isolated country mansion with new bride, Cynthia (Barbara Steele), after having been gone since his wife’s death, the mansion unnerves wife number two. Cynthia is immediately frightened when she hears screams in the night and there are said to be those of the mentally ill sister of the housekeeper Martha. Then there’s a skull found on the pillow of Cynthia’s bed and a ghost-like veiled figure of a woman (Margaret) roaming the premises.
The doctor tries to restore his first wife’s youthful beauty by drugging Cynthia with a lethal amount of sleeping pills and then drain her blood for Margaret. Cynthia suspects that her arrogant and cold-hearted husband still loves only his first wife and is up to no good. Therefore she doesn’t drink the drugged milk and gets Hichcock’s young assistant Dr. Kurt Loewe to analyze it. When Kurt discovers the milk has been drugged, he rushes to the mansion and rescues Cynthia before Hichcock hangs her and drains her blood. Kurt struggles with the madman Bernard as the mansion burns down with only Cynthia and Kurt leaving the place alive. We see that the plot line is fairly simple so what makes this film interesting?
First it is a catalogue of Victorian repressions regarding desire and death, the marriage bed and the grave. Then we see that perverse behavior of Hichcock results in the creation of a fetish-object of desire and death from each of his wives.
The good doctor and his first wife play sex games that have tragic consequences. Margarita is a willing participant in these activities that seem only to satisfy her husband, a man whose lust remains unfulfilled if the body in question is not as cold and lifeless as possible. Margarita’s role during these games seems to be her closing her eyes and pretending to be dead.
As Cynthia moves toward a psychological breakdown, Dr. Hichcock succumbs to his demons. His world is about to come crashing down around him, and a decades old secret is soon to reveal itself. We see that the film crosses all lines of good taste as we watch the film from the doctor’s perspective.