Doctor Blood’s Coffin – UK, 1960

‘We dare you to look into’

Doctor Blood’s Coffin is a 1960 British horror film directed by Canadian Sidney J. Furie (The Entity; The Snake Woman) from a screenplay by James Kelly (What the Peeper Saw; The Beast in the Cellar) and Peter Miller, based on an original story and screenplay by Nathan Juran (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf; The Brain from Planet Arous; 20 Million Miles to Earth). Kieron Moore, Hazel Court and Ian Hunter star.

Buxton Orr (Corridors of Blood; Fiend Without a Face; The Haunted Strangler) provided the film’s emphatic soundtrack score; arranged by Hammer regular Phillip Martell.

Future director Nicolas Roeg (The WitchesDon’t Look Now) served as a camera operator.

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The Caralan production began shooting on 7 June 1960 and was awarded an ‘X’ certificate by the BBFC, following cuts, on 31 October 1960. Director Sidney J. Furie shot The Snake Woman almost back-to-back.

In her autobiography, Hazel Court: Horror Queen, the actress recalls: “It was wild, going into the mines under the ocean, disused for many, many, many years. We accessed the disused mines from the rocks along the coastline. It was very scary. At one point, I looked up and whispered to myself, “Oh my God, the Atlantic Ocean is above me.”

Having been reprimanded for his unethical medical experiments in Vienna, young doctor Peter Blood (Kieron Moore) reluctantly returns to stay with his father – the local general practitioner – in the Cornish village where he grew up.

However, he continues his nefarious attempts to bring the dead back to life. His early subject is the deceased husband of Linda Parker (Hazel Court), a nurse he is strongly attracted to.

Hidden away in a tin mine, the aptly-named Blood conducts his gruesome experiments using South American poison curare (also used in The Crimes of the Black Cat) to remove living, beating hearts from undeserving people in order to bring the deserving dead back to life…

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Reviews:

“If you’ve ever wanted to see a half-hearted Frankenstein rehash where the monster is traded in for tepid romance until the very end, Doctor Blood’s Coffin is the movie for you. While it’s handsomely shot and adequately acted, you’re better off sticking with any of the Hammer films that certainly inspired this […] Despite the modest star power attached to it, this one has remained obscure for a reason.” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

“For the most part, Furie seems content to allow the visuals to unfold onscreen without the need to build tension and, like the victims, the film struggles to overcome an inherent lethargy; there is simply too much talk and not enough action. The few interesting set-pieces which could have pepped things up are allowed to slide into tedium.”John Hamilton, X-Cert: The British Independent Horror Film 1951 – 1970

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“The lush color cinematography is eye-popping but that doesn’t disguise the fact that Doctor Blood’s Coffin is one heck of a dull, lifeless, and boring flick.  The doctor spends most of the movie traipsing around abandoned mine shafts…” Mitch Lovell, The Video Vacuum

“The film’s sub-Frankenstein shenanigans are clearly modelled on Hammer’s success in this area, but carry none of the baroque flamboyance of Hammer’s approach. They also carry none of Hammer’s relative subtlety, with the debate regarding morality and science given to us in crashingly literal terms […] What sinks the film completely is Kieron Moore’s charisma-free performance as Peter Blood.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema 

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“It isn’t until the final four minutes of the film that a brown, flaky-skinned man with decaying cheeks (he doesn’t look half bad) rises and attacks the leads. It’s all pretty lame stuff.” Glenn Kay, Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide

“The no-nonsense direction, the total nonsense dialogue, the luminous, airy, panoramic vistas and the sharp, bright colour photography make this quite a tonic for horror fans wanting to take a break from an excess of bleak, gritty, unrelentingly downbeat fare – in fact, it’s just what the doctor ordered.” Mike Hodges, The Shrieking Sixties

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“The result, though rich in curare, flashing scalpels, decayed flesh and the Cornish, lacks style, suspense and imagination and will scarcely satisfy the most naive necrophiliac” The Monthly Film Bulletin

“A fairly indifferent film without much to recommend it outside of some nice color photography. Even this attribute was lost on American audiences as most of the theatrical showings were in black and white.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956 – 1976

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“Though dated and watery in most respects, this British biomedical horror by Canadian director Furie offers the first glimpse of the modern screen zombie – decayed and violent, rather than simply pale and aloof.” Peter Dendle, The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia

Cast and characters:

  • Kieron Moore as Dr. Peter Blood (The Day of the Triffids)
  • Hazel Court as Nurse Linda Parker (The Masque of the Red Death; The Raven; The Premature Burial; et al)
  • Ian Hunter as Dr. Robert Blood, Peter’s Father (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1941]; Tower of London)
  • Kenneth J. Warren as Sergeant Cook (The Creeping Flesh; Demons of the Mind; I, Monster)
  • Gerald Lawson as Mr. G. F. Morton (Mystery and Imagination; The Mummy; The Revenge of Frankenstein)
  • Fred Johnson as Tregaye (Scream of FearThe City of the Dead; The Brides of Dracula; The Curse of Frankenstein)
  • Paul Hardtmuth as Professor Luckman (The Curse of Frankenstein; The Strange World of Planet X)
  • Paul Stockman as Steve Parker, Linda’s Husband (Vampire Academy; The Skull; Konga)
  • Andy Alston as George Beale, Tunnel Expert (The City of the Dead)
  • Ruth Lee as Girl [uncredited] (The Couch)
  • John Ronane as Hanson [uncredited] (The Spiral Staircase [1975]; Journey to the Unknown; Mystery and Imagination)

Filming locations:

Nettlefold [later Walton] Film Studios, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, UK
Zennor and the Carn Galver tin mine near St. Just, Cornwall, UK

Trivia:

The film was initially titled Face of Evil.

The Plague of the Zombies (1966) is also set around a Cornish tin mine.

Wikipedia | IMDb | Image credits: Just screenshotsWrong Side of the Art!

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Categories: 1960s, British, zombie

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