The Horrible Dr. Hichcock – Italy, 1962

‘The candle of his lust burnt brightest in the shadow of the grave!’

The Horrible Dr. Hichcock – original title: L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock – is a 1962 Italian Gothic horror feature film directed by Riccardo Freda [as Robert Hampton] (Murder Obsession; The Iguana with the Tongue of FireThe Ghost) from a screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi [as Julyan Perry]. The Panda Film production stars Robert Flemyng, Barbara Steele, Silvano Tranquilli and Harriet Medin.

Plot:

London, 1985: Dr. Hichcock’s horrible secret involves drugging his wife for bizarre funeral games. One day, he accidentally (?) administers an overdose of a new drug which slows the heart-rate and thinks he has killed her. After burying her in a crypt, he leaves London.

Twelve years later, Hichcock remarries and returns to his old home. His new wife starts to believe that she is seeing his first wife around the house. After his new wife falls victim to his old parlour games, she suspects that he is trying to kill her, but finds that the truth is much worse.

Having realised that his first wife is still alive, but looking haggard from her ordeal, Dr. Hichcock plans to kill his new wife and use her blood to restore his first wife’s beauty…

Reviews:

“There is barely a moment in the film that isn’t capable of two or three different interpretations, each one more sinister than the last. Put simply, the more you think about this film, the more deeply disturbing it becomes.” And You Call Yourself a Scientist!

“What matters here is the period atmosphere, and the entire buildup is basically one big display of special effects and sounds. A lot of the visuals should appeal to admirers of Mario Bava’s early work…” Dr. Svet Atanasov, Blu-ray.com

“Robert Flemyng is fantastic as Bernard Hitchcock! His journey into complete derangement is a beautiful thing to behold. He gets superb support from the stunning Barbara Steele. Oozing with atmosphere and no holds barred loathsomeness; this gorgeous gothic tale is a wonderfully twisted delight!” Goregirl’s Dungeon

“You can see what gave so many people room to vaunt The Terror of Dr. Hichcock‘s classic status. Ultimately though, it is only a handful of Gothic cliches. Beneath these and Riccardo Freda’s atmosphere, there is not much in the way of supporting rationale.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“Freda’s direction is excellent. This is, like many of its Italian gothic horror counterparts, a slow burn picture but that doesn’t make it any less compelling. The locations used for the shoot are perfect, allowing the camera to eloquently capture plenty of spooky stonewalled corridors and candlelit boudoirs…” Ian Jane, Rock! Shock! Pop!

“Hichcock contemplates and caresses his victims, whether narcotized or indeed dead, with lewd abandon, while Roman Vlad’s score goes into suitable hysterics. This frankness immediately marks out The Horrible Dr. Hichcock as fairly extreme for its era. It’s subject matter that few films, even today, have any interest in handling.” Budd Wilkins, Slant

“Highly atmospheric and beautifully directed by Freda, this terror gem is a must see not just for Italian horror buffs but for genre fans in general. Flemying is terrific as the mad Hichcock, while Steele delivers an equally good straight performance as his tortured wife.” The Terror Trap

Steele recalls the making of the film:

“Freda I liked very much. He had energy and intelligence. He is the one director out of all the Italians that I felt a true connection with even though he was very autocratic. I liked him enough to feel an obligation for him to win his bet and buy this particular horse he wanted very badly. Dr Hichcock was done while I was still shooting  [1963] for Fellini. I did it strictly for the money. We were working eighteen hour days and believe me, you don’t relish a close-up after that kind of suicidal pacing and trauma.

Oddly enough, I actually liked those deranged working hours. It’s difficult to keep the momentum on a picture like that when you have these phenomenal pauses between takes. But Freda prevented this by maintaining absolute control at all times with no preparation. You have to feel safe with the director and Freda knew exactly how to keep me in a state of crisis long enough to get what he wanted. I wish we had done more pictures together.”

Choice dialogue:

Professor Bernard Hichcock: “We found you lying unconscious in the garden. You’ve been quite delirious.”

Cast and characters:

  • Barbara Steele … Cinzia Hichcock
  • Robert Flemyng … Professor Bernard Hichcock
  • Silvano Tranquilli [as Montgomery Glenn] … Dr. Kurt Lowe
  • Maria Teresa Vianello [as Teresa Fitzgerald] … Margaretha Hichcock
  • Harriet Medin [as Harriet White] … Martha – The Maid
  • Spencer Williams
  • Al Christianson
  • Evar Simpson
  • Nat Harley
  • Neil Robinson … Hospital Assistant [uncredited]
  • Howard Nelson Rubien … Laboratory Specialist [uncredited]

Produced by Luigi Carpentieri and Emmano Donati.

Filming locations:

Principal photography was conducted over sixteen days in April 1962 at Villa Perucchetti, 21 Via Pietro Paolo Rubens, Rome, Lazio, Italy.

Technical credits:

88 minutes | 1.85:1

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