A fallout with a band causes songwriter Jason (Askwith) to seek out a restful break, picking up a cheap spa holiday from ‘Hairy Holidays’ (fun in the sun for the under thirties promises the ad). However, after only just making it out of the seedy booking office without having his pants ripped from him by the salacious Mr Pollack (a gloriously camp turn from an end-of-career Price), Jason has more stress when he discovers the treatment Dr Storm (Gough) has in store for him. Young Judy (Shaw), whose Aunt (Pollock) helps run the place, tags along (and hops into his bed), Jason attempts to liberate the lobotomised ‘tenants’ of the Storm’s retreat. He doesn’t count on the leather-clad bikers who protect the abode, a sarcastic, gurning dwarf (Martin) or Storms car, which has handy blades to decapitate those who try to escape.
First things first, Horror Hospital is brilliant. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not the best made film ever, nor is bestowed with the best acting talent or script. However, it’s so much fun that one can’t help but love it. That it has languished in relative obscurity over the past decades is criminal. Lovable archetypal cheeky chappie Askwith is an absolute riot here, in a role wrote specifically for him. Diminutive Skip Martin, who had also appeared in Hammer’s Vampire Circus is a delight every second he’s on screen. He plays sinister, slapstick, surreal, and sadness with equal flair. And where do we begin with Michael Gough? He’s clearly hamming it up as much as he’s been requested to, and knows he’s above the material, but one can’t help thinking he’s enjoying it (although he always refused to talk about the film).
Even the absolutely ludicrous plot doesn’t distract from the enjoyment to be had. It’s schlocky, gory and (intentionally) hilarious, and despite very limited camera angles (most scenes were shot with little or no pick-ups for close-ups) doesn’t sag in between the action. The disc is also packed with some worthy extra features too. Ported over from an earlier foreign release is a commentary from the producer Richard Gordon (who’s no longer with us, sadly), which is packed full of anecdotes and well worth a listen. There are also two newly filmed sections, a talking head ‘making of’ that features many of the surviving crew who are interesting and revealing, and a much more fun, upbeat chat with Mr Askwith, who speaks about the film with great enthusiasm and joy.
A standout of ‘70s British horror, it’ll have you in stitches.
Extras: see above.
CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: ANTONY BALCH / SCREENPLAY: ANTONY BALCH / STARRING: MICHAEL GOUGH, ROBIN ASKWITH, VANESSA SHAW, DENNIS PRICE, ELLEN POLLOCK, SKIP MARTIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW