Doctor Blood’s Coffin
by Jason Coffman
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MGM’s Limited Edition Collection continues to unearth fantastic treasures from the vaults, and continues to prove itself as one of the best services the major studios have ever offered die-hard film fans. One of the latest crop is 1961’s Doctor Blood’s Coffin, a British horror film directed by Sidney J. Furie and starring genre favorite Hazel Court, perhaps best known in the U.S. for her starring roles in Roger Corman’s 1960s Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations. Furie rarely directed genre films, and has had a long career in cinema directing such films as The Ipcress File with Michael Caine (1965) and returned to the genre after a few films in the early 1960s with The Entity (starring Barbara Hershey) in 1982.
Doctor Blood’s Coffin has a distinct Hammer tint in its tone and style. Dr. Robert Blood (Ian Hunter) is the doctor in a rural village that has little contact with the outside world. The townsfolk tend to be healthy, leading the local funeral home owner to scold Dr. Blood for doing too good a job. Shortly before Dr. Blood’s son, Peter (Keiron Moore), returns from school, there is a mysterious disappearance in the town. While helping locals search some nearby mines, Peter deliberately leads them away from a strange makeshift laboratory. Why he does this is initially unclear, but what is clear is that Peter is not quite what he appears to be.
Dr. Blood’s nurse Linda Parker (Hazel Court), recently widowed, finds herself falling for the handsome young doctor. However, as Peter opens up to her, his behavior becomes more and more unusual, and she finally learns the terrible secret of Peter’s research and exactly why he has come home from medical school. There are a few scenes throughout the film of Peter at work that feature what would have been fairly graphic and shocking violence for the day, pushing the envelope even a bit further than Hammer’s famed versions of the Dracula and Frankenstein stories.
The film climaxes with a resurrection that is unfortunately somewhat spoiled by the promotional art, with a creepy and effective undead monster. The film looks and sounds fantastic on this new DVD, which is a notable improvement over previously available public domain releases of the film on VHS and DVD. This is definitely the best Doctor Blood’s Coffin has ever looked on home video, and again it’s a huge credit to MGM for taking the time to release the film with such care. The pace of the film is a bit slow, but thanks to great performances by Hazel Court and Keiron Moore— and some gorgeous location shooting— it’s certainly worth a look for fans of Hammer-style horror.
MGM released Doctor Blood’s Coffin as part of the Limited Edition Collection on 18 October 2011.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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