DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN – The DVD Review
The fine folks at the MGM Limited Edition DVD-R dove deep into their vaults to present a groovy sixties ghoulfest on DVD for all you fear fans. DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN was a staple of late night TV and horror hosts for several decades ( Chicago’s Svengoolie featured it 1998 ). It’s bright color photography made it a valuable asset to stations wanting a break from the black and white classics. Of course COFFIN may owe its existence to the success of Hammer Films’ color fright fests of the late 1950′s. After the box office numbers generated by these new takes on Frankenstein and Dracula, many other British studios wanted a piece of the growing thriller audience. Caralan Productions even went as far as hiring the beautiful ( and buxom ) Hazel Court ( Peter Cushing’s doomed love from Hammer’s hit THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN ) as the leading lady. Perhaps due to budgetary constraints, COFFIN is set in the modern world of 1961 and not the late 1800′s of the Baron and the Count.
The pre-title sequence is set in an operating chamber where a man ( identity hidden by surgical garb ) works feverishly on his subject. Suddenly someone barges in and berates the medical student ( turns out that this is a college ) for his unauthorized experiments. After the credits we cut to a sleepy seaside Cornish village where several local men have gone missing. The town’s physician, kindly old Doc Robert Blood ( Ian Hunter ), assists the local constable, with the help of his loyal, lovely nurse, Linda Parker ( Court ). To everyone’s surprise the old doc’s son Peter ( Kieron Moore ) returns from his medical studies ( Hmmm…. ) to help Pop with his practice ( and romance the lovely Nurse Parker ). The prodigal’s arrival adds to the mystery which involves the use of the poison curare and live organ transplants!
COFFIN has a couple interesting names behind the camera. Another Hammer regular, Phillip Martell was the musical director. Future film director Nicholas Roeg ( DON’T LOOK NOW ) gained some film credits as a camera operator. Screenwriter Nathan Juran toiled behind the scenes on several 1950′s SF epics along with penning the script to cult fantasy film fave JACK THE GIANT KILLER. The COFFIN alum with the longest lasting future film career may be director Sidney J. Furie who continues working to this day. Later in the decade he made the spy classic THE IPCRESS FILE with Michael Caine. The 70′s brought LADY SINGS THE BLUES and GABLE AND LOMBARD, while the 80′s had the IRON EAGLE films and the notorious SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE. For the last few years Furie has balanced feature films with work for the small screen ( ” VIP ” and ” Lonesome Dove: The Series” ).
The disc is bare bones without any of the bonus features bells and whistles, but it is a sharp clear picture transfer with excellent audio. The color really pops particularly the reds, from the crimson covered scalpels to Ms. Court’s fiery locks. The film itself may seem a tad stodgy to modern horror audiences with a fairly awkward climax ( perhaps the budget had been spent by the time they shot it ). You do get a lumbering monster in gruesome make-up played by Paul Stockman ( now there’s a last name to send chills down the spine ) appearing in the final moments. So, if you’re in the mood for some old-fashioned frights whip up some popcorn, and drop in DOCTOR BLOOD’S COFFIN. As Joe Flaherty’s immortal SCTV character Count Floyd would say, ” Ooooo scary, kids! “.