Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Raptus: The Horrible Secret of Dr. Hichcock

RAPTUS: THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK (Frightening Secret of Dr. Hichcock, El terrible secreto del Dr. Hichcock) Directed By Riccardo Freda, Starring Barbara Steele (1962).

In London 1885 graves are being defiled in this strange Victorian era tale of necrophilia, erotic medical experiments and ghostly revenge. This film has some nice blueish hues mixed with pasty faced actors and drab color schemes. It sort of reminds me of Antonio Margheriti's "Virgin of Nuremberg" which had that unmistakable mix of Italian horror dread and atmospheric cinematography. But this time its a director we've never featured at ToG, Riccardo Freda who seemed to exclusively work with Mario Bava. There's a couple of Freda titles in the catalog that will be reviewed soon.

Hey baby . . . come here often?

   Margaret, a piano playing redhead is repeatedly shot up with a mysterious hypodermic needle by Dr. Bernard Hichcock (Robert Flemying), who looks kind of like a young Jim "Mr. Magoo" Backus with a crewcut. The injections are used for their oddball sexual kicks, somehow the Dr. makes a fatal error and kills her, after she is quickly buried in the backyard crypt. Once she has died, the Doc. cannot stand to be around anything that reminds him of his beloved and he skips town.

I learned how to be a professional necrophile on Gilligan's Island

   The lunkhead returns to his mansion with his new wife (man, those Italians get over things fast)! His newest bride Cynthia is played of course by the radiant Goth beauty Barbara Steele, who just two years prior appeared in her iconic role as the resurrected witch from Mario Bava's classic Black Sunday.

   Evil is lurking in the mansion, we're talking haunted cats and weird screams from the caretaker's sister who just escaped an asylum. A perfect time to turn in and get a restful goodnight's rest (Yeah Right)!
I sure hope a hairy hand doesn't press my face into the window like in Suspiria

   Steele is just cinematic eye-candy and looks adorable in this role as the frightened wife being visited by creaky phantoms in the dead of night. Martha the twisted old caretaker and Dr. Hichcock are working together to victimize poor Cynthia.

   I like how one of Bernard's colleagues mentions that he's worked with Freud in Vienna and Cynthia says she's never heard of ole' Siggy! The presence of the dead wife is everywhere in the house, even in a gaudy giant sized portrait with her cat Jezebel.

Just a friendly reminder to spay and neuter your evil pets

   Bernie it turns out has a boner for cold stiff women and fondles a random corpse in the morgue. Luckily a doctor catches him in the act and he stops. For 1962 a film about corpse fucking was unheard of (in the Deep Red catalog it's called a tender moving tribute to necrophilia)! In reality, you had Ed Gein ransacking his kitchen looking for that damn nipple belt!

   Steele walks down so many cryptic hallways carrying a candelabra and always looks beautiful. Bernie should stop pining for dead flesh and start humping his current wife, but that's what makes him so "horrible"!

I found a way to inject Wonka's fizzy lifting drinks

   In the dead of night during a thunderstorm, Dr. Hichcock dons a hideous red mask (that looks like the ones used in that famous Twilight Zone episode set in New Orleans) and tries to terrify Cynthia. It's debatable whether that creepy mask is made of rubber or was the true face of the doctor, it's not explained why he would wear an ugly mask for a split second. There's a lot of implied subtext that your mind fits together concerning the doctors sexual depravity.

You can find this cheapo mask at most Dollar Tree stores

  He finally seals Cynthia up in a coffin, after trying to drug her numerous times. She manages to escape, but it gets worse as Bernie's dead wife has risen from the grave and is pissed off that her husband has replaced her. Does Cynthia make it out in time, I'm not spoiling the end, so you'll have to find out for yourself!

What? No I wasn't falling asleep

   The Whip and The Body has the same kind of weird overtly taboo sexual nature of Raptus, early 60s audiences were not ready for it. Director Riccardo Freda (apparently a reluctant horror maker) is featured many times in the pages of Deep Red and in the VHS catalog. During a few movies, Mario Bava ghost directed for Freda on I, Vampiri and Caltiki-The Immortal Monster after Riccardo decided to bail on the set. Some sources mention how Bava considered Freda a mentor and his cinematic technicolor style seems to be a major influence.

   According to David Del Valle of kinoeye.org, there are tons of actual Alfred Hitchcock references throughout the film, wait you mean Freda wasn't trying to cash in like every other Italian Horror director in existence? Ernesto Gastaldi the screenwriter took elements of Vertigo (The portrait and haunted wife), Martha the housekeeper is patterned after Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, glass of poison milk (Suspicion) and the Hitchcock theme of wives in fear of their husband's devious obsessions. Worth checking out for Gothic Horror fans who wanna a little kinkiness with their scares.    



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