RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES has been away. He explains why, and reflects on Doctors in Horror and the medical profession’s place in British horror.
It’s been some time since my last column. You see, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals recently. Not through choice, I hasten to add. My sense of humour may be warped, but there are limits…
Picture this: You’re in a hospital bed, isolated in a side room, attached to tubes and wires which run to a variety of equipment which Baron Frankenstein would have had a field day with. It’s two in the morning. The only thing you’ve got to watch is video streaming on your phone. Now, you’re semi-deliriously drifting in and out of sleep in the dead of night… This is when a hospital can be an extremely creepy place. Every sound from along the corridors can set a fevered imagination on some strange courses, especially when you’ve spent a sizeable chunk of your life watching horror movies…
It’s in this exact position I find myself, regretting my earlier film choice of Scream And Scream Again (1969). Yep, that’s the one where the fella in hospital keeps waking up to find his limbs are gradually being removed. These moments keep running on a loop whenever I try to drift off to sleep, jolting me awake again. I’ve never been particularly prone to horror film-related nightmares, but I guess there’s always a first time.
So, since I now find myself trying to stay awake until this stage of delirium passes, I end up pondering doctors in Brit-Horror, and how many would be any real help to me in my current predicament. Since most of them would be prime candidates to be struck off in the real world, not many I imagine.
Baron Frankenstein was no slouch in the field of medical academia (a genius, I could argue), but I wouldn’t trust him with my personal welfare. He would likely hasten my demise to provide him with the freshest possible specimen for his next venture (albeit not a particularly fit one), but I guess if I’ve already popped my clogs he might give me a slim chance of successful resurrection.
Perhaps Michael Gwynn in The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958) might be considered his best shot at a male creation, although since Gwynn turns cannibalistic, and I’m a vegetarian, he might not be the best role model to aim for.
Four types of doctors in horror films
It strikes me that doctors in horror films generally aren’t much use in the real world. They usually fall into four categories:
- They’re mad scientists who end up creating some strange creature, or send their patients completely loopy – see Frankenstein, Corruption, The Blood-Beast Terror, The Creeping Flesh et al
- They seem quite affable on the surface, but are either ultimately in on the dreadful deed, or colluding with the strange locals and their secret practices – see The Wicker Man, The Reptile
- They’re actually a decent type, but end up getting killed off for trying to expose/confront some dastardly horror – see Nothing But The Night, The Gorgon, Asylum
- They’re Doctor Jekyll.
As a nurse makes her way along the corridor, it strikes me that she bears a strong resemblance to the nurse who gave me my medication yesterday morning, and came round with my afternoon meds a few hours later. It can’t be the same nurse, surely. Even with the current difficulties facing the NHS, she can’t be doing a 24 hour shift? Maybe she has a sister? Or they’ve somehow cloned her?
I think of the Hammer House Of Horror TV episode, The Two Faces Of Evil (1980), and its creepy hospital. You may recall that the unfortunate family that ended up in the local village got replaced by nasty doppelgängers. Are they working on a sinister duplicate of myself, ready to run amok? If so they should make sure he’s a darn sight fitter than I am, or his rampage won’t last long before he passes out from exhaustion.
I’m due to be transferred to another hospital in the next few days for heart surgery, but they haven’t settled on which one. I hope it’s not the one run by Michael Gough in Horror Hospital (1973), although judging by the green gloop at mealtime passing itself off as “mushy peas”, this place may be using the same caterer. That’s unfortunate, as the sun has begun to rise, which means breakfast will soon be coming around. I make a mental note to stick to the corn flakes. After that, I might just try to get some sleep…