The Surgeon 1995 (USA, UK, Germay)
Writer – Patrick Cirillo, Bernardino Sloane
Director – Carl Schenkel
Runtime – 99 minutes
Finding a day off I sought a way to entertain myself, if only to avoid daunting household chores that seriously require attention. I happened upon a tangled mass of cords in the basement and a VHS player I haven’t used in what feels like aeons. Hours later (have I mentioned I get distracted easily) I’m sifting though a collection of tapes in hopes to find something to catch my interest. Finally, I re emerge, my eyes sparkling with glee at the assortment of nefarious titles in reach, a box its cover awash in a greenish tint (it might want to get that looked at) in my grasp with Malcolm McDowells name plastered on the cover and a smile on my sweaty visage.
Sitting back in relative comfort surrounded by an assortment of snacks, which one day will be the death of me if it isn’t my inane curiosity in the strangest of situations, I prepare to enter the retro realm. It’s then that I discover I don’t have a remote. I guess I’m getting my steps in for today. This makes me momentarily ponder on how it can possibly be that we all managed to survive without these handy little things.
Many films have explored the uses of the Petuatery region of the brain for its possible regenerative properties. From Beyond is obviously one of the most famous. Loosely based on a Lovecraftian tale it showcases Jeffrey Combs as a ‘mad’ scientist whose forehead gives birth to an oddly hypnotic phallus type thing. The Surgeon is thankfully, a little different its attentions are focused on an extract, from the same area, rather than the whole gland itself. Naturally, mining for such liquid can be tricky, I don’t think people would line up around the block hoping to make a few bucks so that a ravenous syringe might enter their grey matter for extraction purposes. However, I’ve been wrong before. In the case of this film a doctor’s research into such matters strips him of his rank and privilege (much like in other films featuring Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator among them) leaving him pissed off but most of all still hungry for answers and research materials. Though this fact isn’t realized till much later in the film it’s plastered across the movies box art, synopsis and IMDB so it’s not like I’m divulging any major spoilers here.
The Surgeons cast includes Charles Dance (Ferris Buellers Day off), Isabelle Glasser (who has a very recognizable face and an amazing body though not many film credits to her name Forever Young featuring Mel Gibson is among them), Malcolm McDowell (who needs no introduction) and a young James Remar (otherwise known as Dexter’s father) as well other faces that’ll make viewers dive for their phones to seek out IMDB for other notable appearances to help jog the memory.
The film makes at a great pace, introducing and exploring several of the characters effectively, foibles, exploding egos, warts and all, and the environment in which the majority of the film is to be set. The earliest of red herring is exterminated before the feature hits its half way mark but the film still holds the attention with its thunderous, dramatic and altogether grandiose score and utilization of a soundtrack which includes a famous song centering around a suckable candy (…on a stick – thanks Jeff Dunham) whose importance I’m sure Shirley Temple would vehemently disagree with.
The body count is high enough to please any casual fan of the genre but probably wouldn’t sate the demands of the more rabid gore fans. With that in mind however, the practical effects are often great. One scene unflinchingly explores a fantastic utilization for a metal drawer and it’s many uses in helping to ease the pain of wearing a metal restraint. Other scenes are hit and miss, though claret is splashed around without a care for the films FX budget. It’s honestly, at times, as if the department are raising a middle finger salute to the Red Cross. There are many other moments to make this a film to seek out, especially if you enjoy random nudity (who doesn’t?), a climax reminiscent of a reenactment of the gunfight at the OK Corral and a restaurant setting complete with a huge Manitee tank. If you can go into this viewing experience and not expect a groundbreaking storyline with no seriously high expectations you’ll leave happy. This is a fun flick to be sure though nothing that’ll stick for a long time following its closing credits other than perhaps leaving a mistrust for over-enthusiastic medical types and a burning question…what is the Pituitary gland, what does it do? and is that really how you spell it? (As I’ve spelt it a number of different ways throughout this article).
Your slave to cinema obscure, obscene, strange and more often than not forgotten in the depths of a bargain bin in the corner of a big box store.
You can find Cult on twitter.