Retro Film Report #54: Perv Doctors

 Circus of Horrors (1960)/ La Dottoressa Sotto il Lenzuolo (1976)/ Dr. Sex (1964)

Three movies coming at you, all featuring doctors as the lead characters... and all a bit perverted.  In Circus, Anton Diffring plays a demented plastic surgeon who gets off on controlling women by restoring their disfigured faces.  In La Dottoressa, we have Italian medical residents, who also happen to be sex crazed buffoons, and in Dr. Sex, we have perverted psychiatrists courtesy Wayne "Trapper John" Rogers (a doctor double whammy).  Enjoy.

Circus of Horrors (1960)

The film begins with a bang - in fact this may be one of the better intros to a horror film I've ever seen.  A woman is hysterical, smashing up her house - what could be the matter?  When the police storm the scene they see exactly what's going on here - her face.  Her face is that of a deformed monster.  The camera doesn't shy away from her hideous visage, and I am sure audiences at the time were stricken by this genuinely disturbing introduction.

Unfortunately, it's kind of downhill from here.

We're introduced to Dr. Schuler (Anton Diffring), a plastic surgeon.  To say he is committed to his profession would be the understatement of the year; you might say he's coo-coo for facial reconstruction.  Unfortunately, he's the man behind the plastic surgery fail at the start of the film... So, maybe he shouldn't be quite so cocky just yet.

But cocky he is. Dr. Schuler is a humorous egomaniac; wholly unlikable in every respect.  Anton Diffring plays him completely straight, with relentless intensity.  It's reminiscent of Peter Cushing's Frankenstein or Walter White - a mad scientist who pretends to conduct his dastardly experiments for a good cause (in the name of science, to pay the bills, etc.), but we all know it's just to satisfy their raging ego.

Anyway, Dr. Schuler is assisted by a completely subservient brother and sister.  The brother is beyond meek, and inexplicably puts his own life in jeopardy to help this madman.  His sister is madly in love with Schuler, but the feeling is not reciprocated.

The three go into hiding and use a French circus as a front for Dr. Schuler to perform his plastic surgery.   Dr. Schuler finds women of ill repute with jacked up faces, convinces them to subject themselves to his plastic surgery, and join his circus.  It's every bit as idiotic as it sounds... Yet this is the plot of the movie.

Eventually, one of his "patients", Magda von Meck (Vanda Hudson), becomes the star of his fairly lame little circus.  I'm not really sure why she achieves such celebrity; it looks like she just rides a horse and twirls on a rope - but whatever; I'll roll with it.

Now the top billed star seeks to advance her career by joining another bigger and better circus.  As you might imagine, Dr. Schuler doesn't think too highly of this decision.  First he tries to woo her with his animal magnetism in a scene featuring Vanda Hudson in a shockingly revealing getup for a 1960 production.

To make matters even more titillating, there was a "continental" version of this film which featured Hudson fully naked.  Sadly, that version has never made it to DVD/Blu Ray.

Anyway, after that fail, Schuler threatens to reveal her checkered past - to no avail.  Finally he proceeds to plan C....

The knife thrower act goes bad.  The star performer is struck in the neck by one of the throwing knives (in a surprisingly graphic moment).  Obviously, Dr. Schuler is behind this.  The audience is horrified; further cementing Dr. Schuler's group as "The Jinx Circus".  Evidently, this isn't the first time X has resorted to murder.

Murder to keep his plastic surgery business going.  Did I mention that he's a bit over-committed to his trade?

Indeed, we're introduced to his homicidal ways earlier in the film when Schuler takes the circus from Donald Pleasence.  The fact that Anton Diffring is more intense and over-acting than Pleasence should give you an idea of the level of scenery chewing we're dealing with here.

Anyway, what ultimately stuns the pace of the movie is the fact that this exact scenario is played out again.  Yes, there's another top performer (a former prostitute as well) who wants to check out of his crummy circus   We see the exact chain of events repeated, ultimately leading to her deadly fall from a rope.

Good grief.  At least the film is essentially over at this point. A journalist gets wise to this "jinx circus" and things come to a head between Schuler and the siblings.

Admittedly, the film is beautiful to look at.  Add to that, a bevy of beautiful women, and Diffring, who say what you will about his over-the-top performance, it's anything but boring.  Plus, it pushes the limits on several occasions: the grotesque victims of Schuler's knife, and the daringly sexual performance of Vanda Hudson.  It is unfortunate that the story becomes repetitive; however, in light of its strengths, it's something I can overlook.  Gilligan recommends.

La Dottoressa Sotto il Lenzuolo (1976) AKA Under the Sheets 

Your standard Italian sex comedy fare.  You've got your idiotic Alvaro Vitali, you've got your Benny Hill level naughtiness, and you've got a level of juvenile humor that makes Porky's seem like a Merchant-Ivory production. Depending on your tastes, those either go in the "win column" or the "fail column".  For me, it's all a win (minus the hateful Vitali).

Possibly the best scene: Ely Galeani is Alvaro Vitali's gold-digging tease fiancé. She won't put out, but drives him to hysterical distraction changing in and out of a skimpy bikini.

The film doesn't under-deliver on the T&A, which is the cardinal sin of sex comedies.  I suppose my only gripe is that it's a bit mean spirited; but it's just so stupid, that it's hard to feel strongly about anything in this film.

Orchidea DeSantis plays a nurse named "Italia" who is the subject of incessant sexual harassment throughout the film (this movie could never be made today).

At one point she is coerced into sex with the elderly head doctor while everyone watches on close-circuit TV and laughs; she is later abandoned at the altar by her fiancée.   Are we laughing yet?

Vitali and his medical resident friend regularly use their affiliation with the hospital to get get women out of their clothes.  Even the maid is not immune...

Isn't that kind of unethical?  It's probably best not to think too deep with this one, folks.

Vitali's other medical resident comrade can't stop fantasizing about another doctor at the hospital (played by Karen Schubert).

Schubert was in a ton of sleazy flicks in the late sixties-early seventies.  In 1985, she entered the adult film world, which in my opinion is kinda sad.

The poor sap will do anything to be around this sexy doctor, even faking a fatal disease.  (Note that the above picture is pure fantasy, and doesn't really happen.)

Eventually, we find out that Vitali's fiancé, despite being frigid at home, is actually a highly paid escort.

Vitali eventually discovers her secret.  In a completely sad and unfunny punchline, he pays the two ladies for a threesome.  Mercifully, we are spared seeing Vitali in action.

As I said, it's all unbelievably stupid, sexist and perverted, but you don't go into this expecting anything less.   Two thumbs up.

Dr. Sex (1964)

A few "psychiatrists" each tell their wildest stories as told to them by their patients.  What interested me about this one is that it's by the same guys that did Astro Zombies (1968), a film covered on Retrospace, as you may recall.  As with Astro Zombies, this is directed by Ted V. Mikels and written by the one and only, Wayne Rogers (Trapper John!).

The first story is pretty lame.  Basically, we just watch a blonde undress and take a bath while the patient narrates.  The narration, as you might imagine, is pretty cringeworthy.  I like to think Wayne Rogers didn't script this part.

Example of the narration:
"This was the first time I ever wanted to be a bar of soap.  What a way to drown.  You can have your champagne bubbles - I'll take soap bubbles."

The basis for the story: the narrator is watching this woman, not from a hiding place, but in the open... and she doesn't even mind.  Is she an exhibitionist?

At the end of the segment we learn that the patient is actually a poodle (insert laughter).  Hence, the girl's lack of concern over being watched.

Oh, boy.  This is terrible.

The next story is told by the female psychiatrist.  It involves a patient who likes to dress and undress mannequins whom he imagines to be real.

As a form of therapy, the psychiatrist lets the patient undress her.  Um, okay.

On to the next story.

This one deals with an exhibitionist.  We see her pose for an artist, then we see her striptease at a nudie bar.

Not a particularly intriguing story.  But the required allotment of T&A is delivered, and that's what matters.

The last story is told by a psychiatrist who, for some inexplicable reason, talks like Bela Lugosi.  His patient believes his house is haunted by nude women doing housework.  (Obviously a fantasy of Wayne Rogers)

The end devolves into a chaotic mess I won't even attempt to explain.  Suffice to say, the poodle makes an appearance.

Dr. Sex is clearly just about providing boobs for audiences, nothing more.  Sure, it's got that signature Trapper John flair, but I'd still have to recommend you skip this one and watch Astro Zombie instead.

1 comment:

  1. You never mentioned the most famous and negative aspect of Circus of Horrors. It is the song, "Look For a Star." The song was a fairly big hit, but there were about a dozen versions out. They all sounded like the guy singing it in the movie, only under a different name. The best version was by Billy Vaughn and that was because it was an instrumental.