Quick show of hands : are you pro-life or pro-choice? Maybe you’re somewhere in between, or haven’t even thought about it that much?
Honestly, I don’t care. Well, I mean, I do, since I definitely have a strong view on the subject myself (one which you can probably infer based on the obvious leftist leanings exhibited in many of my reviews), but for our purposes today, it really doesn’t matter, because no-budget auteur Nick Millard’s 1987 shot-on-video opus Doctor Bloodbath (as it’s billed on the VHS box even though the opening credits state the movie’s title as being Butcher Knife — not that the credits here actually have anything to do with the later proceedings, since they’re just cribbed from Criminally Insane) is, as our headline states, sure to be a work of “art” that nobody wants to be associated with, whatever their leanings on the issue of reproductive rights may be.
That’s because it’s bad. In fact, it’s really bad. But it’s also insanely, addictively watchable. Seriously. Once just ain’t enough to fully absorb the depraved, sub-amateur grandeur of all that’s on display here. You need to sit through it about three or four times in a row — at least — to take it all in. Good thing it’s only 57 minutes long.
Where to begin? Well, as with most ’80s Millard (here billed as “Nick Phillips,” one of several pseudonyms he’s employed at various points in his career for reasons only he himself apparently knows) fare, the vast majority of this was shot in his Pacifica, California residence-at-the-time. The film’s only recognizable “stars” (a term always used extremely loosely in one of Nick’s productions) are his wife, his mother, and his friend Albert Eskinazi. Footage from the director’s previous efforts (Satan’s Black Wedding being the primary “lender” in this case) is liberally interspersed to pad the already-thin runtime. And the gore effects employed are enough to make the average Ed Wood flick look like a big-budget blockbuster by comparison.
Where Doctor Bloodbath deviates most from standard Millard offerings , though, is in the fact that there’s a little less time spent with Nick’s Sony betacam pointed at people sitting on couches, scooping out ice cream, pacing around tables, or digging holes in the back yard. In other words, some shit actually happens in this one.
To wit : a number of young(ish) ladies get murdered. The aforementioned Albert Eskinazi plays the titular doctor here, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. He spends his free time hacking up the women who have come to his clinic to terminate their pregnancies, for reasons that are never defined. Is he getting revenge on them in the name of their unborn fetuses? If so, why does he even provide abortion services in the first place? Is he an anal-retentive completist who feels he’s left a job half-done by only “killing” one of the parties involved in an abortion? If so, wouldn’t he need to kill himself at some point to finish his grim task once and for all? Or is he just plain nuts and that’s all there is to it?
My money is on the latter. Anyway, the red Karo syrup flows pretty freely for a time, and then we’re handed a couple of diversionary sub-plots — 1. the cops are investigating the case, and even though the murderer uses different weapons and no connection between the victims appears to have been established in the course of their detective work, they somehow instinctively know all these crimes are the work of a lone madman; and 2. Doc Bloodbath’s wife (played by Nick’s real-life spouse, Irmi Millard — his mom is on hand as the clinic nurse/maid, in case you were wondering) , who’s having an affair with a broke Polish poet, find herself knocked up by her paramour (who she then refers to as a no-good Polack) and turns to her husband for his medical expertise in ending her pregnancy. Here’s the end result —
But the medical inaccuracies don’t end with using plastic dolls as stand-ins for fetuses, as the good Doctor is seen on several occasions employing a water-filled turkey baster as his primary tool of the trade! In other words, this is not a movie being shown in any OB/GYN -related college courses. Anyway — there’s definitely some pure time-wasting on display here, most notably in the form of numerous close-ups of the killer’s eyeballs and even more numerous shots of him sitting around nervously twiddling this thumbs, but all in all things move along at a pretty brisk (compared to, say, the Death Nurse flicks) pace, and before you know it our “hero” has killed his wife, killed their maid/nurse (cue the Satan’s Black Wedding footage), has called the cops to turn himself in, and is sitting in a cell in the bughouse. The end.
I’ll sit through any Nick Millard movie you care to send my way (and thanks to the loyal reader who dropped this into my inbox, it’s much appreciated!), but strangely enough this one wasn’t even a chore. That’s because Doctor Bloodbath represent the director in (again, I use this term very loosely) top form. This is Cinema Du Millard refined to its purest essence — a laughably cheap and haphazard production with no goal apart from killing an hour’s worth of videotape that somehow exudes both heartfelt earnestness and a commitment to craft in spite an agonizingly clear lack of any resources or ability. This movie probably wants to be more than it is but honestly doesn’t even have the slightest clue as to how to go about doing so. You can call that delusional, confused, hopeless, or all of the above, but fuck it — I choose to call it genius.
Somewhere in here there’s probably some attempt at commentary on the subject of abortion itself, I suppose, but it’s hard to divine what that might be, or where it’s hidden. “Why don’t we make a cheap slasher flick tomorrow afternoon about an abortion doctor” seems to be the extent to which the repercussions of the issue were even considered, and as a result Doctor Bloodbath ends up being able to successfully alienate both the broadly-defined “pro-life” and “pro-choice” camps with an equal amount of ease — assuming anyone were foolish enough to take it seriously, which is frankly impossible.
All of which means, of course, that this is something you need to see immediately. If you can. It’s not available on DVD as of yet, but here’s to hoping that Jesus Teran at Slasher Video or some other generous soul sees fit to change that in the very near future. This is the pinnacle of Nick Millard’s “slasher phase,” and desperately deserves — nay, needs — to be seen by a wider audience.
Would a “special edition” that comes packaged with a cheap plastic doll and a turkey baster be too much to ask for?