Doctor Butcher, M.D. (1980)

AUGUST 26, 2008


There’s a sort of caveat to seeing a movie at the New Beverly, particularly on Grindhouse night, and using it for my daily Horror Movie A Day entry: I’m usually buzzed if not slightly drunk by the time it starts, and then I spend most of the movie laughing and cheering at the ridiculousness on screen. As a result, when it comes time to write a review for a movie like Doctor Butcher M.D. (aka Zombie Holocaust), I’m hard-pressed to remember any details. Maybe HMAD reader and fellow Grindhouse loyalist Joe can help me out if I skip anything important.

Like a lot of cannibal movies, this one starts in New York. It’s not as inexplicable as the NY intro of Cannibal Ferox, however, and it actually contains some cannibalism right from the start. But otherwise it’s essentially a remake of Fulci’s Zombi: we meet our guys and gals, and then its off to the island, where some folks are killed, weird shit goes down, and a church (the same one, I think) is burned down. Except this one also has cannibals. It was like there were too many cannibal movies, and too many zombie movies, so the only chance director Marino Girolami and writer/producer Fabrizio De Angelis had to make a name for themselves was to combine the two.

As a result, it’s neither as graphic nor violent as the landmark zombie/cannibal films that were released around the same time (Cannibal Holocaust, Zombi, etc), but it’s still an ass-ton of fun. Five minutes into the movie, a guy dives out a 10th story window, and as he hits the ground, his arm flies off. This is because it’s obviously a mannequin, and then when they cut to a closeup of the (real) guy on the ground, his arm has been restored. If you see something like that, and you don’t cheer... you might as well just get the fuck out of the cinema.

Zombi’s Ian McCulloch also appears in this one, and he’s a riot. Constantly dressed in a large tan trenchoat, he doesn’t really do much in the movie except bark orders at people (“Bury him!”) and devise ineffectual plans, such as bringing a stick to a machete fight (in a sequence that looks like it was shot in the Pine Barrens, not the island of Kito like the rest of the movie). Later in the film he is captured, and his escape is extraordinary. Using a helpfully close-by scalpel, he cuts his binds and then waits for the right moment. His captors never seem to notice the fact that his hand and neck are no longer restrained (the neck straps are just laying there across his chest). But he manages to bungle the whole thing anyway, almost instantly being re-subdued after making his move.

One interesting tidbit is that Roy Frumkes, best known for Document of the Dead, was brought in to shoot a new title sequence for the US version (which I guess is what we had, though the print seemed to be assembled from a couple of sources). He also did himself a solid; the film’s director is buried in the middle of the credits, while Frumkes’ name is given the last slot typically reserve for said director. A douche move, but an awesome one all the same.

Unusual for a Grindhouse night, there were no special guests, BUT I did “win” the raffle for once; Grindhouse guru Brian Quinn gave me his signed poster of Bobbie Bresee from the time she was there for a screening of Mausoleum (which was one of the first GH nights I attended!). Since the poster was made out to “Brian”, he asked if anyone in the crowd had that name, and I was the first to respond. What’s in a name, indeed. The poster is now proudly displayed in the backseat of my car next to some napkins, the AC charger for my cell, and an issue of Fangoria. Thanks BQ!

What say you?


  1. i love this movie! 5/5

  2. I felt kinda bad for this movie. Anything billed with RAW FORCE will tend to become an after thought, but I really enjoyed it. I got so into the cannibal aspect of the film that I kinda forgot there were zombies in the movie to begin with, so when the zombies finally showed up, it was cool to feel the film kick it into another gear. Then the doctor reveals his evil and it goes into even another gear. It really was a night of upping the ante all the way through with RAW FORCE just taking it to astronomical levels.

    I also liked how this movie felt like it was piggybacking Zombie's production. Like some AD shot it on the weekends with shortends during the filming of Fulci's flick. Also I think Molotto was in Zombie as well, played by a dude known only as Dakar.

    More great moments...

    - Whitey number 2 gets gutted and double eye gouged, and McCulloch now with all of his grave diggers eaten, suddenly doesn't care about people being buried.

    - Zombie death by boat motor. Excellent.

    - The blonde lady gets involved in what I like to imagine was some kind of tribal circle jerk.

    - Also I recommend watching this movie imagining that Molotto is being played by Robert Downey Jr.'s character in TROPIC THUNDER. "What do you mean these islands?!"

    My only complaint was that Dr. Butcher's death wasn't gorey or anything. He was just mauled and I guess burned alive. If anyone deserved a gorey demise it was the doctor. He needed something on the level of Rhodes in DAY OF THE DEAD. Maybe they ran out of animal guts. Oh well... good times though.


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