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The year is 1885, and necrophiliac Dr. Hitchcock likes to drug his wife for sexual funeral games. One day he accidentally administers an overdose and kills her. He leaves his home shattered. Several years later he remarries and returns. Discovering that his still beloved first wife is alive but insane and prematurely aged, he plans to use the blood of his new bride to rejuvenate and heal her. Written by
Dean Harris <email@example.com>
Enticing, beautiful and absorbingly atmospheric Italian Gothic horror film from the absolute golden period, the early 60's, and starring one of the world's most radiantly gorgeous female creatures; Barbara Steele. "The Terrible Secret of Dr. Hichcock" - notice there's no "T" in the name to avoid lawsuits against the master of suspense himself takes place in London in the year 1885, at the peak of the Victorian era in other words, and certainly contains all the necessary ingredients of a delicious Gothic cocktail, but unfortunately the film is a bit slow-moving and it takes slightly too long before something really substantial occurs. Director Riccardo Freda generates a compelling and ultra-macabre Gothic atmosphere, with numerous thunderstorms and dark château passageways, but he doesn't have a fascinating enough plot to go with the ambiance. Usually writer Ernesto Gastaldi punctually delivers engaging and superb scenarios, but maybe this time he seemingly had a bit of an off-day. After his wife dies from a mysterious condition, which he may or may not have inflicted himself, Dr. Hichcock promptly leaves his mansion and prominent job at the hospital. He returns twelve years later with an even lovelier new wife (Mrs. Steele!) Cynthia and reprises his profession. During her many dull days alone in the mansion, Cynthia notices a sinister presence and it doesn't take too long before she starts losing her mind further on. She suffers from horribly nightmarish hallucinations in which she hears disturbing screams and spots Dr. Hichcock's previous wife meander through the house and nearby woods completely covered in a white ghostly nightgown. Is her mental condition really deteriorating or could it be that the good Doctor's first wife never really passed away? I think the title alone already answers this haunting question. Overall a very derivative and forgettable story but, as said, it are the spooky atmosphere and Victorian elements that'll keep you alert in this movie. The decors are stunning and the black-and-white photography is stylishly elegant. If you've never seen this type of movie before, "The Terrible Secret of Dr. Hichchock" perhaps isn't the ideal place to start, but experienced horror fanatics will certainly appreciate spotting all the luscious trademarks.
Riccardo Freda actually was the mentor of the greatest Italian horror director who ever lived; Mario Bava. Freda took a step sideways on the film sets of "I, Vampire" and "Caltiki"; offering Bava a chance to complete his first films as director as well next to being the cinematographer. I always wondered whether or not Freda ever regretted this initiative, because from the very first moment the acolyte surpassed his mentor in terms of pure and genuine craftsmanship. For example this "The Terrible Secret of Dr. Hichckock" is a nice and worthwhile Gothic horror installment, but it undeniably can't hold a candle to Bava's "Black Sunday" (also starring Barbara Steele) or "The Whip and the Body".
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