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John Considine plays the flamboyant Dr. Death, a thousand-year-old magician who has mastered he art of transferring souls from one body to another and thereby manages to perpetuate himself by jumping from one body to the next. Apparently the Doc is a kindred spirit since his blood is a highly-corrosive acid that can strip flesh from bone. Written by
Now, would you listen to see if there is any heartbeat?
Volunteer in the Audience:
Oh, why, certainly!
[Dr. Death holds out a stethoscope, but the volunteer instead puts his ear directly against the dead girl's chest]
Volunteer in the Audience:
She's dead, all right. I couldn't feel - uh, I couldn't hear a thing.
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Under-rated veteran character actor John Considine relishes a rare leading role in this thoroughly enjoyable horror film. He plays the title character, who over a very long period of time has perfected the ability to transfer souls from one body to another. He's sought out by lawyer Fred Saunders (Barry Coe), who just can't let go of his recently departed wife Laura (Jo Morrow). A problem arises: Doctor Death can't find a soul willing to reside inside Lauras' body, and unwilling to admit defeat, proves himself eager to commit murder in order to obtain fresh souls.
This whole idea of "selective reincarnation" is a cool hook for this movie. It's not anything great, but it is entertaining. This is basically due to the story and to Considines' wonderfully hammy performance. The filmmaking isn't anything special, despite the use of some amusing scene transitions. Considine really is the main reason to watch, although it's also fun to see Leon Askin as Doctor Deaths' mute assistant and Florence Marly as his resentful associate Tana. The ladies are lovely, also including Cheryl Miller as Freds' secretary Sandy and Sivi Aberg as the young soul recipient Venus. There's much ghoulish humour to be found from the concept of Doctor Death trying over and over again, in vain, to fulfill his mission. One delicious sequence has the theatrical Doctor Death relating his entire lengthy back story to the inquisitive Fred. And there is a priceless sequence of one victim watching a late night spook show (featuring TV horror host Larry "Seymour" Vincent as a killer) while being visited by the real life menace of Doctor Death.
Appearances by the legendary Moe Howard (as an audience volunteer) and character actor Jim Boles as Franz the caretaker further add to the overall entertainment value. Coe and Stewart Moss, who plays Freds' friend Greg, can't help but come off as dull when you compare them to the magnetic Considine.
Worth a look for lovers of 70s horror films.
Seven out of 10.
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