Monday, August 1, 2016

DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. (1980) (Blu-ray Review)

The Definitive 2-Disc Edition
Label: Severin Films
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: Region-Free
Duration: Doctor Butcher M.D. (82 Mins), Zombie Holocaust (89 Mins) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English and Italian LPCM 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Marino Girolami 
Cast: Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Sherry Buchanan, Peter O’Neal, Donald O’Brien

Synopsis: It sparked riots on 42nd Street, spawned a generation of gorehounds on VHS, and forever set an insane standard for Italian mad doctor/zombie/cannibal carnage worldwide: Ian McCulloch (Zombie), Alexandra Delli Colli (The New York Ripper), Sherry Buchanan (Tentacles) star in this blood orgy of gut-munching, eyeball-gouging and face-chopping originally known as Zombie Holocaust, which a notorious American distributor would then re-edit, re-title and re-release as a certified grindhouse masterpiece. Severin Films now presents both films fully restored for the first time ever from original vault elements discovered in Manhattan and Rome, and loaded with all-new Bonus Features that finally reveal the unbelievable truth behind its bizarre history, infamous marketing and still-deviant legacy.

Zombie Holocaust (1980) is a wildly entertaining and somewhat awful mash-up of the Italian zombie and cannibal sub genres that were so popular in the flea pit cinemas as the 70s turn into the 80s. The movie lifts big meaty chunks from Lucio Fulci's Zombi (1979) along with pieces from Sergio Martino's The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978), including a very memorable location from Fulci's Zombi, and going as far as to borrow the movie's lead actor Ian McCulloch whom they didn't even bother to rename for this one!

The movie opens with a series of grisly corpse mutilations happening at a hospital morgue in New York City. Pathologist Dr. Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli) is at a loss to explain the body part thefts until an orderly is caught red-handed with a human heart. Before they can ask why the orderly runs away and leaps to his death through a upper floor window. The leap through the window is a fun slice of schlock cinema cheese, the obvious dummy the filmmakers threw out the window loses an arm on impact with the ground. The orderlies dying words are "Kito", this word and a series of strange tribal tattoos lead attractive Dr. Ridgeway to surmise that the mutilations has something to do with a cannibal cult and the island of Kito in the South Pacific. With that tenuous bit of info Ridgeway and NYC Health Department official Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch), along with annoying investigative reporter Susan (Sherry Buchanan) and her boyfriend George (Peter O’Neal) board a jet and fly to the island of Kito in search of answers. Answers for what I am not sure, since the cannibal orderly dead you think that would end their inquest, but the filmmakers have to get this crew to the island of Kito somehow to get things underway proper, and this does nicely if you don't think too long on it, which I do not recommend you do. 

Arriving on tropical island of Kito the group become the guests of Dr. Obrero (Donal O’Brien), an America doc who is on the island studying the local cannibal tribe. The doc organizes a doomed excursion into the jungle for the visiting doc and her crew. Unfortunately Dr. Ridgeway and Chandler run afoul of the local cannibals, with Ridgeway thankfully stripped down nude and body-painted by the cannibal clan, meanwhile Chandler gets caught up in the diabolical mad science of Dr. Obrero who is obsessed with prolonging life through some oddball brain transplants. 

Shot on the cheap and short on originality this Italian production manages to be a lot of fun there is no shortage of crude gore with some ropey gut munching, hacked limbs, slit throats, brutal eye-gouging, and some of the worst zombie make-up ever committed to film. However, the good stuff manages to be pretty great, including McCulloch taking out a zombie with the running propeller blades of a boat motor, which was badass! There's also some sweet nudity  courtesy of Alexandra Delli Colli (The New York Ripper) who potrays a piss-poor doc but is easy on the eyes and often nude. McCulloch as always manages to class up the Italian movies with his presence, even this turd of a zombie movie with his usual charm. Donal O’Brien chews up the scenery as the mad scientist with some great cheesy lines, and bright-eyed actress Sherry Buchanan adds some spunk to the movie, though unfortunately she does not strip down for any of her scenes, though she appeared nude in quite a few movies through the years.

The two-disc set from Severin includes the original longer version of the movie Zombie Holocaust with the original title card and a scee that was missing fro previous releases, and also includes, for the first-time ever on disc, the Aquarius releasing version known as Doctor Butcher M.D, a cut with an alternate psycho-tronic synth score with some of the more mundane dialogue trimmed out for pacing,  only leaving behind the good stuff. The Doctor Butcher M.D. retitling is more appropriate as the zombies number in the single digits, making it hard to call this a proper Zombie Holocaust. 

Audio/Video: Severin have gone all out for this one, not only are we getting the a new 2K scan of the original negative of Zombie Holocaust (89 Mins) but we are getting a new 2K scan of the Dr. Butcher M.D. (82 Mins) from the original negative elements straight from the Aquarius Releasing vaults, fully uncut, marking the first time this version of the move has received a release on disc. The new Severin restoration is quite an improvement over my 2002 Shriek Show DVD, there's a nice layer of film grain with some nice clarity and fine detail. The image is brighter and the colors more vibrant, black levels are deeper, a very nice upgrade overall. The movie is low-rent and looks it, but the new transfer is above and beyond previous versions, making the ropey special effects look even worse in HD. 

The 2-disc comes with a few audio options, disc one with the Doctor Butcher M.D. cut includes English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and LPCM 2.0. The Zombie Holocaust cut on the second disc features English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and Italian LPCM 2.0. The Zombie Holocaust version features a score from composer Nico Fidenco while the Doctor Butcher M.D. version features a wonderfully cheesy psycho-tronic score from Walter Sear (who did the alternate score for the Seven Doors of Death version of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond) which I preferred to the original score. The audio tracks on both versions of the movie sound clean and crisp with no snap, crackle or hiss, the scores sound good, everything is nicely balanced in the mix. 

Onto the extras we have a metric fuck ton of awesome extras spread out over the two Blu-ray discs, the quality of this stuff is Criterion worthy, with Severin once again going above and beyond to give this slice of z-grade cinema a first class edition. On disc one we have the extras for Doctor Butcher M.D. beginning with a half hour interview with Terry Levene, the now eighty-six year old mastermind who ran Aquarius Releasing. The old duff is quite a storyteller and goes into the history of Aquarius Releasing, detailing the success of skin pics like Deep Throat and the gore and grue of movies like Make Them Die Slowly and The Seven Doors of Death. This is a great extras, it does a nice job of setting up the era the movie was shown in, and the very cool ad campaign he created for the movie. 

Down on the Deuce is a guided tour of the now sanitized 42nd Street with director Roy Frumkes and cult movie historian Chris Poggialli of Temple of schlock as they walk down 42nd pointing out where the locations of the old grindhouse cinemas. Each giving their own personal first-hand accounts and insight into each of them, they really pack a lot of history into this one, it goes beyond just flea pit cinemas. The segment is also informed by a series of vintage photographs and video of the area and era, another solid extra. 

Severin have also included Roy Frumkes' segment of the unfinished horror anthology film 'Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out', which Terry Levene has spliced rather poorly into the beginning of Doctor Butcher M.D. It's nice to have it on this set in its entirety with an audio commentary from Frumkes. 

The reclusive Rick Sullivan of the Gore Gazette shows up for a 12-minute interview, the infamous zine publisher speaks about his time working on the Gore Gazette, promoting Doctor Butcher MD. on the back of the “Butchermobile”, his appearance on the Morton Downey Jr. Show, and some legal troubles he came into while selling grey market VHS tapes when he expanded his catalog to include movies from the now infamous Traci Lords. 


The film editor of Doctor Butcher M.D. Jim Markovic shows up for a 10-minute interview, speaking about his time working for Aquarius Releasing and how Levine would buy Euro-cult movies and "trick them up" for screenings on the grindhouse circuit. Disc one is finished up with an 
Illustrated Essay: “Experiments With A Male Caucasian Brain (…and other memories of 42nd Street)” By Gary Hertz plus the Theatrical Trailer and two Video Release Trailers for Doctor Butcher M.D.. 

Onto disc two we have an eight-minute interview with star Ian McCulloch who begins by saying that "I started at the top and very quickly worked my way to the bottom", which sets the tone for the brief interview as he speaks about his career in movies and onto his turn in the gore classics Zombi, Contamination and Zombie Holocaust - the latter of which he has never sat down to watch!

The late Italian FX Master Rosario Prestopino shows up for a twenty-three minute archival video interview recorded back in 2007, discussing his work on the movie. Fans will remember his name from other classic Italian movies like Demons, Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead and the schlock-classic Burial Ground. The interview is conducted in Italian with optional english subtitles. 

I had no idea that the director of Zombie Holocaust was the father of director Enzo G. Castalari (Bronx Warriors) who shows up for a loving tribute to his father Marino Girolami, which was a nice surprise. The still gorgeous actress Sherryl Buchanan shows up for a chat about her career making Italian exploitation movies, which a fun watch as she speaks about how she was born in Biloxi, Mississippi and how she ended up in Italian movies, including the reason she quit acting, after a body double was used to insert some hardcore sex scenes in the movie Emanuelle and Joanna, after wich she was besieged by requests to do sex films.The interview is in Italian with optional English subtitles. 

A five-minute interview with FX Artist Maurizio Trani features the artist reminiscing about working with Marino Girolami whom he recalls did not understand special effects the way that Lucio Fulcio did, creating the brain-surgery scene and how they achieved it, using clay to quickly sculpt zombie make-up on set, and fondly remembering make-up artists Rosario Prestopino, though he says he only vaguely recalls making this particular movie. 

Severin have also included a 1964 audio recording of star Ian McCulloch singing "Down by the River"  which has nothing to do with the movie, but is still a cool inclusion. The song is a pretty standard 60s folk song, but not unpleasant. Disc two zipped up with the International and German trailers for the Zombie Holocaust. Packaging extras include a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring key art for both versions of the movie, as do each of the Blu-ray discs. Also, the first 5000 copies ordered directly from include a free Doctor Butcher barf bag! 

Special Features: 

Disc One: Doctor Butcher M.D. 

- Butchery and Ballyhoo: Interview with Aquarius Releasing’s Terry Levene (32 Mins) HD 
- Down on the Deuce: Nostalgic Tour Of 42nd Street With Temple Of Shock’s Chris Pogialli and Filmmaker Roy Frumkes. (22 Mins) HD 
- Roy Frumkes’ Segment Of Unfinished Anthology Film ‘Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out’. Frumkes’ full cut of his episode of the doomed anthology film, accompanied by his audio commentary. (8 Mins) 
- The Butcher Mobile: Interview with Gore Gazette Editor and Butcher Mobile Barker Rick Sullivan. (12 Mins) HD 
- Cutting Doctor Butcher: Interview with Editor Jim Markovic. (10 Mins) HD 
- Illustrated Essay: “Experiments With A Male Caucasian Brain (…and other memories of 42nd Street)” By Gary Hertz. The Doctor from the Butcher Mobile recalls his days on the Deuce.
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) 
- Video Release Trailers for Doctor Butcher M.D. (2 Mins) 

Disc Two: Zombie Holocaust 

- Voodoo Man: Interview With Star Ian McCulloch. (8 Mins) HD 
- Blood of the Zombies: Interview With FX Master Rosario Prestopino. (23 Mins) HD 
- Filmmaker Enzo G, Catsalari Remembers His Father Director Marino Girolami (8 Mins) HD 
- Neurosurgery Italian style: Interview with FX Artist Maurizio Trani. (5 Mins) HD 
- New York Filming Locations Then Vs. Now. A look at the Big Apple locales as they are today. (3 Mins) HD 
- Ian McCulloch Sings “Down By The River”. (3 Mins) 
- International Trailer (4 Mins) HD 
- German Trailer (3 Mins) 
- The first 5000 copies of this double disc release will come with official Doctor Mutcher Barf Bag! Available exclusively from
- Sleeve of Reversible Artwork featuring key art for Zombie Holocaust and Doctor Butcher M.D.. 

If you love cheap gore, crude zombies and loads of Euro-cheese then Doctor Butcher M.D. has the prescription you need! Severin's 2-disc edition of Doctor Butcher M.D. / Zombie Holocaust is the definitive gore platter and is the only version of the movie you will ever need to own.