Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blu-ray Review: The Doctor And The Devils (1985) [Scream Factory]

The Doctor And The Devils (1985)

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The Movie

I have to admit that I was not familiar with Freddie Francis’ film, THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS, until Scream Factory announced its acquisition a few months ago. I’ve known Francis’ work via other films – most notably as director of the 1970s TALES FROM THE CRYPT film and as a Director of Photography on many other well-known pictures (ELEPHANT MAN, GLORY, CAPE FEAR ’91, etc) – but he’s never been one of the folks whose filmographies I’ve dove into. Judging by reactions to the announcement of THE DOCTOR, it appears I was not the only one unaware of the film, which is a shame because, while it’s not great, it is certainly good and worth your time.

The story is pretty simple: Two good-for-nothings take up grave robbing, in order to make some quick money. They are paid nicely by a doctor (played by Timothy Dalton), via his assistant (played by a VERY young Julian Sands), who uses the cadavers to practice surgery on. Of course, none of this is on the up-and-up, and eventually, things go poorly, resulting in all sorts of trouble.

The film is a period piece, which can often hamper movies, but in this case, THE DOCTOR makes the most of its setting, and all told, the sets and costumes in the film are very well done. They certainly fit the grimy feel of the dirty streets that the grave robbers come from, and the more upscale abodes of the Doctor and his assistant juxtapose nicely, making the class themes of the film as apparent as ever. The action may be a little on the slower side, but fans of the output of British genre studio, Hammer Films, will probably find a lot to like here, as it truly feels like the film  would be at home in their catalog.
What THE DOCTOR lacks in pacing is certainly made up for in performances, though… For starters, Dalton is great as the morally reprehensible (though he does make some intriguing points) titular Doctor, and Sands is good as his love-lorn assistant. It’s also worth mentioning that the famous female model Twiggy also has a part as the prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold and Patrick Stewart has a smaller turn as well. All in all, the cast for the film is pretty fantastic, and it adds to my surprise that this is the first I had heard about the movie.

Of course, the film does have a few issues as well. For one, there’s the slow pacing in parts, which will likely cause some viewers to check out. And, honestly, the love story between the assistant and the hooker is not only a tad boring, but it’s also fairly trite and unnecessary. Still, the good elements of the film (production design, performances, etc) definitely outweigh the negatives, and I think that it’s something that is worth watching.

At the end of the day, while THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS is far from my favorite Scream Factory title, I applaud them for picking it up and introducing it to people like me who had never been aware of it. New discoveries like this are what makes Scream one of my favorite labels around.

Movie Score


The Blu-ray

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS comes in a standard-edition Blu-ray package.

Video Quality (4/5)

The 1080p AVC-Encoded transfer on this disc isn't anything amazing, but it is still very good. My guess is that this is simply taken from the existing HD Master that 20th Century Fox used on their DVD release. Detail is good, and certainly more fan-pleasing than RAVENOUS was, and even if there is a little bit of smearing and blocking present, it's hardly excessive and didn't bother me.

Audio Quality (4/5)

The DTS-HD Master Audio track included here is the original 2.0 mix, and it sounds great. 

Extra Features (2.5/5)

THE DEVIL AND THE DOCTORS doesn't have a huge amount of extras, but what is included here is good, and certainly worth your time.
  • Audio Commentary with Author Steve Haberman: Haberman didn't have any involvement with making the film, but his insights on its production history and the historical context of its setting are quite interesting.
  • (New) Interview with Executive Producer Mel Brooks, Producers Jonathan Sanger and Randy Auerbach (~16 min): A nice interview that covers the film's origins and history.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS is far from amazing, but it is a good film that has probably been overlooked by many genre fans. Scream Factory's Blu-ray release looks and sounds very good, and hopefully it will introduce the film to a brand new audience.


Blu-ray Score


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