Doctor Bloodbath (1988)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

Somebody had to bring abortions and slashers together. I’m glad Nick Millard was the one to do it.

Successful filmmaking is about cutting away the mundane, focusing on specifics, and presenting a world that can be understood and digested in approximately 90 minutes. In The General, we don’t see Buster Keaton clean his bathroom. We see him balance on the edge of a careening locomotive with nothing but a timber for support. In Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable, we don’t watch Meiko Kaji buy her iconic black trench coat. We watch her chop off a man’s arm to remove her handcuffs. Doctor Bloodbath, the last late 80s Nick Millard SOV film, does not work like this. It is preoccupied with the mundane. We see people looking at the ground, talking about rent money, and putting perfume on old boobs. This is not informed or successful filmmaking. However, we do learn that abortions are achieved by waving an ear-flushing kit in front of a vagina.

Gordon from Death Nurse and Death Nurse 2 runs a health clinic. The phone rings. An elderly nurse answers and says, “Why yes, we perform abortions here. Shall I put you down for 3 P.M.?” After each operation, Gordon shows up at the patient’s home, injects her with drugs, and kills her. He uses a knife, a hammer, a screwdriver, and a meat cleaver to do this. Between killings, Gordon drives his white sedan on the San Francisco streets. He also sits down at a desk or on a couch and stares into space while twiddling his thumbs or clenching his fists. Meanwhile, Gordon’s wife is having an affair with a poet, who is of unknown European descent. He doesn’t speak English very well, but has many lines. The wife looks to be in her mid-fifties. When the poet gets the wife pregnant, the wife says, “That dirty rotten no good Pollack son of a bitch!” Then she turns to Gordon for help. This involves stabbing a plastic doll with a butcher knife, aka AN ABORTION.

Like all of Nick Millard’s films, Doctor Bloodbath runs just over 60 minutes. And, like Criminally Insane II and Gunblast, this movie is filled with shockingly terrible compositions, uncomfortable bouts of silence, and rapid fire edits of repeated footage. It has the same languid actors playing the same languid roles, though with different character names. Elements are reused across all of his films so often (Gordon’s car, that cemetery footage from Criminally Insane, the house from every Millard film spanning 1976-1988), that the blurring of boundaries between the movies becomes inevitable. The netherworld that Millard creates for his characters never changes. It just spreads, organically, in 60-minute increments. Still, Doctor Bloodbath surpasses Criminally Insane II and the Death Nurse films in terms of entertainment. It has a plot and introduces secondary characters. There’s less pillaging of footage from past Millard triumphs. Except when Gordon kills his maid. That scene is stitched together with a maid-killing scene from Satan’s Black Wedding, which would be fine except that the maids are not the same.

Very few people should be asked to sit through Millard’s SOV films. But Doctor Bloodbath is different. The mundane elements are so opposite of what we’re familiar with that everything we see becomes exhilarating. The film never spends too much time focusing on any one element. Plus, every single person who appears onscreen will make you gasp, barf, or ask, “Is he/she OK?” This includes the bearded man who slowly waves his hands at us during the last three minutes of the film. We’ve never seen him before this happens.

From the Archives