The Murder Clinic

The Murder Clinic

I never look at houses. Only the people living in them.

It's 1870 and at a remote English estate converted into a psychiatric asylum, a beautiful young patient has been murdered by a mysterious figure in a black hooded cloak. That same night, Giseéle (Françoise Prévost) is lost in the woods and stumbles upon the clinic's doctor, Robert Vance, burying the body. The next morning, Dr. Vance discovers Giséle and takes her in as a guest, where she meets the doctor's wife, Lizabeth (Mary Young), Nurse Mary (Barbara Wilson) and several patients at the hospital. Did Dr. Vance really kill the young woman? Or did one of the inmates finally snap? What are those strange footsteps coming from the forbidden third floor? And who will be the next to die?

The Murder Clinic (not to be confused with Slaughter Hotel, which has virtually the same plot) is an early giallo that relies on the trappings of gothic horror to create its mood: a dark castle, torch-weilding villagers and a quite-possibly-mad scientist. But The Murder Clinic also clearly owes a lot to the gialli of Mario Bava, whose trademark colored lighting is appropriated along with certain plot elements from Blood and Black Lace. There are also elements that presage an important later work but I'll go into detail below.

  • Elio Scardamaglia was mainly a producer of Italian exploitation films. This is the only movie he ever directed.
  • Barbara Wilson seems like a natural on-screen, but this is her only film credit.
  • You may remember Massimo Reghi (who plays psychotic patient Fred) as Marco in Blood and Black Lace.
  • The Murder Clinic is an early script by superstar screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi.
  • A shallow grave in the woods does not count as a scene in a cemetery, for the purposes of the checklist above.
What the Hell am I Watching?

 When Dr. Vance finds Giséle in the woods, he gives her a quick medical exam. And by "gives her a medical exam" I mean "gropes her bewbs."

There's a flashback late in the movie scored to a knockoff of the main theme from Gone With the Wind. I'm sure it's just different enough to avoid litigation.

Fashion Moment
Scardamaglia attempts a color motif in The Murder Clinic, just like Bava did in Blood and Black Lace. In this case, the color red links back to the first murder. At the beginning of the film, the killer runs through the castle and seemingly into the Vance's suite, where Robert is wearing this red smoking jacket.

The next morning, the victim has mysteriously vanished and Nurse Mary finds her red book slashed across the cover.

Wearing a fancy red dress, Giséle stumbles across Dr. Vance burying the body and when he finds her, Dr. Vance is wearing a red cape.

Later, when Giséle tries to blackmail Dr. Vance, he is wearing the same red smoking jacket.

On a different note, it may sound strange but The Murder Clinic may have been an influence on one of the greatest giallo films of all time - Dario Argento's Susperia.  The first murder in both films features a young woman escaping a looming manor house and running from a killer through the woods at night.  There's a scene in The Murder Clinic where Giséle slowly explores the house, gets chased by the killer, locks herself in a room, watches in terror as the door handle rattles, and is attacked - rather like Sara's memorable scene in Susperia. Both movies feature a mysterious woman hidden at the top of the house, who holds the answers to all the weird goings-on. And there's this scene, where a servant chases the killer through a shadowy labyrinth of hanging laundry...

... which is reminiscent of this memorably creepy scene from Susperia:

So was Dario Argento inspired by elements of The Murder Clinic? I'll leave it up to you to decide.

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