September 06, 2005

Finally, The Movie Review You've Been Waiting For

That's right, boys and girls, it's time for the Rocket Jones review of:

Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots

Pre... whatchamacallit: When I jumped at the chance agreed to accept a reviewer's copy of this movie, I promised myself that I would give a fair and honest review. I do believe that I've kept that promise, and I hope that after reading it, you'll think so too.

I was thinking about what a pain it would be to have to keep typing "Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots" throughout this review, but the acronym "DrHEHoI", is just as bad.

Everyone has had that moment while watching a movie or television show when you recognize an actor or actress but can't quite place where else you've seen them. It can drive you crazy, until at last your memory clicks, and then it's an almost physical feeling of relief. Likewise, it's often a pleasant surprise to see someone you recognize in an unexpected role. This movie is full of those wonderful and surprising moments.

Now I have to tell you that this isn't a horror movie... exactly. I mean, there are undead and werewolves that play prominent roles, but the focus isn't on horror, it's on satire and parody and spoof (spoofage? That might be a dirty word). In overall feel, I'd liken Dr. Horror (don't make me type the whole freakin' thing out people), to that paean to the surreal, Happiness of the Katakuris. Plotwise, the story is fresh, intricate and plausible in its own charming way.

Without giving away too much of the story, there are three people who come to visit a famous sex therapist. Unfortunately, the doc is away, and the caretaker scams them by passing off his buddy as the "substitute" doctor, Dr. Horror. And that's about as bare-bones a description as is possible about a movie that runs 2+ hours.

Yep, you read that right, but not to worry, because it keeps moving right along. There are several long vignettes, almost mini-movies, that are used to advance the story, and nothing is rushed or hurried. Like old-time roadshow movies, it even has an Overture, Intermission and whatever you call that music when the movie is done (Enditure?). In addition, there's one helluva entertaining documentary included on the disk called "That's Independent". All told, there's over 3 hours of viewable material.

Here are a couple of exerpts from the letter that Producer Paul Scrabo sent along with the movie:

"Dr Horror had one intention in its conception: whatever the "B-Movie rules" were, we would just do the opposite.

I wouldn't go so far as to say it's G-rated, but there's no nudity, no gore and no potty jokes. In fact, the humor and innuendo is often subtle and mature. I said "often", not always. This flick made me laugh out loud several times, and more than once I had to pause it so I could stop chuckling and then rewind to see what I'd missed.

In the low-budget world, horror is in good shape, so it did not make sense to make one. Rather, we decided to poke some fun at the world of "direct to video" fare. The "erotic" in the title is a joke on the many films that have "erotic" in the title in order to make them more "marketable".

Sex sells, even crappy B-movie sex. Dr. Horror, though, works the "erotic" into the story line, which is more than the typical indie flick. Pick up "Satanic Rites of the Erotic Cannibal Blood Sacrifice" (don't bother, I just made that up), and you can pretty much bet that "erotic" stands for gratuitous nudity. I'm all for boobs on screen, but face it, if you're spending the night at Camp Meathook, you should probably reconsider that urge to get naked. Especially since nude teenagers are the horror movie equivalent of Star Trek's guy in the red shirt.

"But mon ami," you may ask, "what about ze eye candy?!?!?"

Let me tell you, mi amigo (screw consistancy), this movie has plenty of nice looking ladies in outfits that make it fun to look. Which is as good a segue as any to start talking about the stars. The cast of "Dr Horror" is filled with familiar names, familiar faces and true legends from the world of B-movie cinema. One of the reasons this took so long to write was because every time I'd start researching the actors, I'd wind up off on a tangent following someone's career.

Debbie Rochon

First up is Debbie Rochon. Now I'm partial to brunettes in the first place, but when my wife saw Ms. Rochon on the screen, her first words to me were "oh wow, you're in love, aren't you?" She knows me so well. Debbie Rochon is drop-dead gorgeous and the lady can act too, starting out on stage on and off Broadway before going into the scream queen biz, where she's won numerous awards. She displays a great sense of comedic timing, and her "dolphin book" scene will make you forget the diner in When Harry Met Sally.

Is she really a star? Well, she's been elected into the B-Movie Hall of Fame. I'd certainly roll out the red carpet for her.

Trent Haaga plays a complete jerk, yet still manages to make you care about his character. That's quite a tightrope to walk, but he balances everything with, again, a fine sense of comedy. This is the first time I've seen his work, and he shines.

The character of Ashley is played by Nathan Sears. This was his first role, and he is so convincing as the milqutoast nebbish that you just want to reach out and force him to strip to prove he actually has testicles shake some sense into him. That is, until he is compelled to become a hero, and then he becomes... well, maybe not John Wayne, but tougher than Wayne Newton for sure.

Dr. Horror is played by Michael R. Thomas. You might not recognize the name, but you've certainly seen his work, because he's been a Hollywood makeup artist for a long time. Among his credits are The Wiz, Neighbors, Ghostbusters (both of them), Wolfen, Fatal Attraction, and television. He also did a bit of work on... *drumroll please* softcore lesbian spoofs shot direct to video. Yay!

Bela Lugosi's Ygor from 'Son of Frankenstein'

Mr. Thomas has done some acting too. I first saw him in front of the camera in Lord of the G-Strings (see above), but he played Smirnoff the wizard and hid behind a full beard. I recognized him from his part as the club owner in Bite Me! He's a funny guy, and if I had to describe him, it might be as a cross between Bela Lugosi and Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld). His background in makeup is a bonus too. I wrote recently about enjoying the Frankenstein Legacy Collection. Well, imagine my delight when Michael Thomas appeared in one Dr. Horror vignette as Ygor! Originally played by Bela Lugosi in Son of Frankenstein, Mr. Thomas brilliantly recreated the character, right down to the accent and the scarred and broken neck. That scene right there is worth the price of the movie to me.

"His business card reads, "Conrad Brooks, Movie Star." The New York Times named him, "The Gielgud of Bad Movies," a title he embraces fondly."
-- I-Con 23 website

The last main character is the caretaker, played by Conrad Brooks. He's a likeable guy, but gives the weakest performance of the cast. On the other hand, he got his start in Ed Wood movies, and over the years has appeared in, directed, produced, and written some real stinkers - many of which I own and love. He made appearances in two of the worst films ever made: Plan 9 From Outer Space *and* The Beast From Yucca Flats. Folks, that's a pedigree right there, and I have no standing to criticize.

Even the supporting characters have solid B-movie credentials. An unexpected bit of wonderfulness was the appearance of John Zacherle, who had a top-10 song in 1958 titled "Dinner with Drac".

I will make mention that Dr. Horror was co-written by "my girl" (as Victor calls her), Brinke Stevens, who also makes a cameo.

"It also helps to have a lighting director for a wife (George Ann Muller), and she made all the sets herself!"
-- Paul Scrabo
(take note, Mookie)

All right, so all I've done so far is gush about how wonderful this movie is. Surely, there must be something less than perfect about Dr. Horror. Of course there is, because it's an independent movie. If you're looking for Hollywood, this isn't it. What this is, though, are cast and crew making movies because they love what they do and have fun doing it. I also want to make clear that independent doesn't mean amateur. Don't expect Gone with the Wind, and you'll have a grand time watching this.

Highly recommended. You can get your own copy at

For the record, I am not afraid of lesbians.

Posted by Ted at September 6, 2005 08:37 PM | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

Debbie Rochon, Brinke Stevens AND Michael R. Thomas?

I just ordered a copy!

Posted by: BLUE at September 7, 2005 05:14 PM

Thanks for the review,Ted.I'll check it one day if I ever get the time and means.

Posted by: Russ at September 8, 2005 06:15 PM

I want to thank Ted for taking the time to watch and write about our movie, and for the very kind review. We appreciate the opportuntity to be featured on the Rocket Jones site!
all best,

Posted by: Paul Scrabo at September 30, 2005 09:06 AM
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