Science does not always provide the answers. Mark Fraser looks at the top 10 films in which the vigorous pursuit of medical experimentation leads to questionable – and sometimes highly undesirable – outcomes.
10. Britannia Hospital (Lindsay Anderson, 1982)
The work of Professor Millar (Graham Crowden), head of Britannia Hospital’s new wing, is unequivocal proof that government-funded research monies aren’t always spent wisely. Aside from turning investigative television journalist Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) into some kind of crazed Frankenstein creature, Prof Millar’s crowning achievement – the Genesis Project – constitutes a talkative brain wired to some machinery.
9. The Boys from Brazil (Franklin J Schaffner, 1978)
Infamous Auschwitz concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) – who has helped establish a number of Hitler clones around the world – is in the process of consolidating the next phase of his diabolical plan to resurrect the Third Reich when he is stymied by Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier). At the end of the day the evil German does a pretty tidy job of reproducing healthy-looking teenage fuhrers. Dr Mengele does, however, overlook one thing – he fails to clone a bunch of Eva Brauns.
8. Alien: Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997)
While the mad scientists aboard the good spaceship Auriga successfully clone Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), they don’t get it right the first time … or the second, or the third, or the fourth etc. Furthermore, the work conducted by Dr Gediman (Brad Dourif) and his team has such a distressing effect on the traumatised Ripley when she sees it all that she doesn’t put her suffering half-sister clones out of their misery with a quick bullet to the head; rather, in a moment of rage, she painfully cooks these pitiful, innocent lab victims with a few blasts from her flame thrower.
7. Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh, 1994)
Haunted by the death of his mother Caroline (Cherie Imrie), medical student Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) vows to beat death, only to produce a quick witted, revenge-driven monster (Robert De Niro) and a hideously reanimated version of his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) after she is murdered by the rampaging creature. A handsome looking production with its reasonable share of the grotesque, this film still somehow manages to miss a few marks, thanks mainly to its penchant for the melodramatic and an overbearing score by Patrick Doyle.
6. Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)
As part of his descent into madness, gynecologist Beverley Mantle (Jeremy Irons) commissions a set of mean-looking metal gynecological surgical instruments to use on women with “mutated” reproductive organs. While the man who manufactures them (Stephen Lack) seems to recognize their bizarre artistic merit, they don’t go down too well in surgery when Dr Mantle, in a state of delirium, mutilates one of his patients before desperately climbing on top of her to steal her oxygen supply. Later he and his gynecologist twin brother Elliott (Irons again) – who have since been suspended from practicing – use these torture tools in their double suicide.
5. The Human Centipede (Tom Six, 2009)
A kooky German doctor (Dieter Kaser) decides he wants to stitch some people together (anus to mouth) and combine their digestive tracts to create a human centipede. After kidnapping a few tourists (Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, and Akihiro Kitamura), he carries out his plan at home in his fully equipped lab. Exactly why he wants to do this is never really made that clear, although he is obviously loopy and a sadist to boot. Needless to say his experiment, as it did when he tried it on his dogs, ultimately fails.
4. Re-animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985)
Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) proves to be the medical student from hell as he goes about reanimating everything from bickering (and decapitated) senior university staff to his housemate’s dead cat – a modus operandi that yields some interesting results, but also plenty of carnage.
3. Flesh for Frankenstein (Paul Morrissey, 1973)
Unlike Victor in Ken Branagh’s Frankenstein (see above), Baron von Frankenstein (Udo Kier) really only has one thing on his brain when it comes to assembling body parts and reanimating corpses – sex. Sure, this mad scientist may also be trying to create a super race of Serbs in the process, but that somehow gets lost in all of the ongoing pseudo-necrophilic antics. In the end Frankenstein gets his comeuppance when his hand is cut off and liver harpooned by his wayward creation.
2. Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (Don Edmonds, 1975)
Nazi prison camp commandant and sometimes lab coat-wearing doctor Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) contributes to the German war effort by measuring the pain thresholds of naked women through various methods of gruesome torture. She also uses them as guinea pigs to help find the cure for a few fatal diseases. During her free time, she castrates male inmates who are unable to satisfy her in the sack. Ilsa is so dedicated to her cause that she even (in a convincing moment of self-revulsion) sexually satisfies her visiting commanding officer (Wolfgang Roehm) by giving him a golden shower. Unfortunately, all of her ground breaking research (read evidence) is destroyed by the Nazis as they retreat from the allies.
1. Day of the Dead (George A Romero, 1985)
Dr Matthew “Frankenstein” Logan (Richard Liberty) seems to be the only one who is truly enjoying the zombie holocaust in this third installment of what was originally going to be George A Romero’s trilogy about life amongst the living dead. In effect, this crazy medical practitioner has gleefully found himself in some kind of demented surgical paradise – he has plenty of subjects to work on, all the tools he needs (including the trusty electric drill) and no messy rules or ethical procedures to follow. His only problem is that the management of the underground bunker in which he works – the army – is beginning to tire of his dubious scientific endeavours and lack of concrete results. Plus it doesn’t take too kindly to the fact he is feeding dead soldiers to his ghoul patients. Out of all of the characters who inhabit Romero’s six zombie films, the obviously intelligent Dr Logan is arguably one of the most bonkers.
Written and compiled by Mark Fraser
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