Director: John Grissmer
Writer: John Grissmer, Joseph Weintraub
Starring: Robert Lansing, Judith Chapman, Arlen Dean Snyder
Running Time: 95 mins
BBFC Certificate: 15
Scalpel was originally released in 1977 under the original title “False Face” a thriller exploring some unsavoury subjects while keeping the tension building, sothern gothic style.
Scalpel is a delightful dish of nasty treats following psycho Doctor Philip Reynolds (Robert Lansing) as he goes on a clinical orgy of murder, it seems Dr Reynolds likes to get his own way. He does away with his wife and daughter’s boyfriend, managing to make both slayings look like accidents. His daughter Heather (Judith Chapman) witnesses dad dispatching her boyfriend and quite understandably is rather upset by the whole situation and scarpers, to avoid becoming the next victim of the deranged doctor.
Doc Reynolds discovers that his deceased father-in-law has not left him a penny of the five million dollar family fortune, he’s left the lot to vanished Heather, and needless to say he and his brother-in-law uncle Bradley (Arien Dean Snyder) are not impressed. That night the pair discover a badly beaten-up dancer (also Judith Chapman) with a horribly mashed face, the psycho surgeon, smells an opportunity. He has the idea of offering her a share of the inheritance, if in return he can change her face to look like his daughter. When the facial transformation is completed the changeling now has to learn to act like estranged daughter Heather. The sick Doc trains her to act like Heather so she can meet the rest of the family and the family solicitor. While at the family solicitor’s she carries out her part of the bargain and signs half the money over to dad. The plan is in place…what could possibly go wrong? Well they didn’t bank on the real Heather, turning up out of the blue.
With uncomplicated cinematography it’s got a groovy 70’s vibe enhanced by Uncle Bradley’s bow tie and ubiquitous cheese and wine parties. Dr Reynolds and Uncle Bradley really are the most despicable pair of cads, plotting and chortling away over glasses of whisky. You won’t get buckets of gore here, but there is plenty of unpleasant subtext to keep you entertained. Scalpel is an American “Eyes Without a Face” with some unpleasant Freudianism thrown in by the delightfuly arrogant Lansing. It’s a warped psychological thriller with top notch performances from Chapman and despicable Snyder making Grissmer’s work an accomplishment.
Scalpel has been rescued from VHS obscurity and released by Arrow Video on Blu-ray on the 19th February, time to make this incision into your collection. You’ll be treated to a beautifully sharp picture and delightfully crisp audio quality, while the 1970's love of bad taste clothing alone will keep you realing in horror. This release contains two versions of the film, the Edward Lachman grade and the Arrow grade, I had the pleasure of watching the high quality Arrow version.
This release sports a brand new 2K restoration from original film elements and high definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation. Included are the original uncompressed mono audio optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing with a brand new audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith and brand new crew interviews. The treats keep coming with the original theatrical trailer, reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil. The first pressing only contains a collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Bill Ackerman.
The extras are a cut above the rest, as expected from Arrow, the interviews Cutting Edge, Dead Ringer and Sothern Gothic give a fascinating insight, topped of with the absorbing audio commentry, it's guaranteed to keep you entertained.