The Murder Clinic predates the Argento era of giallo while coming around the same time as the Bava instigation with The Girl Who Knew Too Much and the krimini films. Known in its native Italy as La lama nel corpo (The Knife in the Body), it was written by Luciano Martino (brother of Sergio and writer of Delirium and The Whip and the Body) and Ernesto Gastaldi (The Sweet Body of Deborah, All the Colors of the Dark, The Case of the Bloody Iris and so many more) with direction coming from Elio Scardamaglia (this is the only film he’d direct as he usually produced movies) and Lionello De Felice. It’s based on the book The Knife In The Body by Robert Williams, a former Tuskegee Airman who became an actor. He also wrote Turkey Shoot, which really means that his work was produced all over the world.
The story takes place in 1870s England, so this movie can also be considered a gothic horror film. Dr. Vance, the director of a mental hospital (Wiliam Berger) is restoring his sister’s face using patients as raw material, all while a masked killer uses the giallo weapon of choice, a strait razor, to kill other people within the hospital.
This is a story that would replay itself across many films — Slaughter Hotel, Faceless, Mansion of the Doomed (well, that owes a debt to Eyes Without a Face) — while the first scene, with a young woman being chased by a killer in the woods at night as well as a scene where the killer stalks his prey in a room full of hanging sheets feel like they inspired Suspiria.
The Murder Clinic itself feels indebted to Bava, really taking to heart the color strategies of Blood and Black Lace.
This is a movie with an interesting release history. After Berger spent some time in an Italian prison — he had been wrongly accused of the possession of hashish and cocaine — it was re-released with a line on the poster that said “William Berger, guilty or innocent?”
In the U.S., it was renamed Revenge of the Living Dead to cash in on Romero’s zombie film. It played triple features with Curse of the Living Dead (Kill, Baby, Kill!) and Fangs of the Living Dead (Malenka) in the 70s as the Orgy of the Living Dead.
With a great location — the Villa Parisi, home of Blood for Dracula and Patrick Still Lives — and appearances by Françoise Prévost (The Return of the Exorcist), Mary Young (who only was in this movie and Secret Agent 777) and Barbara Wilson (her only film and she really should have done more), The Murder Clinic is an early giallo worthy of being enshrined in your collection.