“Doctor Butcher M.D.” (1980)
Studio: Aquarius Productions
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Donald O’Brien, Sherry Buchanan
Directed by: Marino Girolami
Running Time: 84 min.
Synopsis: A group of Americans go to an island to track down a cannibal tribe, but also find zombies.
Doctor Butcher M.D. was originally titled Zombie Holocaust when it was released in Italy in 1980, but was given the Doctor Butcher title when it was released in the states years later. This is your typical cannibal/zombie film made from the early 80’s that came from the Italians. I do like most films from either the zombie or cannibal genres and I have to say that Doctor Butcher is one of them. It may not be a classic like Zombi 2 or Cannibal Holocaust, but the film is not bad and a good sleazing Italian horror flick.
The film starts off in New York City and bizarre things are happening around town. Body parts are being taken from a medical lab for some reason. One of the reasons could be that there are some cannibals roaming around the hospital. When one lab tech is discovered taking body parts and eating them he tries to escape by jumping out a window and falling to his death. The doctors there find out that he was from the Asian Molucca islands and was a part of a cannibal tribe. Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCullouch), an anthropology expert, Lori (Alexandra Delli Colli), and a few research assistants and a journalist travel to these islands to find out if they are cannibals there. A Dr. Obrero, who is on one of the islands, meets them. He sets them up with a few guides to help them search the other islands. Little do they know that Dr. Obrero has other plans for them.
This is actually the first film that I have seen that has cannibals and zombies in the same film. Around the time when this was made, Italians were making zombie films like Zombi 2 or Hell of the Living Dead or cannibal films like Cannibal Holocaust or Cannibal Ferox. This film blends the two genres together and does it in a good way. The original title of the film, Zombie Holocaust is fitting because the movie is kind of a combination of Zombi 2 (American title, Zombie) and Cannibal Holocaust. At first when the doctors are exploring the islands they are just confronted with the cannibals, but then they are met with the undead that are roaming the jungle. Now the group has to battle cannibals, zombies, and an evil doctor.
In America, the film was called Doctor Butcher M.D. and even though the character of the evil Dr. Obrero is a key element to the story because he is the one creating the zombies and having the cannibals help with his experiments, but his scenes do not have that much impact during the film. You don’t find out until close to the end that he is a mad doctor and he does not seem to be that big of a deal like how other evil doctors are in horror films. He is kind of just there, but the rest of the cast and cannibals and zombies make up for that.
Like so many other Italian horror films, the movie starts off in New York City. Doctor Butcher has been compared to Zombi 2 in the fact that it starts in New York and then goes to a tropical island. Other factors are the lead actor McCullouch, who was the star of Zombi 2 and pretty much plays the same character as the hero, but this one he plays a doctor instead of a reporter. Another actor, Daker, who played the lead guide in Doctor Butcher, was also in Zombi 2. He is also the doctor’s assistant in the film, which is not much of a stretch from his role in Zombi 2 where he played the doctor’s assistant there. Some of the same sets from Zombi 2 were used in the film like an old church. They even used a few shots from Zombi 2 of the church burning down.
If you are looking for a great grindhouse cannibal zombie film, Doctor Butcher M.D. (a.k.a. Zombie Holocaust) is worth checking out. It has a good story and a great cast and some exciting thrills. As I mentioned before, it is not a classic, but it is a very entertaining film and much better than some of the other euro horror movies. Not sure if the film is any different under the Zombie Holocaust title, but whatever version you see it is worth a look.