For the last few decades, Dr. Butcher, M.D. has been one of the lost legends of grindhouse film on disc. Its parent film Zombie Holocaust has had a few DVD and blu-ray incarnations but those interested in the punchy American edit had to rely on dupes of the old, blurry Paragon Video VHS. Severin has put an end to this with a collector-friendly two-disc set that collects both edits of the film in high-def quality plus a bevy of supplements that will please fans of both versions.
The transfers look great here: vibrant colors abound, nice detail with appropriate levels of celluloid grain and an overall vividness that was unimaginable to those who became familiar with the film via that muddy VHS edition. Lossless mono tracks on both offer nice, clear renditions of the vintage mixes: you can really appreciate the added gross-out sound FX added to the American edition as well as that wild synth score.
Without further ado, here’s a quick run-through of the extras by disc.
Italian Version Blu-Ray:
Voodoo Man (8:14): a fast but info-dense chat with star Ian McCulloch. He gives a quick overview of his career as an actor and relays a funny tale of how he ended up in Italian shockers. He reveals that Zombie Holocaust was his favorite and offers brief thoughts of his director and castmates.
Blood Of The Zombies (23:03): FX artist Rosario Prestopino covers his experiences with Zombie Holocaust as well as general thoughts about the Italian film business. You get explanations of how different effects were achieved, often over footage of said effects, as well as an interesting description of how Italian genre film finance worked in its heyday. He’s soft-spoken but shows a charming love for his trade.
Enzo On Marino (7:46): a quick audio interview with cult fave filmmaker Enzo Castellari, the son of Zombie Holocaust director Marino Girolami, that plays over a variety of stills and press photos. He paints a portrait of his father as a kind, motivated man of many interests who found a niche in the film business and brought up his sons for success. He also reveals an amusing feeling of surprise that his comedy-specialist father ended up directing a gruesome horror flick.
Sherry Holocaust (34:04): the American-born actress has a leisurely but compelling chat as she reveals how she got into the Italian film business and enjoyed an idyllic period working as a model and actress in Italy during the late ’70s/early ’80s. She speaks with great fondness about the family atmosphere of Italian sets and also reveals why she transitioned out of the business.
Neurosurgery Italian Style (4:36): a brief but amusing snippet of chat from FX supervisor Maurizio Trani who talks about the off-the-cuff nature of the Italian makeup FX business, offering a nice tribute to Prestopino and revealing how the “beat the clock” nature of his work led to innovation.
New York Filming Locations – Then And Now (3:03): a quick piece that compares shots of the New York locations from the film with how they look now. Surprisingly, it’s a 50-50 split between changed and unchanged, revealing how timeless a lot of NYC architecture is.
Audio Bonus: an audio presentation of an early ’60s folk single by Ian McCulloch, “Down By The River,” that shows he was a pretty decent singer!
Trailers: both Italian and German version of the European spots, a lengthy piece that is essentially a greatest-hits reel of footage from the film.
Italian Soundtrack: alas, there are no English subtitles for it but you do get a bonus option of watching the Zombie Holocaust cut with the original Italian mono mix.
U.S. Edit Blu-Ray:
Butchery And Ballyhoo (31:36): a fun interview with Terry Levene, who was one of the great legends of exploitation film thanks to his work running Aquarius Releasing. He talks about his adventures in film distribution, which include everything from Deep Throat to a Truffaut film(!). He’s a regal presence but shows a sense of sardonic wit as he gets into the topic of Dr. Butcher, M.D. and how he envisioned the film and campaign as a way to top his gross-out success with Make Them Die Slowly. Near the end, he also offers an interesting and complex take on the death of 42nd Street as a grindhouse destination.
Down On The Deuce (21:55): a historical piece about 42nd Street and its grindhouse theaters, presented as a walk-and-talk chat between filmmaker Roy Frumkes and film historian Chris Poggiali of Temple Of Schlock fame. Frumkes talks about the experience of watching films on 42nd Street and also reveals how footage from an unreleased production became the new opening sequence for Dr. Butcher, M.D. Poggiali offers a lot of fascinating info about the theaters, their specialties and what became of them. A must-watch for grindhouse aficionados.
Roy Frumkes film clip (8:07): Frumkes narrates a reel of footage from Tales That’ll Tear Your Heart Out, the unreleased horror anthology that Levene lifted footage from for his Dr Butcher, M.D. titles sequence. There’s lots of interesting details about the different filmmakers involved, including Wes Craven, and what the different stories would have been.
The Butcher Mobile (12:33): an interview with Rick Sullivan, the scribe behind the legendary fanzine The Gore Gazette. He gives a witty account of his times as a grindhouse theater-goer, including his rivalry with fellow zinester Bill Landis and friendships with Michael Weldon and Levene as well as why he ultimately stopped publishing. Best of all, there’s a fun account of how he helped create and worked on the famous “butcher mobile” promo campaign for Dr Butcher, M.D.
Cutting Dr. Butcher (10:12): an informative sitdown with Jim Markovic, who supervised the Aquarius re-edit/remix that transformed Zombie Holocaust into Dr Butcher, M.D. He gets into the strategies that Levine used to “trick out” foreign films for domestic grindhouse consumption and how the re-cutting and ad campaign development processes worked. He also offers a few hair-raising bits about the dangers of working on 42nd street.
Trailers: you get the theatrical spot for Dr Butcher, M.D., which might be the greatest grindhouse horror trailer ever made, and two bonus VHS promo spots that are just as charmingly trashy.
Text Essay: an excellent piece by Gary Hertz that gets into the dark allure of moviegoing on the Deuce, including some fun anecdotes about crowd reactions to different films.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Dr Butcher, M.D., click here.