1973’s Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls is the text book definition of 70s cheese. Although the film is directed and produced by Eddie Saeta, nevermind the auteur theory because it is star John Considine who owns this film. Considine plays the titular Doctor,a mystic who uses his “secret formula” to transfer the souls of the dead into the bodies of the recently deceased. Although he’s been using this method to stay alive for hundreds of years he also rents out his talents to the highest bidder.
Enter our protagonist: Fred, who, to put it lightly, is a bit of a goober. His wife has recently died and he’ll do anything to get her back. He contracts the good Doctor to revive his wife’s body (easily glossing over the morality involved). When the procedure doesn’t “take” and Fred’s wife remains dead, the Doc (ever the over-achiever) goes on a violent killing spree trying to find the right soul for the body of Fred’s wife.
Considine (who reveals in the commentary that he studied acting under Lee Strasberg) plays Dr. Death with pomp and enthusiasm. Turning the Doc (who has some incredibly over-written dialogue) into an odd mixture of talk show host, carnival barker and Las Vegas magician. He may not give an Oscar worthy turn, but he transforms ho-hum dialogue into pure entertainment which is quite an achievement.
Doctor Death is such a hard movie to discuss without sounding like I’m over selling it. It’s a film for a very specific type of person. In many ways it’s a wonderful film, it’s purposefully over-the-top without being overly winking, has a great villain, a cameo from Moe Howard (of Three Stooges fame) and some really gonzo kills (at one point Dr. Death shoots black acid blood out of a wound in his stomach and MELTS HIS ATTACKER’S FACE). On the other hand, it has an abundance of wooden dialogue, heroes that you don’t give a crap about, and tends to drag when Considine isn’t on screen.
The film was just recently released on DVD by Scorpion Releasing (I scooped it up as a birthday present from me to me) and I believe that they are somewhat newcomers to the cult DVD market. If this release is any indication, they know their stuff. The disc comes with a nice transfer (the gaudy colors of the Doctor’s flamboyant costumes really pop), two ten minute interviews (one with Considine and the other with Saeta’s son) and a commentary with Considine (where he talks about his impressive career and expands on some of the ideas touched on in the interview).