You Have Nothing to Fear … Until They Operate!
Hello, fiends and welcome back to the NOFS Video Vault. You’re in for a treat this month as our feature presentation is the 1981 encephalographic, Valentine’s inspired slasher X-Ray (also known as Hospital Massacre)
If there is one place that should be the safest in a slasher movie, it’s a hospital. There are plenty of people about, it’s well lit, and there is an abundance of medical professionals to tend to any injuries you may sustain while fleeing your crazed killer. Chances of survival are pretty good if you ask me. But as you can tell from the tagline above, that theory goes right out the operating room window in Boaz Davidson’s X-Ray!
Back of the Box Overview
Valentine’s Day, 1961. An awkward loner named Harold leaves a Valentine’s Day card for his beautiful classmate and cutie crush, Susan, at her home. Once Susan finds and reads the card, her and her playmate David mock the sincere gesture and crumple the card, discarding it on the floor. Harold witnesses this through a window, his heart breaking and his mind raging. In fact, he’s so miffed that after he sees Susan leave the room he breaks into the house and kills David!
Fast forward nineteen years and Susan is a divorced single mother with a daughter and a new boyfriend. When she makes a trip to the hospital for some routine test results and she soon finds herself trapped, and on the run from a psychotic killer who’s after her heart…literally.
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Meet the Cast
Playboy playmate, Barbi Benton (Deathstalker) plays Susan Jeremy, the object of the killer’s affection while Charles Lucia (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) plays that very killer, Harold Rusk. Jon Van Ness (Tourist Trap) is Jack, Susan’s kind of a jerk boyfriend while John Warner Williams (The Incredible Hulk Series) and Den Surles (The Osterman Weekend) play Doctors Saxon and Beam respectively. What hospital is complete without its very own heartbeat, those selfless people who do all of the dirty work? I’m talking about the nurses. Gloria Jean Morrison (Midnight) and Karen Smith (Freaky Friday) play Nurses Dora Anders and Kitty Crandle commonly. Rounding out the cast is Michael Frost (New Year’s Evil) who plays Ned and Jimmy Stathis (The Six Million Dollar Man Series) as Tom Jeremy, Susan’s doting ex-husband.
The Many Names of Hospital Massacre
Director Boaz Davidson (The Last American Virgin) started principal photography under the title Hospital Massacre when somewhere between the filming of the movie and its release the title was changed several times. The pre-release title Be My Valentine, Or Else… gave way to both Ward 13 (which was the titled used officially for the German release) and X-Ray which won the prize for the North American and UK release title.
Upon the film’s initial release audience and critical reaction were not good, to say the least. Despite being released at the height of the slasher craze, the poor reception seemed to point out some clearly unavoidable and inexcusable flaws. Critics and audiences alike felt the slow, plodding plot wasn’t even strong enough to sustain the film’s eighty-minute runtime. And when the so-called scares happened, they were so tamed and neutered that most could hardly understand why the film was even classified as horror.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. It had its merits in the guise a solid orchestral score, a rarity in the slasher era. Most slashers relied on the cheaper synth score to creep things up but X-Ray went all out, presumably spending the majority of their budget on Playmate Benton and a full orchestra to supply the sinister stalking melodies.
The U.S. home video release of X-Ray saw an unrated release which pushed the runtime of the film to an epic eighty-nine minutes! and a change in title to the original Hosptial Massacre. The UK version, released as X-Ray, suffered major cuts from the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) in order to secure an ‘X’ certificate. This classification means anyone under 18 years of age are not permitted to watch, similar to the North American ‘R’ rating.
In August of 2013 X-Ray found it’s way to DVD courtesy of Scream Factory in the shape of a double feature with the film Schizoid (1980). The disk featured the ‘R’ rated theatrical cut with an interview with director Boaz Davidson as the only supplemental material.
While it may seem like a lost cause when it comes to the watchability of Hospi– er… Be My Valen– no… um… Ward… dagnabit… when it comes to watching X-Ray but the film is not without its charm. Benton, though clearly not an actor in any sense of the word, still manages to exude a vulnerability that sits well within the formula of both the genre and the story. There are also some inventive kills, which, for a slasher, is imperative (but don’t expect to see any excess gore because there isn’t much). Most of the kills happen off screen however the ones that do have a fun, campy medical theme to them.
X-Ray also plays on the popular slasher trope involving holiday themes with Valentine’s Day being a very present backdrop. There are certain similarities between this film and others like Valentine (2001) and Lovers Lane (1999). A jilted crush takes revenge on those who did him wrong. He waits until Valentine’s Day to exact his revenge. He strikes after years of living with the torment of whatever humiliation sent him over the edge. you know, typical romantic stuff.
“…who doesn’t want to see B-Movie starlet running around a hospital trying to escape a psycho killer?”
Regardless, X-Ray is still a fun watch, so if you find that you’re still searching for ideas for the perfect date with your special someone on February 14th, perhaps you could rent a copy of this gem? I mean, who doesn’t want to see B-Movie starlet running around a hospital trying to escape a psycho killer? Sounds ideal to me! But I digress. Anywho, thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoy the movie and remember to rewind, or else…
While we’re discussing the season of romance, be sure to have a heart and check the community happenings board. There you’ll be able to check out more Nightmare of Film Street content that you’re bound to fall in love with. You can crush on them on Twitter, browse the love letters on the NOFS Subreddit, enjoy gloriously gory pics on Instagram and read the countless articles of affection and affliction on the Facebook Horror Movie Fiend Club page. Until next time, fellow fiends!