Perhaps most popularly known as the director who was inevitably replaced by Mario Bava on I VAMPIRI (1957) and CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959), Riccardo Freda did helm a number of genre pictures that have gained a respectable cult following in the intervening years. Today’s film (original title THE TERRIBLE SECRET OF DR. HICHCOCK) is one of these, and a fine-looking number it is by any standard. One of the many Gothic chillers that proliferated in Italy during the better part of the 60s, HICHCOCK tells the tale of the eponymous surgeon whose first wife Margherita dies from an overdose of a drug that induces catatonia. It seems the good doctor Bernard has a particular predilection for petrified ladies, which is bad news for new wife Barbara Steele as she finds the specter of Margherita presiding over the shadowy mansion and Bernard growing increasingly weary of his new maiden’s liveliness. Freda’s film boasts some marvelous set pieces, namely the pictured scene of Steele awaking in a VAMPYR-style casket, and a sumptuous color palette that is a visual treat for the eyes. It’s late night horrorshow viewing that hits all the right notes to make it a perfect comfort watch for the genre fan who likes their bosoms to be heaving and their candelabra flickering by a bitterly cold wind. Even if the climactic revelation that Margherita is alive and well (and living in Italy) as a veiled corpse hungry for youth-restoring blood seems shoehorned in at the last minute, it’s all part and parcel of the archly-stylized, hyper-kinetic fun of the piece. The moniker of our villainous physician is no mere throwaway either; keep an eye out for a poisoned glass of milk that shows echoes of SUSPICION (1941).

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