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Susan Jeremy goes to a local hospital for a routine examination. Once inside she discovers that someone doesn't want her to check out...unless it's in a body bag. A psychotic killer keeps her trapped inside the hospital, having fixed her x-rays to make it look like she has a terminal illness. Meanwhile, he brutally murders everyone she comes in contact with!
For more about X-Ray and the X-Ray Blu-ray release, see X-Ray Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 15, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Barbi Benton, Jon Van Ness
Director: Boaz Davidson
» See full cast & crew
X-Ray Blu-ray Review
Is there a non-murderous doctor in the house?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 15, 2013
Note: This film is currently available only as part of this double feature: X-Ray / Schizoid.
Shout! Factory has started to release some double features on Blu-ray, with at least tangential connections uniting the features. Scream Factory, an imprint of Shout!, is jumping into the fray now with a pairing of X-Ray and Schizoid, two 1980's horror outings that were originally released under the Cannon Films imprimatur. The two have a couple of other linking elements, including the fact that both were released under alternate titles (in the case of X-Ray, make that several alternate titles), and the use of the ever popular device of a pretty young woman being stalked by a mysterious (and murder prone) stranger. Both films also have some interesting casting choices, with X-Ray starring Playboy regular Barbi Benton and Schizoid featuring a leering performance from Werner Herzog regular Klaus Kinski. While neither film is ever going to make anyone's Top 10 Horror lists anytime soon, they both have sporadic chills to offer, and both have attained something of a cult status after years of previous (if sometimes brief) home video releases and lots of cable broadcasts. Scream Factory has also upped the ante, if only slightly, by including a couple of newly done interviews with various participants, offered here as supplementary features.
If a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, what would X-Ray, also known as Hospital Massacre, Ward 13 and (my personal favorite) Be My Valentine, or Else, smell like? One thing's for sure: it would still smell. This Grade Z horror flick appeared almost a year after My Bloody Valentine, and there are more than a few similarities between the two films, which might suggest (as hard as this is to believe in the always innovative world of Hollywood), that someone saw the earlier film and decided to put their own spin on some of the same ideas. The major drawing card here for certain lovers of pop culture will be the appearance of erstwhile Playboy pictorial star and main squeeze of Hugh Hefner himself, Barbi Benton. Benton actually managed to carve out a semi-successful recording career for herself (in country music, no less), but her acting ambitions were never really fully realized, and X-Ray is probably Prime Example Number 1, bringing to mind another famous adage, "just because you have a pretty face and a killer bod doesn't mean you're Sarah Bernhardt". That is a famous adage, isn't it?
It's 1961, the era of John F. Kennedy and Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver, but you wouldn't know it by X-Ray's opening scene. Little Susan and her brother are playing with a toy train set when a neighbor boy appears at their window, with appropriately menacing music accompanying his footsteps and leering glare. The room is festooned with hearts, so we know it must be around Valentine's Day, and when the little boy leaves a large red envelope on Susan's doorstep, suddenly that spooky music seems—well, odd. He knocks and runs away, and Susan answers the door, retrieves the Valentine's Day card and then she and her brother burst into laughter when they see it's from someone named Harold. Unfortunately, Harold is still hanging around, watching the results of his handiwork, and he is not pleased. When Susan goes into the kitchen to get a piece of Valentine's Day cake (everyone has one of those, don't they), which includes a little "fake out" of a hand clutching an oversized knife, she hears a commotion back in the living room, returning to find her brother hanged on a hall tree, and little Harold laughing at the window.
Okay—first question. Susan has just seen her brother murdered and knows who did it, so one might presume little Harold spent the rest of his life in a mental institution, right? Well X-Ray isn't about to provide any answers, for this event is never referenced again, at least not overtly. The film segues forward 19 years to find an adult Susan (Barbi Benton) upset with her ex-husband for attempting to drop of their daughter early, when she obviously has better things to do, which include dropping by the local hospital for test results from a recent physical.
Susan soon finds her ensconced in the sort of medical nightmare that certain right wing pundits are insisting are coming everyone's way courtesy of the Affordable Care Act, with a hospital full of nincompoops and, even worse, murdered nincompoops. And lest Susan's tribulations with the staff not be enough trauma, the ninth floor of the hospital is being fumigated, with the pest control people screaming at her when she comes to that floor by mistake, telling her she'll get a case of cooties if she isn't careful.
The bulk of X-Ray deals with Susan trying to get some kind of medical service from someone with a decent bedside manner, while all the while a guy in a surgical mask is going around killing people right and left. The guy has deliberately switched Susan's x-rays so that consulting doctors think she's very ill (her x-ray makes it look like she's swallowed either a large feather boa or a very long Slinky), and of course because she has something on the inside, she needs to strip naked and have a creepy looking doctor basically feel her up for several minutes (this where Benton's Playboy pedigree obviously comes into play).
Second question—okay, let's say you've checked into a hospital and find out that your doctor has disappeared (she's lying dead on the ninth floor, but I digress), no one is particularly helpful, and after a while even you've started noticing corpses lying about here and there. Wouldn't you, oh, you know, get the hell out of there? And yet Susan just keeps sitting there, and doesn't even make a try at exiting until late in the film, which is of course far too late—for either her, or more importantly, us.
We know within moments of Susan's arrival at the hospital that the culprit is indeed Harold, now all grown up and keeping pictures of Susan as a child and lots of Valentine's Day cards on a wall somewhere in the dilapidated confines of the medical establishment, so the only real mystery is trying to figure out which of several characters Harold might be. (Hint: it's never the really mean looking ones.) This begs the question as to how Harold managed to arrange all this to happen so very, very conveniently, but I'll refrain from numbering this particular query.
X-Ray is so resolutely silly, with a series of such patently ridiculous sequences that it seems like perhaps the film was meant as a comedy. I know that I couldn't stop laughing. As mentioned above, little Harold evidently escaped incarceration and grew up to become happily ensconced in a major metropolitan hospital. Let the punditry begin.
X-Ray Blu-ray, Video Quality
X-Ray is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory, an imprint of Shout! Factory, with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. The elements here are in surprisingly good shape, but this high definition presentation is overall a fairly middling experience. Colors are reasonably well saturated and accurate looking, with no overt signs of bad fading, but the entire image is really soft, without a surplus of fine detail. Contrast is problematic, making the many dark sequences look like blobs of differing shades of black and blue moving amorphously through an unclear environment. The film is riddled with so much grain it approaches noise at times, especially in scenes on the ninth floor, where the "fumigating" has resulted in the entire floor being filled with dry ice fog. Who knew that killed lice?
X-Ray Blu-ray, Audio Quality
X-Ray's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix is delivered in 2.0 and sounds surprisingly spry given the low rent ethos of much of the film. Arlon Ober's score mimics the chant based work of Jerry Goldsmith in The Omen and Christopher Komeda in Rosemary's Baby, and works reasonably well here, sounding fine as well. Dialogue is well supported, which may not be that desirable, considering the dialogue. Dynamic range is appropriately hyperbolic.
X-Ray Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
X-Ray Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
X-Ray is so relentlessly goofy it's almost pointless to be too hard on it. Almost. The film has some totally bizarre moments, including a bunch of elderly women stumbling through empty halls looking for a doctor and, in my favorite sequence, Susan stumbling into a ward with a bunch of patients completely covered in body casts and supported by hoists in their beds who begin jerking uncontrollably when she enters the room. How can you completely hate a film with moments like those?
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