What kind of a name is “Exquisite Tenderness” for a horror flick anyway? Well, as with any B movie worth its salt, this film has two titles. The copy I picked up was entitled “The Surgeon*” but there was no denying which was the original title when the pivotal scene where the term was defined appeared around our mid-way point. But I am getting ahead of myself here; Let’s take a look at the story line(s).
Early in this movie, we are blessed with the talents of Malcolm McDowell, as Dr. Stein, our ambitious research physician whose mysteriously generic “abdominal implant” (the details or even the purpose of which are never fully revealed) performs his risky, not yet FDA approved method on needy patients and baboons. Baboons who go psychotic and violently hemorrhage after said procedure.
The sexy but equally bitchy heroine Dr. McCann is on his case pretty quickly and rats him out to the hospital director, in between caring for her beloved patients who can’t stop doting on their favorite doc.
Great premise for a movie! Too bad this doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the movie. Hey, at least they squeezed in the big name actor – I bought it, hook line and sinker.
Enter creepy shifty-eyed man in doctor’s scrubs who kills one of Dr. Stein’s patients, leaving a lollipop as his MO.
Dr. McCann is blamed for the death, as moving the patient to dialysis often causes spontaneous vein eruption, didn’t you know that? She then calls upon horny hospital newby Dr. Hendricks to help her pin down her suspicions about Stein’s procedure.
While the two of them are sneaking into the morgue to take a look at the body, shifty-eye guy is found next to Dr. Stein’s dead body. They manage to incapacitate the killer, who happens to also be a crazy ex-boyfriend of Dr. McCann’s, Dr. Julian Matar. He eludes the cops and escapes, and the body count begins. Enter the fabulous Peter Boyle as the lead detective on the case. Some of my favorite old white men are in this movie.
McCann and Hendricks grab a bite to eat at “Beluga café,” where, no shit; they have an actual live fucking BELUGA WHALE in the restaurant. While I was entranced with this restaurant’s atmospherics (AND they were playing a whale mating call in the background, throughout the whole dinner), they were being coy with each other and reading through Matar’s medical thesis, looking for clues to the mystery of why this guy was last seen paralyzed via spinal cord injury and living in a nursing home, and is now out and about, killing and leaving lollipops. You’re gonna love the reason why this guy is up and around and doing what he’s doing….
Wait for it….
He extracts this snot-like juice from the pituitary gland, via the nostril, and injects it into himself with a massive, pre-industrial revolution era hypodermic needle.
Anywho, McCann plays hard-to-get half-heartedly and before you know it, that thesis during the Beluga dinner gets them hot and they go back to her place for the most epic scene in the movie – NUDE UNDERWATER BALLET. Oh my, I love this scene. Any scene with FLOATING UNDERWATER WEINERS is a big fat win in my book. He tosses her up and catches her in a choreographed, shot in slow-motion moment in the pool. Of course, a pair of highly respected doctors are just too bourgeois to simply “have sex” with one another. How pedestrian!
While they are pirouetting and arabesquing, Matar kills two more of McCann’s patients. The cops ransack the hospital looking for Matar, while he’s shooting up brain juice in his secret hospital lair.
Turns out, Julian is advancing his research with regeneration using this pituitary extract. He’s our Mad Scientist #2. Not sure how Malcom McDowell’s character has to do with it but I figure if I can’t discover that after two viewings, it’s just none of my business.
In the final showdown, Julian captures McCann and gives a long emo monologue about how she wasn’t sympathetic when he lost his job and then later had him put away for three years when he disabled himself in a botched suicide attempt. He tries to begin some torturous procedure on her with a bone saw to the breasts and, at the last minute, the day is saved by Peter Boyle. Or so we think…what else could possibly happen to an insane, mortally wounded doctor who is known for experimenting with regeneration?
This movie has LOTS of needles, with copious amounts of injecting and extracting via hypodermic. If that bugs you, this movie will have you crawling. At one point, he actually uses that huge needle to “inject” a sedative into a tomato on McCann’s plate in the hospital cafeteria. Also, if old medical equipment gives you the heebee jeebies, there are some prime examples of some of the most “fun” kinds. If there is a medical horror subgenre, this peg fits right into that hole. I give it a 6/10 on the horror shortbus scale.
*At no less than three times during the film, nurses somewhere in the periphery yelled for more sponges. I guess someone desperately needed bathing.