In Victorian era London, the accomplished Dr Hichcock (Robert Flemyng) excels in his profession where he is developing new medicine and surgical procedures, but he has a dark side – and it is a very dark side - for Dr Hichcock enjoys practicing necrophilia.
At home in his large mansion he creeps down stairs at night and enters a locked room. There, his beautiful wife lies waiting looking weak and frail. He kisses and caresses her body and then injects her with a serum. She reacts badly to it and convulses and dies. Heart-broken, Dr Hichcock leaves his long standing career at the hospital and movies away from London, leaving his house in the hands of his maid.
Ten years pass and Dr Hichcock arrives back in London and returns to his new home. The ten years have been kind to him and he has with him a new wife - the beautiful Cynthia (Barbara Steele). Dr Hichcock returns to his job at the hospital and now you would think everything would be fine again, but that is not so.
Strange things are afoot in the house and Cynthia fears that the ghost of his previous wife walks its corridors. To make matters worse she can not escape her presence because the previous wife's pictures adorn the walls and her pet black cat is never far away, and on top of that, Dr Hichcock has begun to change for the worse.
Cynthia befriends her husband’s colleague, the young Dr. Kurt Lowe (Silvano Tranquilli), and tells him of her concerns. He, too, has noticed a change in Dr Hichcock which is exasperated by Dr Hichcock regularly being caught in the mortuary acting suspiciously with the bodies of newly deceased beautiful girls.
Cynthia’s health begins to deteriorate, and Dr Hichcock attributes it to stress and so prescribes her medication. After she has taken it she ends up in a drugged state and isn’t able to distinguish between reality and hallucinations. At one point she finds herself strapped into a cot with Dr Hichcock approaching from out of the darkness with his face horribly deformed.
Suspecting that her problems are maybe not stress related, but caused by the medication, Cynthia pretends to drink the medication, but instead hides the liquid and is able to pass it on to Dr Lowe, who takes it to the hospital for tests. The test results show that the dosage was more than enough to kill Cynthia. Soon it becomes a race for time for Dr Lowe to save Cynthia’s life as she is taken captive by the mad doctor who is threatening to cut her throat. All the while, the ghost of the dead wife continues to appear.
This is a really good Italin horror movie and is beautifully produced with great camera work. As with many Italian horror movies of this type, it is steeped in atmosphere with dark catacombs leading to crypts full of old dusty coffins.
Barbara Steele is absolutely stunning in this movie and this is one of her best performances. British actor, Robert Flemyng, is excellent as the Dr Hitchock as he successfully presents the air of professionalism to his colleagues in the medical profession while secretly lusting over the corpse of a beautiful young girl.
Director Riccardo Freda has been called a director "who brings some style to exploitation pictures" and he was one of the originators of horror fantasy in Italian cinema beginning with his Lust of the Vampire (1956). This led to a renaissance in Italian horror films which has resulted in them having the cult following that they have today
Riccardo Freda would also dabble in other genres such as peplum, espionage and even a spaghetti western.