Don't Look In The Basement (1973)
By: Michael Helms on July 8, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Rajon (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English 2.0. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: S.F.Brownrigg
Starring: William McGhee, Jessie Lee Fulton, Robert Dracup, Harryette Warren, Michael Harvey, Jessie Kirby, Hugh Featin, Betty Chandler, Camilla Carr, Gene Ross, Anne MacAdams, Rosie Helotik, Rhea MacAdams,
Screenplay: Tim Pope
Music:Robert Farrar
Tagline: Now They're Dying For Them!
Country: USA
AKA: The Forgotten
In Texas in the early 70s Tobe Hooper wasn't the only filmmaker out to make a cheap independent horror film. After working for some time with the other great independent Texan filmmaker Larry Buchanan, S.F.Brownrigg put together Don't Look In The Basement, as it became known when it fell into the hands of Hallmark Releasing, the company behind Last House on the Left.

Two men are peering from the second storey window of a large white tree enshrouded building. One is wearing military garb. They appear to be preparing for a confrontation with some kind of enemy. From inside the room the camera shows a nurse telling them to stop their game as she ushers the large black male off towards his supper. Going into another room the nurse interrupts a woman with a baby in her arms and is told she'll be killed if she touches the baby. Obviously stressed, the nurse quickly leaves. A bug-eyed man steps in and grabs the baby which is only a doll and runs away. The woman's screaming goes into overdrive. Outside, a man known as the Judge is being told by a doctor to swing an axe on a log. The distressed nurse approaches and attempts to tell the man identified as Dr. Stephens that she wants to quit. The doctor refuses to accept her decision and momentarily taking his eye off the Judge is hit with the axe.

An assertive female (Dr. Masters) soon arrives on the scene. She calms the Judge and gets him to go inside while reassuring Sam the big black guy that she is now going to take care of the family. Masters organizes the removal of the doctors body. Back inside, the screaming baby doll girl strangles the nurse for all her troubles. Nine minutes in, the credits arrive, as does a pretty blonde, who turns out to be a psych nurse being there at the request of Dr.Stephens to take up a position at the Stephens Sanitarium. The newly installed voice of authority Dr. Masters, doesn't approve but reluctantly takes on the young nurse. The Sanitarium had been ran on Stephen's belief that insanity is just a very special series of obsessions that must be nurtured so the doors have no locks. From here on in we veer from room to room as we are more closely familiarised with each of the patients. The Sergeant was once a real military man who now relies on Sam to guard the door as he interrogates spies. Sam had been the last patient Stephens had performed a lobotomy on before developing his new field of psychiatric treatment. A woman with nympho tendencies wants the Judge to taste her and removes her top but he rejects her. Old Mrs Callingham who occasionally hallucinates warns the new Nurse away. Mrs Callingham awakens one morning with her tongue removed but Masters remains unconcerned. A tradesman walks in to fix the phone only to be given a hard time by Masters before having the hard word put on him by Allyson the nymphomaniac. Danny the baby snatcher jumps Sam. Nurse Charlotte gets attacked by a knife wielding girl and becomes seriously distraught. Danny comes onto the nympho only to knock her back and begin taunting her with his maniacal laugh. The Judge once again rejects the nympho. Masters forces the Sergeant to hold a piece of burning paper in his hand. In a momentary interlude outside with Nurse Charlotte and Danny, we learn Danny was brought up in a brothel. Missing drugs result in the death of the young knife wielding girl care of a mysterious female hand and a bill spike in the eye. Sam discovers the body of the phone man which later turns up in bed with the nympho, "on honeymoon." Sam sees something shocking in the basement. The truth behind Dr. Masters' medical credentials is revealed but not before Nurse Charlotte has her turn at screaming the house down. The patients finally all rebel together and the last shot reveals a blood spattered Sam sucking on an icy pole as he begins to cry uncontrollably.

No remastering has occurred here and the source material seems to remain the same as the original tape release which at one stage inhabited every video outlet in Australia. In short, the visuals are sub par but without ever being entirely unwatchable.
The sound is adequate with all Robert Farrar's conventional horror movie stings and gentle transitional moments neatly separated from the dialogue which itself is well recorded (director Brownrigg did cut his filmmaking teeth as a sound recordist). Actually, it's the screaming you have to be concerned with as DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT puts this form of human communication into hyperdrive in such a way that it will have you joining in or simply screaming with laughter at it.
Extra Features
None, and not only that the special features mentioned on the slick (including animated chapter menus and further product reviews) don't exist either.
The Verdict
Despite ignoring just about every technological advance of the digital age this Devil Doll DVD presentation is indeed well worth viewing just for it's decidedly non-PC take on mental health care and violence. It's effects are nearly non-existent, the filmmaking often crude, the scares sparse, and it's front cover image mightn't be taken from the film itself but if viewed in the right frame of mind you could have your own private mini riot watching this ode to dementia.
Movie Score
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