Arrow Video, with domestic sales and distribution expertise provided by MVD Entertainment Group, will be bringing a new 2K restoration of director John Grissmer’s 1977 (and 1978) gothic tale, Scalpel (aka: False Face) to market as a Blu-ray product offering on Feb. 20.
The film’s backstory is fascinating in that it was shot in and around Atlanta, Georgia in October of 1975, disappeared for all of 1976 and then surfaced as a regional indie release from United International Pictures in January of 1977 … and then disappeared again. It was titled False Face.
Somewhere along the line Embassy Pictures acquired the film and retitled it Scalpel and gave it a wide theatrical release in September of 1978.
The new title moved the film into the “horror” category, but it’s more akin to a demented murder mystery with Robert Lansing (4D Man, The Grissom Gang, Empire of the Ants, etc.) starring as plastic surgeon Dr. Phillip “Phil” Reynolds. It seems that when he takes a dislike to people around him they die mysterious deaths … his wife drowned in the backyard pool and his daughter’s “boyfriend” met a similar fate.
Which brings us to the film itself, which opens with Dr. Reynolds and his brother-in-law, Bradley (played by long-time character actor Arlen Dean Snyder), sharing drinks over the death of Robert Thorndike — Bradley’s father and Phil’s former father-in-law. Both, it seems, were on the outs with the old man, who left his entire fortune to his grand daughter, Heather (played by veteran soap and TV series player Judith Chapman) … who mysteriously vanished after her boyfriend’s death.
In no time the pair almost mow-down a stripper, who has been beaten to a pulp, and was left dazed to wander the streets bleeding and in shock. As good samaritans, they rush her to the nearby hospital, where as luck would have it, Phil just happens to work.
In one of those “light bulbs” going on moments, Phil stops the routine call to the police — to report the beating — and takes the dear girl under his personal care. After all, he is a plastic surgeon and her broken jaw and mangled face — beaten beyond recognition — can be repaired under his skillful “scalpel” and care.
This is where the film gets creepy. Phil molds the girl’s face, “Jane Doe” (also played by Chapman), to that of his daughter, Heather … and begins training her to be his daughter, with the deal that they split the money. He also takes to sleeping with her …
Eventually Bradley gets suspicious of what Phil is up to and that means that he too will have to have an “accident.” So where is the real Heather and will “Jane” and Phil get away with this multi-million dollar deception? To find out, pick up this new Blu-ray edition of Scalpel from Arrow Video on Feb. 20.
As to bonus goodies, there’s a newly-minted commentary option from film historian Richard Harland Smith and new video sessions with unspecified members of the film’s production crew.