Dr. Freudstein and (Im)mortality

Dr. Freudstein

Dr. Freudstein in Lucio Fulci’s 1981 classic The House by the Cemetery is a Victorian-era surgeon who wants to find the secret to immortality. Through years of self-experimentation by consuming human blood and pilfered body parts, Dr. Freudstein succeeds in cheating death; however, he is reduced to a state of living necrosis, his body deformed and grotesque as a result. Over 180 years later, he is found in the basement of the titular house by the cemetery, continuing to butcher and consume humans to prolong his state of living, so to speak. Dr. Freudstein is no ordinary mad scientist, however: he conducts experiment on himself using any means necessary to pursue and achieve the secret of life, and through this process becomes what can only be described as a monstrous entity that has many characteristics of zombies, ghouls, and mad scientists. Not only does Dr. Freudstein defy death, he too has distorted the conventional notion of what constitutes life—he boundary dividing life and death has never been so indistinguishable.  Finally, Dr. Freudstein represents an extreme example of a popular archetype in the mad science genre: that the scientist creator is the monster itself.

Works Cited

Chibnall, Steve, and Julian Petley, eds. “The British Censors and Horror Cinema.” British Horror
. London: Psychology Press, 2002. 10-22. Print.

Hantke, Steffen, ed. “A Film Is Being Beaten.” Horror Film: Creating and Marketing Fear. Jackson: The University Press of Mississippi, 2004. 52-65. Print.

Koven, Mikel J. “What is Giallo?” La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2006. 1-18. Print.

Schummer, Joachim, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, and Brigitte van Tiggelen, eds. “Chemists and Their Craft in Fiction Film.” The Public Image of Chemistry. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., 2007. 81-96. Print.

Schummer, Joachim, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, and Brigitte van Tiggelen, eds. “Historical Roots of the ‘Mad Scientist’.” The Public Image of Chemistry. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., 2007. 37-80. Print.


2 responses to “Dr. Freudstein and (Im)mortality

  1. This character is very similar to Death in “The Seventh Seal.” Both border the line between the living and the dead, however, Death has no apparent motive in killing people. They both kill because they have to, but Death kills because it is his job, and and Dr. Freudstein kills in order to keep living––even though he’s dead anyway.

  2. I find Dr. Freudstein to be a fascinating type of ‘mad scientist’ because he illustrates a more perverted twist of the ‘God complex’ we have discussed in relation to Frankenstein, for example. In the case of Dr. Freudstein, he is actively ingesting bodily parts and fluids (which brings us back to this whole notion of ‘pollution’ in the Mary Douglas article) to cheat death. However, he and Victor Frankenstein both achieve the same thing: creating something that does not turn out the way it is supposed to; scientific quests gone horridly wrong. Dr. Freudstein becoming the monster demonstrates how the line of monstrosity can be blurred or redrawn.

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