Film View On TV – The DentistFebruary 23, 2010
Last night, while channel surfing, I stumbled upon what must be one of the maddest films ever. It’s called The Dentist, a horror film starring Corbin Bernsen. The last time I saw him on TV, he was the wonderful, philandering divorce lawyer Arnie Becker in L.A. Law, a great TV show of the late eighties and early nineties. I don’t know if there’s a genre for mad, bad dental themes in films, but this would be up there with the dentist scene in Marathon Man. If you already have a phobia about dentists, this film will do nothing to change your mind. For the rest, it’ll bring on a phobia for sure.
Corbin Bernsen plays Dr Alan Feinstone, a Beverly Hills Dentist with a perfect business, a perfect home, a perfect car and a perfect wife. Cracks start to form in his carefully crafted life of impossibly high standards when he finds himself facing tax demands, indicating problems with his perfect business. The façade of the perfect life finally smashes when he spies the perfect wife giving the perfect blow job to the pool man on the day of their wedding anniversary. From this point onwards his rage tips over to paranoia and he commits dangerous and murderous acts in an attempt to cleanse the world of what he sees as a moral decay. Starting with a poor little boy, whose first visit to the dentist is one he’s not going to forget in a hurry, he progresses to molesting and then attempting to strangle a beauty queen in one of his hallucinogenic moments, believing the woman to be his wife. Her manager soon finds out and threatens to sue. Needless to say, the surgery is closed for the rest of the day. Later that evening, as an anniversary present, he invites his wife to one of his new studios at the surgery, which has an Opera theme (all the rooms are themed to marvellously camp effect). As the music plays, he sedates her with nitrous oxide, then straps her down and proceeds to do a very special kind of dental work on her.
All sorts of torturous and bloody delights unfold after he’s done with his wife (who’s still alive, by the way, but certainly not the woman she used to be) with victims including the pool man, his assistants, a tax man and very nearly, but not quite, a teenage girl, who was due to have her dental braces removed the previous day when he flipped out and closed the surgery early. She escapes, the police come to the surgery and thanks to some very easy detective work with a convenient clue (“what did you say about teaching?” asks the detective of the now traumatised receptionist), he’s eventually found at a teaching hospital where he also works, going right off the deep end. The film ends with him locked up in the cell of an institution with all the required clichés of white straightjacket and white padded walls. I won’t give it away completely, as I’ve given so much of the film here already, it would be unfair to take away the punch line for you as well. There may be a clip of it on YouTube, or you’ll have to be brave and get a copy for yourself. Corbin Bernsen is having a fine old time camping up this monster. You get the feeling he would’ve done it for free such was his enjoyment. On every level this film is pure cheese and yet there is something that holds you until the end. I can’t say go and see it, as I have no intention of being held responsible for possibly robbing you of 92 minutes you’ll never see again, but perhaps we can file it under the ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ category and you can decide.