Peter Blood(the dashing Kieron Moore, perfectly conveying the drive and determination of a scientist with paranoia and madness brewing inside)returns to his small village home of Grenville after extensive schooling in Vienna. What his father Dr. Robert Blood(Ian Hunter), the beloved, hardworking village physician, or nurse Linda Parker(the lovely Hazel Court), his possible love interest, neither know is just what Peter is capable of in pursuing his goal to make a living, beating heart revive a dead body. Peter takes it upon himself to choose the lowest of village folk to paralyze with a poison that removes their ability to move much or talk, enabling him to surgically remove their hearts while they remain alive, with horrified eyes revealing the only cries of help available to them. Peter has a secret "lab" in a small place within tunnels underneath the ruins of an abandoned mine. Opportunity arises for Peter to gain control of human subjects when his father must leave for nearby Plymouth, out of town, as he works in his place with access to tools, equipment, and space. But, it'll only be a matter of time before Peter will make that ultimate mistake which will reveal his evil ways. He wholeheartedly believes in what he's doing..scientists must be "ruthless and unafraid" of what the critical majority as a whole thinks, Peter feels that important people should live in place of the "inferior" beings who merely occupy space, when their beating hearts could thrive in those better suited to make the world a better place.
This was actually a pleasant surprise. I thought the premise was grisly enough and the idea that Peter has trust from those in the village, creates much in the way of suspense. There's this masterstroke of a scene where this poor soul, given poison, makes his way, painstakingly, out of Peter's cavernous lair outside to an ocean embankment only to face the fact that the village is using as their physician, currently taking Robert's place, the very man who committed the sickening act to him. Hazel Court is the voice of reason, using Peter's attempts at being God against him to no avail when she suspects, and is right, that he's doing inhumane things. Kenneth J Warren is the village Sergeant Cook, who is investigating missing citizens and unusual deaths. An important scene comes in the middle portion of the film when Peter is first caught by the village's elderly coroner, attempting a surgical heart removal on a citizen in the morgue. Interrupted by coroner Morton(Gerald Lawson)while in the process of removing the heart, Peter kills him accidentally setting off a chain of events will lead to his downfall. The body he was working on dies, so he'll have to seek a second victim. Peter has to somehow hide Morton's body, take over as coroner doing autopsies which have the poison he put inside them, trying to evade curious eyes seeking answers to odd occurrences. You see, through Moore's performance, a man squirming to correct mistakes he himself made trying somehow to stay one step ahead.
I'm a fan of "mad scientist" movies, and this does follow the Frankenstein model, but I liked the performances. The film is ultimately about life and death and how Peter wishes to prolong those important with the hearts of those who waste them on drink or lost dreams. I also felt director Sidney J Furie uses the ruins and tunnels effectively. I think this is so story-driven, that the low budget doesn't harm it. Only one real puzzling occurrence for me was the ending when Peter is actually successful only for the one revived from the dead(..a real nifty twist is who the corpse revived is and how they relate to Linda)to turn on him violently..I guess it follows Frankenstein in that regard as well because when one tries to play God he will reap what he sows.