Underground filmmaker Michael Legge directs himself as the eponymous mad scientist who finds a new career as the host of a TV horror movie program in JFK-era Massachusetts. Dr. Dreck may not be the most competent unlicensed physician to raise the dead (at one point he forgets to stitch the severed body parts together), but he is a droll presence in offering introductions and wraparounds for B-fare such as “King of the Zombies” starring Mantan Moreland. Assisted by Moaner Johnson, a zombie cheerleader, Dr. Dreck becomes the favorite of everyone – except Louise, the crabby old talk show host who seeks fatal revenge when her program is displaced by the horror movie show.
“The Dungeon of Dr. Dreck” is shot in murky monochrome on the budgetary equivalent of a Taco Bell lunch. Legge’s low-key humor and gift for absurdity helps propel this film along – the mix of mad scientist cliches and backstage TV drama is unusual and original. The film also works wonders when it pays irreverent tribute to classic spookfests (Moaner’s graveyard entrance is a wonderful riff on “Night of the Living Dead”).
Alas, the film runs out of steam about two-thirds of the way through its 90 minute running time when it is interrupted with a lengthy 3-D sequence involving a non-comic horror offering called “27 Spooks.” That sequence isn’t particularly effective and the movie never quite recovers its momentum, resulting in a fairly limp anti-climax of a conclusion.
Still, “The Dungeon of Dr. Dreck” is blessed with strong performances from giddy Lorna Nogueira as Moaner and Phyllis Weaver as the sneering Louise. And Legge, with his black eyepatch and air of perpetual malcontent exasperation, wisely underplays the traditional mad scientist into a genuinely unique creation. His Dr. Dreck is less interested in world conquest and more bothered about paying for the damage to his roof following a failed Frankenstein-worthy experiment. The character is a joy to behold and it would be grand if he could return for future adventures.