Scalpel is a 1977 American thriller film directed by John Grissmer, and starring Robert Lansing and Judith Chapman. Its plot follows a mentally-unstable plastic surgeon who transforms a young accident victim to appear as his missing daughter. It had the working title False Face.
|Directed by||John Grissmer|
|Written by||John Grissmer|
|Story by||Joseph Weintraub|
|Music by||Robert Cobert|
|Distributed by||United International Pictures|
Phillip Reynolds is a widowed plastic surgeon who, despite having had a brilliant career, suffers in his interpersonal relationships. After the death of his millionaire father-in-law, Phillip discovers that both he and his brother-in-law, Bradley, have been written out of the will. The deceased patriarch blames Phillip for his daughter's death, and bequeaths the entirety of his $5 million estate to his granddaughter (Phillip's daughter), Heather. However, since the death of her boyfriend Donald the year prior, Heather has gone missing and no one in the family has been in contact with her.
While out driving with Bradley, Phillip comes across a stripper who has been severely beaten by a nightclub bouncer. Phillip brings her to the hospital, and devises a plan to alter her face to the likeness of Heather; he promises to split Heather's $5 million inheritance with the Jane Doe if she consents to pose as Heather. The woman, whom Phillip refers to as "Jane," agrees to the plan, and awakens from the surgery in a face cast some months later. Phillip brings her to his home where he attempts to coach her to act like his daughter, playing recordings of Heather's voice and teaching her Heather's mannerisms.
After Jane fully recovers, Phillip holds a family party to celebrate Heather's "return," and to see if Jane can successfully convince the family members that she is Heather. At the party, Bradley is suspicious when Jane refuses to play piano, as Heather was a musical prodigy. During the party, Bradley suffers a heart attack and dies. At his funeral in New Orleans, the real Heather appears, and watches the proceedings from afar. She arrives at her father's home, and is met by him and Jane, whose striking resemblance to her she takes immediate note of. In the ensuing weeks, Heather grows disturbed by her father's apparent sexual interest in Jane, while Jane becomes jealous of the bond Phillip has with Heather.
Phillip and Jane go swimming together at a nearby lake, and are stopped after by a police officer who requests identification. Jane flees into the woods, but is eventually caught by the officer. Phil returns to the house and first tells Heather that Jane drowned at the lake, then changes his story and claims to have killed her himself. He then attempts to rape Heather, but is stopped by Jane, who appears in the doorway donning the police officer's uniform, and beats him with a cast iron skillet.
Heather and Jane embrace, and Heather injects her father with a truth serum before explaining that for the past year, she had been staying in a sanitarium owned by Dr. Dean, a family friend. She explains that she entered the sanitarium after witnessing Phillip murder Donald, which caused her to suffer a nervous breakdown. Her grandfather was the only member of the family who knew where she was. Dr. Dean, who had met Jane on a previous occasion and knew she was not Heather, arrives at the house, and sedates Phillip. Several other doctors arrive and place Phillip in a straitjacket before taking him to the sanitarium.
Jane departs the house with the medical staff, leaving Heather and Dean together in an embrace. As Phillip is incarcerated in the sanitarium, Jane is met by the family's lawyers at the airport, and receives her $2.5 million before departing on a private jet.
- Robert Lansing as Dr. Phillip Reynolds
- Judith Chapman as Heather / Jane
- Arlen Dean Snyder as Uncle Bradley
- David Scarroll as Dr. Robert Dean
- Sandy Martin as Sandy
- Muriel Moore as Margaret
- Stan Wojno as Donald
- Laura Whyte as Jennifer Reynolds
- Larry Quackenbush as Keith Jarvey
- Mimi Honce as Maddie Schuster
The film was shot on location in Atlanta and Covington, Georgia on a budget of $400,000. The home featured in the film is the antebellum Turner mansion in Covington, which was spared by General William Tecumseh Sherman during his Civil War March to the Sea. The film was shot by cinematographer Edward Lachman.
- "False Face". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Archived from the original on January 22, 2019.
- Wilkins, Budd (March 20, 2018). "Blu-ray Review: Scalpel". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on January 22, 2019.
- Albright, Brian (2012). Regional Horror Films, 1958–1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-786-47227-7.