Infamous “Hellbound” Surgery Scene Unearthed at Last?
Straight scoop—straight from the Cenobite’s mouth.
The infamous “lost” Surgery Scene from Hellbound: Hellraiser II is one of horror’s greatest urban legends. Ever since a photo of Pinhead and the Female Cenobite dressed in bloody scrubs appeared on the back of a German VHS release in 1989, fans have sought high and low for this elusive footage.
The very idea of Cenobite Surgeons is so instantly captivating and terrifying, no one could believe such a scene was filmed yet omitted from the final product. Even though the last word from writer Peter Atkins was that “The scene was shit” and therefore assumed scrapped, that famous photo of Cenobites Surgeons endured. The image became iconic as it made rounds in countless conventions over the years. Despite assurances that the Surgery Scene was never committed to celluloid, that photo seemed to persistently insist that a version must exist, somewhere. Like an actual functioning Lament Configuration, near obsessive searches for this footage, paired with the unlikelihood of success, make it a bonafide Unholy Grail.
Which is why Hellraiser and Clive Barker fans collectively lost our cool when blogger Rob Ridenour dropped the seemingly unbelievable news on the Clive Barker Podcast last Tuesday:
“As I was looking over the specs for Arrow Video’s massive Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box bluray box set, one particular feature on the Hellbound: Hellraiser II instantly caught my eye: ‘Surgery Scene—the home video world premiere of this legendary never before-seen excised sequence from Hellbound, sourced from a VHS workprint’.”
The box set Ridenour’s referring to sounds awesome, but before my countrymen dash off to Amazon to preorder, sadly this is a UK, Region 2 release. Still, does this revelation of an unearthed workprint mean fans can finally look forward to feasting hungry, bleeding eyes on this piece of horror cinema mythology?
I’d caution against getting your hopes up too high, and not because I doubt the footage exists, rather, I doubt it will remotely live up to anyone’s expectations. I can say this with near certainty, because I have an inside source on the subject—someone who was on set that day and whose vantage point was central: The Female Cenobite Herself, Barbie Wilde.
It was in the final hours of the Monsterpalooza convention in 2014, when most of the fans and vendors were packing it in and heading home: I had a chance to chat with Barbie at length as I got her latest book (The Venus Project) & an autograph at her table. The photo I chose was a popular one—and the last one she had in stock: The Surgery Scene! And since the throngs had thinned and the atmosphere was relaxed, I couldn’t help myself from asking:
“Barbie, what’s the real story about that Surgery Scene? Is it even real?”
“You want to know the story?” she replied in a tone that I loved. It seemed to suggest she was finally ready, almost relieved, to reveal a long kept secret—like I was getting inner circle information. “I’ll tell you the story.”
I might not have taken notes, but I figure if I can remember dialog from movies I haven’t seen since 1983, my recall of March 2014 should still be pretty solid—not to mention it was a pretty exciting, and therefore memorable, conversation. So here’s the straight scoop, without any personal embellishments, as I remember it. Barbie said:
“The scene starts off with Chatterer (Nicholas Vince) chasing Kristy Cotton (Ashley Laurence) and Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) through the corridors of the Channard Institute. At one point, they turn a corner and see a doctor and a nurse wheeling someone into surgery. It’s actual Doug Bradley (Pinhead) and myself without any make-up, so at first the girls are relieved to see normal humans. But then, before their eyes, our scrubs start to bleed and we transform back into Cenobites.
“Doug and I got dressed up in scrubs and filmed some pre-transition shots. Then we put on the Cenobite make-up and the blood. But before we did any post-transition filming, the set accountant figured out that it would cost £20K to make the special FX work. It was a huge amount, so (director) Tony Randel decided to call it a day and we never finished.
“A few years later, a set photo lands on the back of a German VHS, and the legend was born.”
If I’m lying, may my suffering be legendary.
I do believe Arrow’s upcoming release will contain some awesome shots from the “lost” Surgery Scene, and it will be great to see moving pictures associated with that iconic frozen image. That said, I wouldn’t be optimistic about seeing anything resembling Atkins’ or Randel’s true vision. We can be excited about seeing more Chatterer, which is always a good thing, but as for the Unholy Grail: Don’t expect to see much besides some before and after shots with nothing in between, and no final dialog.
We’ll know soon enough when Arrow’s Scarlet Box hits the market.
Check out Barbie Wilde’s latest book, Voices of the Damned, which features original art by Clive Barker. Follow Barbie on Facebook: HERE.
Josh Millican is a writer and co-owner at The Blood-Shed and contributes at Tom Holland’s Terror Time, Dread Central, Top 10 Films, Scream Sirens, The Slaughtered Bird, and Horror Fix. Follow him on Twitter @josh_millican or contact him at Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org.