Tuesday, May 5, 2015

British Spotlight: Amicus Productions: Asylum 1972

Gorehound Mike`s British Spotlight on Amicus Studios

 When one thinks of British horror most fans will think of Hammer the legendary studio that revived many of Universals stable of monsters. They gave horror a certain class and charm without skimping on the nasty. During Hammers glorious run another British studio was also making mayhem, with titles you no doubt are familiar with. The studio was Amicus.  Stars like Christopher Lee,Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt also worked on there films giving Hammer a run for its money. While it`s not as famous as Hammer it still produced some very interesting horror gems. 

Will be looking at a series of films from this company and hopefully unearth some horrors you can enjoy!

A few notable films of the studio:
Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror,The Skull, From Beyond the Grave etc. 

Title: Asylum (aka House of Crazies) 
Year: 1972

Directed by Roy Ward Baker, Patrick Magee

Written by Robert Bloch (Writer of the novel Psycho)
Since this is an anothlogy i`m going to review in break downs of the stories. 

It was actually through the website Trailers from Hell that I discovered this tucked away gem and to my delight Dark Sky Films had put out a nice boxset of Amicus horror which includes And Now the Screaming Starts and the Beast Must Die. In the bottom of the blog I will post a link to the trailer and if you havent checked the site out its amazing and you can pretty much spend three or four days straight just watching trailers (with commentary) It has since turned me on to a few films that i`ve really enjoyed. 

Framing Story: Plot 
Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) arrives at a rather sinister asylum "for the incurably insane" for a job interview. Dr.Rutherford (Patrick Magee) who is wheelchair bound explains that he recently suffered an inmate attack and that the the former chief and head of the asylum Dr.B Starr is now a patient. He makes him a very strange deal, interview the patients and if you can guess which one is Dr.Starr you are up for the task and can have the job.  It seems bizarre but he agrees and begins interviewing the patients.

The framing device sets the mood wonderfully using the score "Night on Bald Mountain" which any horror fan will be familiar with. Patrick Magee (best known for Clockwork Orange) is great as always, he really sets the tone for what your about to see. Its one of the more interesting framing (or wrap around`s) to an anthology. 

Frozen Fear: Bonnie (Barbra Parkins) the first patient recalls the events that brought her to the asylum. She and her lover Walter (Richard Todd) plot to murder his nasty rich wife Ruth(Sylvia Syms). But it just so happens Ruth has been studying voodoo in her spare time and wears a charm around her wrist. Needless to say things don't work out for the two would be murderers.

The first segment is by far the cheesiest but its also a lot of fun. The actors never play it tongue and cheek, even though i`m sure it would have been very hard not to laugh during the take. Its not very long but it delivers just enough of wacky horror to leave you wanting more.

The Weird Tailor: Things are looking rather grim for an old tailor named Bruno (Barry Morse), who is past due on his rent and is facing the very real possibility of being on the streets. But as if by some miracle he is soon visited by a mysterious gentlemen known only as Mr. Smith (Peter Cushing) who wants a suit made. He quickly learns Mr.Smith wants a very special suit made with a strange glowing material and that it must be made only strict guidelines. Bruno is offered a handsome price for the suit and he cant say no. But it seems he might have just made a bargain with the devil. 

By far the best segment. First lets talk about how great Peter Cushing is in this. He really brings a powerful performance and sells the story and his character motivation. His sheer presents is unmatched and he knocks it out of the park. The story is also amazing,with twists and turns aplenty and a ending that will knock you for a loop. Baker also does some brilliant work with creating mood with lighting, its really a shame this couldn't have been stretched for a whole film. 

Lucy Comes to Stay: Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) tells her story of coming back to live at her home with her brother George (James Villers) and a live in nurse Miss Higgins (Megs Jenkins) after being in a asylum. We quickly find out she has a friend Lucy (Britt Ekland) who has a talent for getting her into trouble. 

We come down off the high of the "The Weird Tailor" to Lucy, which is actually the weakest in the film. The only real draw in this tepid psycho drama is Britt Ekland who is best known for her role in The Wicker Man 74. But even Britt amazing star power cannot save the story which is very limp and anyone with a half a brain can guess the outcome.

Mannikins Of Horror/Epilogue:The final segment and wrap around strangely blend into each other so its hard for me to sum up without spoiling the ending so i`ll give you the short version to keep the surprise. Martins final interviewee is Dr.Martin  who has a collection of dolls that he plans to bring to life. 
I like how this strange final segment blends nicely with the wrap around. It doesn't have the bang one would hope but its interesting enough to be entertaining none the less. 

Overall:  Asylum is one of the better anthologies and despite some weak points its wildly entertaining with some fine British actors, who never ham it up despite the off the wall stories. It easily ranks up there with other films from the studio like Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horrors etc. As stated you can find this in the Amicus boxset from Dark sky films. 

Trailers from Hell: www.trailersfromhell.com

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