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By James Whittington, Saturday 13th July 2019 Asylum Second Sight Films Certificate 15
When you read that a film has the writer Robert Bloch (Psycho) and been directed by Roy Ward Baker your interest will be pricked. When you also learn it's from Amicus the you know it's a "must have" purchase. This is exactly what Asylum is, a cracker of an anthology movie which has been given the special HD treatment thanks to those lovely people at Second Sight Films.
Asylum boasts an all-star cast including Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Robert Powell, Patrick Magee, Barry Morse and Charlotte Rampling each who play this bizarre but entertaining movie perfectly straight. This was the fifth portmanteau film from Amicus and is a fine and beautifully polished piece of macabre moviemaking.
Doctor Martin (Powell) arrives for a job interview at a secluded asylum and must prove himself by listening to the macabre tales of some of the inmates and determine which is the former head of the asylum who has experienced a breakdown. Frozen Fear stars Barbara Parkins as Bonnie, who recounts her plot to murder her lover's wife, whose talent for voodoo results in horrific repercussions. The Weird Tailor stars Peter Cushing who requests that a suit be made from a mysterious fabric designed to reanimate his son. Next, Charlotte Rampling and Britt Ekland star in Lucy Comes to Stay as the ebullient Barbara, a frequent Asylum patient, and her mischievous friend Lucy whose visit upsets the fragile equilibrium in her mind. It all comes to a head in Mannikins of Horror as Dr Byron (Herbert Lom) transfers his soul into an automaton and is determined to kill Dr Rutherford (Patrick Magee)... but who is really in danger?
OK, I know what you're thinking and yes this is a totally mad concept (no pun intended) but it works so well thanks to a very tight script and confident direction. Each story has something to offer and unlike some anthology movies, there isn't a dud amongst them. If I had to choose one though then it's the Weird Taylor. Here, Cushing gives a subtle portrayal of a man named Smith who is rich in cash and mystery. Every line he delivers has meaning, depth and is just wonderful to watch. Special mention needs to go to Robert Powell who holds the whole piece together with his chiselled good looks and piercing stare.
The stories are short in length so the whole piece is over within 90 minutes, but the memory of the movie will last with you much longer.
The transfer here is quite wonderful, filled with bold colours that hold onto detail very well and considering this was made way back in 1972 it's a credit to whoever oversaw this transfer. There is some grain in places and a bit motion blur, but this is to be expected from a movie almost 50 years old. The soundtrack is very clear, slightly shrill in places but the enthusiastic score blasts through at every opportunity.
The large array of special features includes; Audio Commentary with Director Roy Ward Baker and Camera Operator Neil Binney, Two's a Company: 1972 On-set BBC report featuring interviews with Producer Milton Subotsky, Director Roy Ward Baker, Actors Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers, Megs Jenkins, Art Director Tony Curtis and Production Manager Teresa Bolland Screenwriter David J. Schow on Writer Robert Bloch, Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton Subotsky, Inside the Fear Factory Featurette with Directors Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and Producer Max J. Rosenberg, Theatrical Trailer and reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork.
Asylum is a classic British horror, filled with censor worrying violence and very dark humour and though its effects are dated it has much to offer viewers new to 70s cinema.
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