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Posts Tagged ‘Asylum’

Despite the success of Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg decided to return to standard narrative film-making for their next flurry of movies, beginning with The Skull, another vehicle for Peter Cushing, which also included a cameo role for Christopher Lee. The Skull is rather enjoyable in a low-key way, but the fact it was adapted from a Robert Bloch short story is more important. Bloch became just about as important to Amicus as Edgar Allan Poe was to Roger Corman.

After failing to mirror Dr Terror’s worldwide success with, among other things, a couple of Doctor Who movies and the bizarre, little-seen sci-fi offering The Mind of Mr Soames, Subotsky and Rosenberg turned to Bloch again for their second portmanteau film, The Torture Garden. Bloch sent Subotsky several of his short stories, Subotsky chose four of them and suggested a framing tale to tie them together, and Bloch then penned a screenplay. Burgess Meredith plays a fairground attraction guide who shows a variety of folk their rather disastrous futures – a variation on an idea used in Dr Terror, and which would be repeated in later films, simply via a different guide.

The Torture Garden is the worst of all Amicus’ portmanteau’s, but it does have a handful of notable moments, including a suitably chilling tale involving two Poe enthusiasts (Jack Palance and Peter Cushing), one of whom has the writer locked away in a secret room. There’s also an effective story about a starlet who discovers the chilling truth about film stars who never age, and it’s good to see Michael Ripper have a longer-than-usual role in the framing segments. Bloch suggested there was a version that was 12 minutes longer than the theatrical one we know; thankfully, there is no evidence to suggest it still exists.

After Scream and Scream Again in 1969, Amicus launched The House That Dripped Blood, again based on four stories from various Bloch anthologies. It’s one of the best of the lot, even adding a touch of originality to the linking segment by eschewing the usual “here’s a look at your bleak future” theme for “this house has a suspicious past”; it seems that everybody who lives there comes a cropper somehow.

Lee and Cushing are back, albeit in different stories, and it’s certainly good to see Lee as a victim rather than a villain for a change, here being terrorised by his witchcraft-loving little girl. There’s even a comedy story starring Jon Pertwee as a pompous horror star who gets his comeuppance thanks to a bewitched cloak and a bloodsucking co-star (Ingrid Pitt). Whether Pertwee’s character is based on the notoriously prickly Lee is unknown, although it’s doubtful when you consider Lee and Bloch were friends in real life. Cushing, meanwhile, was unhappy on set. His beloved wife Helen was desperately ill, and Cushing had asked to be released from his contract.

Amicus refused, realising the film’s finance deal would collapse without him. Clearly there were no hard feelings, because Cushing returned to the fold for 1972′s Tales from the Crypt. Also back was Freddie Francis as director (Peter Duffell had helmed The House That Dripped Blood). Inspired by the EC comic of the same name, Subotsky penned the screenplay – Bloch was not involved. The film’s cast was headed by Ralph Richardson as the cryptkeeper, revealing the fates of tourists who’ve become separated from their group while exploring some mysterious caves. Although Joan Collins, Patrick Magee and Nigel Patrick also appear, it peaks with Cushing as the desperately tragic Grimsdyke, driven to suicide by his nasty neighbours. I can barely watch, always driven to tears by his touching performance.

Bloch returned to the Amicus fray with Asylum, which was released in the summer of 1972, just 16 weeks after the end of principle photography. Although it’s a tad silly in places, I think it’s underrated, and features one of the more inventive framing stories – a doctor arrives for an interview at a mental hospital, and must diagnose what’s wrong with each patient to prove his worth. The cast is impressive too, with Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Robert Powell and Charlotte Rampling among the famous faces. After Asylum, Amicus returned to straightforward storytelling with And Now the Screaming Starts, but there were more portmanteaus to come before the company shuffled off this mortal coil…

Article by

Set in a gothic house large enough to garrison an army you
might be a little suspicious to find only four
rooms occupied in this disturbed portmanteau chiller. Dr Martin (Robert
Powell) is prospective house-man interviewed by Dr Lionel Rutherford (Patrick
Magee). Foregoing the usual Q&A approach Martin is invited to identify the
former head shrink Dr Starr who has gone a bit mental himself and now resides
in one of the rooms upstairs.  Pick the right man or woman and
the job’s his.

Martin, led trough the shock corridors of the Asylum by
orderly Max Reynolds (Geofrey Bayldon) tries out his bedside manner on the
lunatic not currently running the asylum. Top notch performers crawling the
walls include Bonnie (Barbara Parkin) whose lover cuckolded Walter (Richard
Todd) finds his affections cooling for brittle wife Ruth (Sylvia Sims), Barbara
(Charlotte Rampling) and ‘best friend’ Lucy (Britt Ekland) spend too much time
looking at themselves in the mirror with dire consequences and tailor Bruno
(Barry Morse) stitches himself up in  a
macabre tale of haberdashery and black magic featuring Peter Cushing. The final
tale involves Dr Byron (Herbert Lom) experimenting with alarmingly life like
models and whose mind games get out of control.

Quite a nice twist for the ending and – if you haven’t seen
the movie before – you might not see it coming first time around. Definitely a
favourite in the medicine chest of seventies pop-horror.

Review by Dancemakr

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