Sunday, October 25, 2015

31 Days, 31 Horror Movies: Asylum (1972)

Asylum (1972)
When I once again ran out of time for Kwaidan ( sometime this month!) I still found myself in the mood for an anthology. (It also worked out that I was working last night and could pause between segments to make updates.) I'd been meaning to re-watch the Amicus flick, Asylum, for a while, so I fired up the streaming and got started.

Only to discover I've never seen Asylum. I know! Thinking back on it now I'm fairly sure I mixed up this and Doctor Terror's House of Horrors (another Amicus joint), as I was almost certain that the Christopher Lee segment with the severed hand was in this. (Though I also knew it was in Doctor Terror's... I don't know. My brain is messed up.)

So, cool - an Amicus anthology film I haven't seen! Written by Robert Bloch as well. I was actually pretty excited. I'm going to bust it out by segment with quick thoughts on each.

The Framing Sequence:
I always appreciate when an anthology takes the time to create a decent framing story. In my mind they should be just as good as the other segments, and I'm always disappointed when it's just an excuse or a bad pun. Luckily, this appears to be exactly what the doctor ordered (sorry). The young Dr. Martin, arrives at the eponymous asylum (for the 'incurably insane') where he's greeted by the wheelchair-bound Dr. Rutherford. Though their styles clash, Dr. Rutherford agrees to hire Martin IF he can correctly identify the patient who used to be the head of the asylum - a Dr. Starr. Dr. Martin agrees and is buzzed into the secure ward by the orderly, Reynolds. The stories of the patients form the bulk of the rest of the film.

"Frozen Fear"
This was my favorite, simply for the monster. The patient, Bonnie, tells Martin about a plot to murder her lover's wife, Ruth. Ruth is an heiress and a believer in (movie-land) voodoo. She's efficiently killed off and dismembered, her pieces stored in a freezer in the basement. (This is all fairly bloodless, fyi.)

Of course things aren't that simple, and Ruth is not quite finished with her husband - and Bonnie.

The paper-and-twine wrapped parcels are just disturbingly fun and the effects - though dated now - are tremendously creepy. The paper going in and out with the severed head's 'breath' is fantastic.

"The Weird Tailor"
A story I feel like I've read before. A tailor, down on his luck, is tasked by a stranger to create a suit out of strange material. Though difficult - the instructions require him to work only after midnight and before dawn - the tailor manages to complete the task. Though things don't go as planned and the tailor finds out the true purpose of the suit far too late. Peter Cushing is excellent, as always, but this is my least favorite of the bunch. I think the affectations of the tailor (Barry Morse) are just a bit too much to take seriously.

"Lucy Comes to Stay"
Charlotte Rampling and Britt Ekland  - there's some Thelma and Louise horror movie to be made here. The patient, Barbara (Rampling) tells a tale about a murderous friend (Ekland) who may or may not be real - but who definitely has Barbara's best interests at heart. She even tries to get her to quite her drug dependency. Too bad about the stabbings, though.

"Mannikins of Terror"
I love Herbert Lom - what a great body of work he has. His Dr. Byron makes a very sympathetic patient - working so well with his dolls. Yeah, his insistence that they can be animated - brought to life, actually - is a bit weird, but other than that he seems perfectly reasonable.

At this point Martin concludes his interviews and Reynolds sends him downstairs.

Martin refuses to engage in Dr. Rutherford's game and berates him for his methods. During the argument Dr. Byron's killer doll shows up and does what killer dolls do. Martin destroys the doll, revealing the viscera that makes the things truly alive on the inside. Running upstairs for help poor Martin finally discovers the real Dr. Starr, the murderous former (and future?) director of the Asylum.

Bottom Line
Very fun! I realized who Dr. Starr was early on, but it in no way diminished my enjoyment. "Frozen Fear" is now one of my favorite short horror bits in any anthology and the whole flick made me want to re-watch other Amicus anthology films like Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror.

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