The 2nd post in our series of classic horror movie worship by our pal Gavin A Go Go. This is Asylum. Released in 1972
Asylum (AKA House Of Crazies, which I prefer) is a British anthology horror film and one of many made by Amicus Productions. Others include Tales From The Crypt, The Vault Of Horror, From Beyond The Grave and The House that Dripped Blood. It was directed by Roy Wood Baker who is no stranger to horror having also directed Scars of Dracula & Quatermass And The Pit. Scripted by Robert Bloch who’s own short stories were adapted for the screenplay, he was also the writer of the novel Psycho which went on to become the film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
A young Dr Martin (I Know, right?) has arrived at Dunsmoor Asylum to interview for a position. When he arrives he is expecting to be greeted by a Dr B. Starr, the head of the institution, but instead meets a wheelchair bound (he turned his back on a patient. Idiot) Dr Lionel Rutherford who’s now in charge.
Rutherford goes on to tell the doctor that all the patients at the institution are in fact “incurably insane” and that Dr Starr is now an inmate at the asylum having suffered a mental breakdown and that it was in fact Starr that left him incapacitated. The orderly who looks after the patients reports that Starr is now perfectly rational now but has developed a new personality. (Being disabled he can not check on them himself as the patients reside on the first floor)
Dr Martin says that this can happen from time to time, when people want to escape their current situation and cockily claims to be able to identify such a case. Rutherford calls his bluff and sets the confident doctor a test. There are several other patients with a similar condition and if Dr Martin can pick out which one is Dr Starr, then he will be “considered” for the vacancy.
Martin ascends the stairs and takes in the “art” which so happens to be drawings of past inmates of the institution acting erratically (bit inappropriate). The stairs lead to a locked door. The door is opened by Max Reynolds who welcomes Martin in to a corridor which has Max’s office and two rooms on either side, each of which is a patients confined space where, while being interviewed the residents will tell the story of how they came to be, each in turn.
First up is Bonnie (at this point I would like to point out that all the patients names begin with B so as not to give Dr Martin any clues as to who Dr B. Starr is). She tells us her tale of how she and her lover, Walter plotted to kill his wealthy, possessive wife Ruth who studies voodoo, although she claims it’s not voodoo. She returns from one of her sessions with a new bracelet charmed with teeth which apparently will protect her from evil. This just fuels Walters fire as he believes its mumbo jumbo. Walter tells Ruth he has gotten her a gift and leads his wife to the basement. While she admires her brand new freezer (Great gift mate) he give’s her the real present, which leads to terrible repercussions.
The Weird Tailor
The next story comes from Bruno. Bruno was a tailor and recites how poverty lead him to take a tailoring job from a one Mr Smith. After learning that the suit is to be a surprise gift for his son, Smith produces the measurements and material that the suit is to be made of and strict instructions of at what times the suit can be made. These must be “to the letter” as the customer is a keen astrology enthusiast. Bruno says that it will be a lot of work, but Smith will pay him handsomely, so Bruno accepts.
Upon completion of the suit, Bruno delivers it to Smiths home where he learns that he will not be paid until his son tries on the suit as Smith has sold everything he owns to buy a book. Trying to prove his customer wrong, Bruno goes on a hunt, but what he finds is what the suit is really made for, which ends in tragic consequences.
Lucy Comes To Stay.
An agitated Barbara quickly informs us she has a history with the medical profession, she has been incarcerated before. Her yarn starts off with her initial release where she is driven to her home by her brother George. Upon their arrival they are greeted by Miss Higgins a nurse who will be caring for her. This confuses Barbara as she claims she isn’t sick and every order given is met with denial of her condition, but ultimately she complies.
Barbara is told to go to bed and rest which after some fuss she does. Once Miss Higgins is satisfied with her patient, she leaves her to rest and almost immediately receives a telephone call telling her that her elderly mother has been taken to hospital and her attendance is required. George offers to drive Miss Higgins to the train station, leaving Barbara alone, well at least she think she is until her impish and manipulative friend Lucy decides to pay a visit and brings a world of trouble with her.
Mannikins Of Horror
For his final interview Dr Martin meets with a Dr Byron. It is clear from the outset that he has a keen dislike for Dr Rutherford. We learn that he is working on an unusual project where he believes that he can willfully transfer souls into tiny robots with lifelike heads. The one he is currently working on bares a strong resemblance to himself. He goes on to explain that the insides of the toys are organic and a small version of his own viscera. Furious, Dr Martin delivers his verdict that the conditions in which the practice is being run are intolerable, particularly as no help is being offered to rid them of these “fantasies”. He is quickly reminded that Rutherford considers them “incurable” and that Byron is helplessly insane…. or is he…….
I could go on about this flick for a long time, but I feel it would spoil it for those of you who are yet to see it. Having watched films like Creepshow at a really young age I became a huge fan of the anthology sub-genre and really happy to add this to my list as I had never seen it before. (the t-shirt inspired me to watch it). Asylum is not particularly gruesome (unfortunately) but, it is still good fun and reminds me of a The League Of Gentlemen Christmas special. The cast has some familiar faces of horror including the legend that is Peter Cushing and Britt Ekland (Wickerman) as well as a very young Robert Powell. There are so many great bits such as the body parts, climbing toys and Britt Ekland’s accent that it’s hard to pick a favourite storyline. The Asylum T-Shirt design has great depictions of each, but if I had to choose I would say Frozen Fear.Overall this is an enjoyable film and really well thought out, with a great linking story. Highly recommended.
Post written by Gavin A Go Go