Asylum (1972)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Starring Anne Firbank Barbara Parkins Britt Ekland Peter Cushing

One of the best anthology horror films ever made, "Asylum" is a bit of a challenge to find on video.

Long out of print, it's nonetheless a must-see for any horror fan, particularly for those of us that love British fear flicks from the early 1970s. This film is much better than most of the stuff Hammer was producing in the same time frame. Its stories are also better than most of the episodes of "Tales From the Crypt" that were produced in the 1980s.

Robert Powell (who would later play Jesus in Zeffirelli's "Jesus of Nazareth" miniseries) plays a psychiatrist interviewing four inmates at an asylum after being challenged to ascertain which of them was the former head of the institution.

The patients' stories form the basis of the film. Cushing is convincing as a former tailor who was commissioned to create a magic suit that could resurrect the dead. Ekland is an imaginary, but decidedly homicidal, friend of another woman. Herbert Lom, meanwhile, is a retired doctor who builds robot-like voodoo dolls as a hobby. The dolls, however, have real guts.

All in all, "Asylum" is one of the best anthology films ever made. Especially eerie is the tale where a killer is pursued by the severed body parts of his victim, all of which are wrapped in paper. The film makes effective use of Moussegsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" and "Night on the Bare Mountain" as the basis of the soundtrack. With performances that are all top notch and great direction from Baker, the film is a flawless piece of horror moviemaking -- a well-made gem from the 1970s that is unlike anything that studios can produce today. Much of the credit for this classic goes to Robert Bloch, who wrote the screenplay. Bloch is best-known for writing the original novel, "Psycho." Although he didn't get to write the screenplay for the Hitchcock adaptation of his work, he did get to pen some terrific Amicus anthology horror movies, the best of which (easily) was this '72 effort.

Although released on video by a variety of different companies, the one to see is the Image Entertainment "Euroshock Collection" release, which hit DVD in the late 1990s.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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