WRITER: Robert Bloch
DIRECTOR: Roy Ward Baker
STARRING: Peter Cushing as Smith
Britt Ekland as Lucy
Herbert Lom as Byron
Patrick Magee as Dr. Rutherford
Barry Morse as Bruno
Barbara Parkins as Bonnie
Robert Powell as Dr. Martin
Charlotte Rampling as Barbara
Sylvia Sims as Ruth
Richard Todd as Walter
James Villiers as George
Geoffrey Bayldon as Max
Ann Firbank as Anna
Megs Jenkins as Miss Higgins
John Franklyn-Robbins as Stebbins
QUICK CUT: A young doctor in search of a job comes upon an asylum, and in order to get the job, he must interview the patients!
THE MORGUE: Look, this is an anthology with a crapton of characters, so I'mma gonna wing it this time.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! The Summer of Slashers has ended, and I need a break. I need to get away from all this madness, and since it is time for our yearly look at an anthology movie, I am diving way way back into the 70s, for Asylum! And no, this is not the precursor to mockbusters and sharknados. Before that, there was Amicus Productions, and their love of anthologies! I've already done one of their pictures a few years back, with From Beyond the Grave.
Before I really get into this, I want to give a special thanks to Bo Ransdell and the folks over at Legion Podcasts. I had a different movie in mind for today, but getting the DVD was a bit more than I wanted to pay. I asked the group over there, and Bo suggested a few of the classic 70s anthologies, and Asylum felt like a great fit. So thanks to those guys, and go listen to their podcasts if you're a fan of horror and/or 80s movies. Anyways, I've got a bunch of stories to get through, so let's just dive right in.
The movie starts off setting up our framing sequence, as all PROPER anthologies should do. Asylum gives us the story of Doctor Martin looking for investors in his new shoe comp...er wait, wrong Doc Marten. Ahem, Martin turns up at Dunsmoor Asylum, meets Doctor Rutherford about starting a new job there, and he is given a challenge; upstairs, there is the former head of the asylum, Doctor Star, after he's had a breakdown. He's developed a new personality, and if Martin can identify which of the patients is Doctor Star, he's got the job!
Once he gets upstairs, Rutherford buzzes Martin in through the secure door that only he can open with a push of a button, and Martin meets Reynolds, the orderly in charge up there, and will show Martin around.
He meets his first patient, Bonnie, who spends her entire time with her back to the camera. HMM, I'm sure she looks perfectly fine!
The first story commences as we flashback to her time before the asylum, talking to her boyfriend Walter. Oh, by the way, Walter is married, and they're plotting to dispose of his wife, just so ya know.
His wife comes home, and it's easy to see why he's cheating and plotting her muuurder. She's not in the door five seconds and already complaining about her husband. Oh, and plot point! She's spent time in Africa, is taking classes with a 'witch doctor' and there's a dollop of racism here and there!
She also lords it over him that he may be unhappy, but there will be no divorce, because she knows Walter likes her money. Trust me, if she doesn't stop pushing it, heads are gonna roll. Which brings us back to the muuurder.
But it's time to get the plot rolling, and Walter takes her down into the basement to show her the new toy he's purchased, a giant deep freezer trunk.
And I like that we actually get to see Walter's wife being *happy* about this, it's something she's always wanted, and there is a genuine flicker where you can see why they're together, but the love is long gone, even if a spark still remains.
But that's not the only surprise Walter has for his wife! He also got her a new axe! Which he gives her a very up close and personal look...
We watch as day turns to night, listening to the sounds of hacking, sawing, and wrapping, as Walter takes care of the body. It's an effective and economical use of time and budget. You KNOW what's going on, and the imagination uses its own unlimited budget.
After the deed is done, Walter calls Bonnie to let her know he's all done, and she should come over so they can run away together and get away with it scott free.
BUT NOT SO FAST! Walter kills time by pouring himself a drink, but he hears some rustling sounds, and his wife's wrapped up head comes a'rollin' into the kitchen. I TOLD YOU HEADS WOULD ROLL!
He thinks maybe he's just had TOO much to drink, heads down to the basement to make sure he's not losing it, and when he gets to the open freezer, a wrapped up arm lunges at him and chokes him out
The disembodied arm drags him into the freezer, and presumably kills him, because what else is gonna happen at this point, right?
Which is just about when Bonnie arrives to a seemingly empty house, and now it's her turn to head down to the basement. She finds Walter in the freezer, and tries to escape, but the disembodied, paper wrapped head is lurking atop the stairs, stopping her.
Body parts start crawling out of the stonework, and look. I can appreciate the arms and hands can kill ya, I get the legs can kick and hurt. I can even roll with the severed head trying to go all Monty Python and bite her ankles off...but just what is the torso expecting to do, exactly?
She grabs Walter's axe, and Bonnie tries to give the body parts forty whacks, but they actually have strength in numbers and determination for revenge.
And HEY!! There's a right arm crawling around the floor, then we see ANOTHER right up in the piping above Bonnie's head, that grabs her face! Did Walter's wife have TWO right hands?? Huh, I would've expected her to be more sinister than that.
One of the right hands grabs the axe, and goes at Bonnie's face with it, which leads us to cutting back to the asylum, where she ended up because everyone assumes she did the double murder.
So with his first possible Herr Star introduced, Martin moves along to his next patient, Bruno, who is sitting in his room working with invisible needle and thread.
We flashback into Bruno's story, taking place at his tailor shop, and the landlord coming by to pester about the rent, as one does.
And I *swear* this is the exact same shop later used as the Needful Things wannabe from "From Beyond the Grave". Which makes sense, since they're both Amicus anthologies.
So that's when Peter Cushing rolls into town to ask Bruno about making him a special suit out of special material, following very strange and specific instructions. But he's willing to pay a lot of money Bruno needs, so he'll play along to pay the rent!
Bruno's daughter has serious misgivings about all this, because of all the strange rules, and the odd material, but they need to pay the rent, and Bruno gets to work in a sewing montage.
The tailor takes the suit from out of space to Mr. Smith, but the man refuses to pay. At least, for the time being, because he to is as broke as the tailor. He just needs for his son to return, and they will have money once more.
Plot point time! He spent all his money to acquire a one of a kind book, the book with the instructions to make the suit of many colours. Oh, and the instructions on how to use it to bring Smith's son back from the dead.
Bruno still insists on being paid, especially as this is getting freakier, but Smith has a gun, and will not let anything stop him from phoenixing his son.
The men struggle, and in the commotion, the gun goes off and Smith dies. Bruno runs off with the suit, and dude! He said he was broke, but I'm sure there is SOMETHING he could've stole and pawned for rent money!
He insists that Anna burn the suit, but instead she places it on their mannequin in the front window, hoping to draw in customers. If they're not thrown out in the morning, that is...
Bruno tells Anna what happened with Smith, she freaks out and wants to tell the police, but her father fights her...which triggers Otto coming to life, as you do.
With Bruno's story wrapped up, and his certainty that Otto is still wandering the streets, Martin and Reynolds head on to their next patient, Barbara, who blames everything on her imaginary friend, Lucy.
So story #3 starts its flashback, with Babs coming home from a stay away at a previous institution for her behaviour, and drug use, that they're trying to ween her off of.
George and Babs arrive home, where she meets her nurse, that insists she go take a nap in the middle of the day, and gives her a sedative to help her out.
Unfortunately, the nurse gets a call that her mother is taking a bad turn, and George drives her to the train station, leaving the supposedly sleeping Barbara all alone...OR IS SHE?
Once they're gone, Babs raids the bathroom and finds one of her old stashes of her pills, which makes her friend Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds appear. Hmm. A frequent mental patient, seeing an imaginary friend, some drugs make her appear, other drugs make her go away...is THIS the short story that inspired Lights Out??
Lucy starts whispering in Babs ear about how her brother is plotting to make her seem unfit, so the house and money will all become his. So they plot to run away together that night, once George is asleep.
The imaginary friend drugs George, and cuts the phone line so Miss Higgins can't sound the alarm when she gets back and finds the mentally ill girl missing.
Babs gets ready, then her and Lucy fight about her drug use, since she keeps trying to take the pills that calm her and make the voices go away. Lucy angrily stomps off and disappear as imaginary friends do, and when Babs tries to find her, she runs into an early arriving Nurse Higgins.
They look for George, and find him in the study doing considerably more than sleeping off a sedative. Higgins tries calling the cops, but those scissors get around.
Higgins rushes upstairs, worried about the slight case of muuurder going around, and ends up getting stabbed in the chest herself. She then topples down the stairs, in a little bit of Psycho deja vu.
Which brings us back to the asylum, and Barbara insisting to see a lawyer. Quick, call in Kate Spencer, she's helped the Birds of Prey plenty of times!
She insists Lucy did it, framing her, and oh, don't you see? Lucy is right here in the room! She's right over there! Right in the mirror!
I heard Barbara would go on to start her own medical practice, inspired by her own time in asylums, and coming up with her own ideas to teach young sociopaths to hone their abilities and only kill bad people.
Which brings us to our final patient, Byron, who is, or believes himself, to be a doctor. That alone puts him ahead in the running to be Doctor Star.
But while he's been hanging out in the asylum, Byron has taken to sculpting and making dolls, figures based on his former patients. Oh, and plot point, each doll has in its head a perfectly proportioned brain and fully functional. ...Riight.
He then shows off his latest creation, his final creation, a little doll with the head of Byron himself, and yes, insert the Decapitron jokes here, people. In fact, he goes so far as to say he will use his powers of concentration to send his consciousness into the puppet.
Well, that is a damned sight easier than Toulon's method, and far less brain harvesty. No one tell Sutekh.
Martin just shrugs at the craziness of it all, and heads out the door right away and back down to Rutherford's office to get this over with.
He yells at Rutherford for the way the patients are being treated, getting no help, and just plain locked away forever. He wants to actually help the patients, but Rutherford just shrugs and says there's nothing to be done. Meanwhile, Byron is getting his toys ready to strike. Sigh, where's Blade and Torch when I want them?
Unsurprisingly, since this is the land of horror movies and attacking body parts, Byron's powers actually work, and Decapitron 2.0 hobbles off to do its dirty work.
The puppet sneaks out when Reynolds delivers dinner, and climbs up into the food delivery chute, whooshing downstairs and out of the otherwise secure area.
Martin decides that he's not going to accept the job, and refuses to make a choice as to whom Star might be.
Unseen by the two doctors, Byrotron comes along, picks up a scalpel carelessly laying about, aaand stabs Rutherford in the back of the neck. Muuuurder.
Martin grabs the puppet, not even questioning ANY of this bizarreness, and stomps it but good under his feet, revealing it was full of pasta. Tasty, tasty pasta. This also seems to kill Byron in the process.
The doctor rushes upstairs, finds Reynolds checking on Byron's crushed body, and he hurries to Reynolds' office in the secure wing to call the police and an ambulance.
Reynolds tries to stop him, but its too late, as Martin finds a dead body. A dead body that Reynolds tells him...IS REYNOLDS. And that's when it lands that Reynolds the orderly, is truly Doctor Star.
And before that information can do him any good, Starnolds chokes out poor Doctor Martin, who just wanted to help people.
The movie ends with a coda of Starnolds, now the lunatic in charge of the asylum, letting in a new doctor applying for a job, and surely about to die himself...
Video: Looks pretty good for a 70s British production. The video is exactly how I'd expect that to look.
Audio: A perfectly fine mono track.
Sound Bite: "Never turn your back on a patient," says the man who gets stabbed in the back of the neck later...
Body Count: A respectable amount for a 70s movie, and limited cast.
1 - 17 minutes and change, sees Walter's wife getting hacked up.
2 - Walter gets choked and frozen.
3 - Mister Smith goes to deadshingtoin.
4 - George gets killed by scissors.
5 - Nurse Higgins follows soon aftrer with a knife in the chest.
6 - Doctor Rutherford finds out Byron is a real pain in the neck.
7 - Byron gets crushed via voodoo, essentially.
8 - And Martin gets choked to death.
Best Corpse: Walter's wife wins this time out, since her kicking and crawling body parts are very memorable.
Blood Type - F: The blood count is pretty low here. There was very little gore back in the day, and very little call for makeup effects. The most we see is the robot innards.
Sex Appeal: Nada.
Drink Up! I'll go easy on ya this time, and say have a drink every time a flashback begins and ends.
Video Nasties: This time, I share the clip of body parts attacking Bonnie. It's obvious how most of it was done, but for something made in 1972, the effect STILL holds up, and is super effective.
Movie Review: This may well be one of my favourite anthologies. The framing sequence is perfect, and gives the perfect excuse for EVERYTHING we're being told. Each of the stories is actually really good, for being short stories, and from the 70s. Some of them may be fairly basic, but each one has a decent enough twist or gotcha moment, and even if they're light on characterisation, they tell their stories efficiently enough. Coupled with solid effects, and being well made, this gets a four out of five severed right arms. Just knocking off a little bit for the inescapble British camp.
Entertainment Value: The acting might not be super cheesy, the effects may be solid enough, so there's nothing really bad to chuckle at, this is absolutely a fun and enthralling story, with it's few cringeworthy moments of camp. This is just a wicked fun anthology, and I definitely give it a five out of five Byron dolls.