Asylum (known as House of Crazies in the US) is a 1972 British horror anthology that sees the young Dr Martin (Robert Powell) arrive at a secluded asylum for a job interview. The asylum houses the ‘incurably insane’ & the head, Dr Rutherford (Patrick Magee) wants to be sure the young doctor has the stomach for the job. So, to determine this he insists that Dr Martin interview the inmates to determine who is Dr Starr. The former head of the asylum who had a mental breakdown.
The films four tales come from Dr Martin’s interviews as the patients tell the story of just how they ended up in the asylum.
The first is called ‘Frozen Fear’ & stars Richard Todd as Walter. A man who murders his wife to be with his lover, Bonnie played by Barbara Parkins. Unknown to the pair though, the victim Ruth (Sylvia Syms) studied voodoo & her dismembered body parts won’t stay dead.
Well-acted & a lot of fun to watch, it builds well towards a frantic & shocking finale.
The second tale, ‘The Weird Tailor’ is the best of the bunch mainly because it stars Peter Cushing. He plays Mr. Smith, a man who makes an unusual request to the tailor, Bruno (Barry Morse). Low on funds & facing eviction Bruno agrees to the request but is horrified once he realises what it means.
Steeped with mystery & delivering a payoff that satisfies, The Weird Tailor is the one that will be remembered afterwards. Which can’t be said for ‘Lucy Comes to Stay’, a forgettable & boring story about Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) who has just been released from an asylum. Feeling like a prisoner at home things get interesting for her when the mischievous Lucy arrives (Britt Ekland).
The final story, ‘Mannikins of Horror’ sees Dr Martin interviewing Dr Byron (Herbert Lom) who hates Dr Rutherford. He has been working on a small robot that he can transfer his soul too. Being the final story, this is more about setting up the finale as Dr Martin returns to Dr Rutherford to deliver his judgement on who is Dr Starr. The result is not quite what he or us could ever have expected.
Asylum is a decent anthology only because of the book-ended sections & the first two stories. Exciting & well-acted, it’s a mostly entertaining watch that showcases the strength in British horror during the 70s.
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