Asylum / House of Crazies (1972)

There’s a Doctor in the house…

An idealistic young doctor goes for an interview at a hospital for criminals with mental health problems. He is offered the job only if he recognises a doctor in this group of incurable inpatients.

 

Asylum (1972) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p], HD RETRO TRAILERS

 

I recently joined forces with Barry from Cinematic Catharsis for our Great Hammer-Amicus blogathon. I have fond memories of these Amicus anthologies of horror tales, or as Barry. my partner in Horror would say… a portmanteau. This due to his expertise in this genre, as opposed to my more random horror ones usually from the 70s and 80s with random big acting names.. see my reviews on The Hand (1981) with Michael Caine, Damien : Omen II (1978) – with William Holden and Lee Grant – and The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) with Moore, Roger Moore. I rest my case.

Asylum / House of Crazies (1972), should not to be confused with the Horror film of the same name released in 2005. The former film had lots of big names from the 1970s and Peter Cushing and the latter Ian McKellen and lots of explicit scenes of a sexual nature. So make sure you get it right, particularly if you watching with a parent (no matter what age you are, believe me). Anyway. back to the post.  The Amicus Anthology films always had with a wee back story bringing the characters together, as they recount their tales of horror each with a wee natty twist. A bit like a blogathon really.. well this blogathon. And may the horror begin.. and tune in for our blogathon tomorrow.

The Asylum (1972) movie is creepily atmospheric from the start, taking place in an isolated Gothic Victorian era mental health hospital, isolated in the country and surrounded by fog. The opening music accompanying this a cross between frenzied stringed instruments (reminiscent of that scene in The Witches of Eastwick (1987) where Darryl met Jane) and dramatic music (as in any horror film, ever) add to the ambience.  There are bars at the windows, and locks on the doors of this imposing building. Inside its dark, full of shadows. The top floor of the building houses the inpatients with locks on both sides of a barred door (solely controlled by the doctor using a button in his downstairs office) leading to their locked rooms with a service elevator bringing up the inpatients’ food. The inpatients isolated in their rooms, and alone in their distressing thoughts and beliefs.

Dr Martin (Powell) arrives at the hospital, for an interview. And finds it’s an interview with a Dr Rutherford (Patrick Magee), and not Dr Starr, the Head Doctor of the hospital as he’d been led to believe. Dr Rutherford says he was attacked by Dr Starr a few days previously, and Rutherford is now is using a wheelchair as a result of this. And Dr. Starr now resides there as a inpatient after this breakdown. Starr is now more rational, but has taken on a new identity and life story. So with Martin is confident that he’ll recognise the doctor from this group of “incurable” inpatients. Rutherford says he may offer him a job there should he succeed in identifying him or her.

As climbing the stairs – cue dramatic spooky music – Martin passes eerie black and white prints, of “asylum” life and treatments over the 19th century. He’s met by the efficient orderly (Geoffrey Bayldon) who allows him in through that barred, locked door…

 

Frozen Fear

And we first meet Bonnie (Barbara Parkins) –  singing to herself, and playing with her hair seemingly a tragic figure. As she gazes through the window, she tells her tale. And like Play School (1964-88) we go through the window and the story begins. Barbara tells that she had an affair with a married man Walter (Richard Todd). After they arrange to run away together, Walter says he’ll meet her when their plan is completed (immediately the wee hairs on your neck stand up). His wife, Ruth (Sylvia Syms) – a wealthy heiress – returns home after a voodoo course with an amulet promising her never-ending life, which he scoffs at. And then he invites her to the basement, to show her a present. It’s a chest freezer (this was a big thing in the 1970s, but still..) and he kills her with a handy axe.

The chilling tale continues with the eerie sound of him chopping her into bits. As we hear this we notice all is being recorded by ye olde tape recorder in the shadows. And then we cut (no pun intended) to a freezer, we see bits of her corpse wrapped in brown paper and string. And Walter mopping the blood away. The results of this murder looking like  terribly obsessively neat (and bloodless) parcels, yet it’s obviously body parts. Then he believes he sees that her head has returned to life as a head shaped parcel, rolls into the room….(and there’s more to watch)

This was certainly the more chilling of the stories with the darkness, shadows and sound effects adding to the horror and suspense. It was great seeing Richard Todd again, an actor I enjoyed watching in the stylishly 1970s version of the horror Dorian Gray (1970) recently (with Herbert Lom also his co-star here). And he was fantastic at hamming up those facial expressions of horror and fear. Syms was fantastically OTT as his possessive wife, whose relief that his relationship with Bonnie was over was too short-lived. And the atmosphere led to a few twists, as Bonnie calls over to meet with him.. and of course goes to the basement to look for him. And more on her part in the story revealed.

The Weird Tailor

In Room no 2 there’s Bruno (Barry Morse), a tailor who we meet sewing a garment only he can see. His story begins after he and his wife’s are threatened with homelessness from his landlord, for not coming up with the rent. A strange polite sounding Englishman, Mr Smith (Peter Cushing) asks him to make a suit for his son. He must follow his detailed instructions, only working at specific times after midnight with a luminous material. But on delivering the suit.. (and watch to learn more).

Cushing was superfantastic as the mysterious Mr Smith, his passion for his desired suit was almost heartbreaking to watch. As his motives came clear I felt the heartbreak and despair of this man.  Bruno also seemed a sad character, played as passionate about his work and desperate to keep his business and look after this wife. The use of candlelight as we enter Mr Smith’s home as he dropped off the suit, upped the fear factor, and unsettled me reminding me of The Innocents (1961). Again the use of shadows, and the darkness were both unnerving and frightening and added to this plot.

 

Lucy Comes to Stay

We then are introduced to Barbara (Charlotte Rampling), who insists she shouldn’t be in hospital, thinking Martin as a lawyer. Her story atarts as she is being taken home from hospital by her brother after a previous hospital stay. He’s concerned immediately as she mentions a friend of hers, Lucy (Britt Ekland). This as Lucy encourages Barbara to do things she shouldnt. Lucy visits her, stating she had hidden in the garage and she successfully gets into Barbara’s room unnoticed. She feels Barbara should not take her medication and knowing things about Barbara. This unsettles Barbara.  Lucy encourages Barbara to get away from the overprotectiveness of her brother Charles and the nurse (Megs Jenkins) he’s employed to give her 24 support…  . But Barbara, despite feeling stifled by her brother, is torn….(and there’s more to watch)

This part of the story, started well and appeared promising with all the ingredients of a possibly wrongly diagnosed patient. This as substantiated with Rampling wanting a lawyer as she’s been wrongly admitted. Immediately, I believed her brother Charles and the Nurse into a conspiracy to get Barbara’s inheritance. However, as Lucy’s role in the story was introduces and developed , led to a completely different and startling revelation.

 

Mannikins of Horror

Finally there’s the mysterious Dr, Byron who appears a cold but charimg and charismatic man from the start. He has a hatred of Dr Rutherford. With Byron’s collection of creepy robot dolls – each resembling an old colleague, – he hopes to breathe life to them, as God did with him. This is dismissed as his “Occupational Therapy”.  He’s even made one of himself, complete with teeny weeny wee working organs… as you do in Occupational Therapy.

And cue flashes of spooky shots of the doll and petrifying close-ups of Lom’s eyes. We the see the wee robot looking like Herbert Lom walking. As it escapes to the service lift, this lift taking it down the stairs, as the robot walks undetected in the shadows.. as if with a mission from Byron… unnoticed by the orderly… who lets Martin down the stairs to deliver his denouement. And there we will leave you to watch the end…

This final tale was the most fun, but with his chilling dolls and disturbingly lucid demeanour Lom was much more than a chilling character than the others. They seemed more tragic, with sad stories to tell.  But I’d love to see a parody of this final segment of this film starring Matt Damon or even Alec Baldwin. With their wee mini-me robot played by their mannikin in Team America: World Police (2004). Now that would be an idea for great horror reboot, in Mannikins of Hollywood. F*** Yeah…

Weeper Rating 😦  😦 /10

Handsqueeze Rating 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 10

Hulk Rating: ‎  ‎ ‎mrgreen ‎‎  ‎mrgreen /10

Additional Trailer: No

The Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon

This film was added to my  The Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon with Barry from Cinematic Catharsis. Other posts with this cast include Dracula A.D. 1972  and Tales from the Crypt with Peter Cushing. This film was scripted by Robert Bloch who wrote Psycho, with the making of this movie reviewed in 2012’s Hitchcock biopic HERE. Britt Ekland starred in The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Barbara Parkins starred in these two, and Hotel. Richard Todd starred in Murder She Wrote and Thriller. Robert Powell also starred in Thriller.

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Asylum / House of Crazies (1972)

  1. Amicus made some fantastic portmanteau films and this is a favourite of mine. Other studios and producers have made them but Amicus seemed to get them right. And there isn’t a weak story in this film. Thanks for the review and a huge thank you for co-runinng this great blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always loved Amicus’s portmanteau movies. In fact, the first Amicus movie I ever saw was a portmanteau film–Tales from the Crypt (featuring some wonderful adaptations of old E.C. Comics stories). Asylum is definitely one of their best! The Weird Tailor is still one of my favourite segments of any of their films.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Terrific review, Gill! I’m glad you enjoyed Aslyum as much as I do. Unlike many horror anthology movies, there isn’t a bad story in the lot. I loved your suggestion about a Team America-style riff of the final segment. Someone needs to make this happen!
    P.S. – So thrilled to have you as a co-host on this blogathon, and for suggesting the Amicus part. It wouldn’t have been the same with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful review on a film I had never heard of but now must see. What a cast—I too appreciate Lom and Todd in the delicious Dorian Gray, and Parkins proved herself an excellent horror heroine in the chilling Mephisto Waltz…now I need to add this one to my list thanks to you Gill!!

    Liked by 1 person

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