Asylum (GB 1972)

DIrector: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Patrick McGee, Barbara Parkins, Peter Cushing, Charlotte Rampling, Robert Powell, Geoffrey Bayldon, Richard Todd,

Barry Morse, Sylvia Sims, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Megs Jenkins, James Villiers, Anne Firbank

Cinematography: Denys N. Coop

Original Music: Douglas Garnley

Stories/Script: Robert Bloch

Fact: Robert Bloch wrote Psycho, the story of a murderer with a multiple personality disorder. In no way was he a one-trick pony.

In one line: Job applicant at an asylum hears the tales of four of its inmates

Summary (Warning - spoilers!)

Dr Martin (Powell) visits a forbidding, remote asylum to meet Dr Starr for a job interview. He is taken round the asylum by Doctor Rutherford (Magee) and charge nurse Max (Bayldon) and is introduced to a number of patients who each have a tale to tell.

Frozen Fear

Bonnie (Parkins) tells Martin of her affair with Walter (Todd)) and how Walter's voodoo-studying wife Ruth (Sims) had refused him a divorce. Walter buys Ruth a deep freezer, chops her up with an axe and then puts the (lovingly wrapped in brown paper) body parts in his latest acquisition from the Electricity Board Shop. Stupidly, he throws Ruth's voodoo bracelet in the freezer as well. The body comes back to life and attacks Richard. When Bonnie appears the brown paper corpse attacks her. Bonnie's face is grabbed. She tries to loosen the grip of the hand by swinging the axe towards her own face

When the police arrive, the re-animated Ruth is nowhere to be seen. The police do not believe Bonnie's story.....

The Weird Tailor

Bruno (Morse - pity it wasn't Ray Brooks) tells Martin that he once ran a down at heel tailor's shop. Just as he was about to go bankrupt, a mysterious client (Cushing) named Mr Smith promises Bruno a fortune if he'll make him a suit made out of a strange, glowing, translucent cloth which Smith himself provides. Smith stipulates that Bruno must only work on the suit at specified post-midnight times.. Bruno makes the suit and takes it to Smith, who tells him it has magical reanimating powers and that he is about to clothe his dead son in the suit. Smith reneges on payment and pulls out a gun. The gun is wrestled from his grasp and Bruno kills him. Bruno returns home. His wife puts the suit on a mannequin. It comes to life. In the ensuing struggle, the house is burned down and Anna is killed. When the police arrive, Anna is dead and there is no sign of the violent mannequin.

I think you get the idea of Asylum, now.

Lucy Comes To Stay

Barbara (Rampling) is a sort of groundhopper of the asylum circuit. In her story, she lives with her brother George (Villiers) and her nurse (Jenkins). They keep her medicated and confined. Barbara insists that her friend Lucy (Ekland) is coming to stay. Lucy turns up, kills Vills and Jenks and fucks off before the police arrive etc..

Mannequins of Horror

Martin meets Dr Byron (Lom) who tells him that he is working towards soul transference using tiny automatons. Byron hates Rutherford's regime and sends one of the automatons to kill him. Martin goes to see Rutherford and argues with him about his heavy handed regime. Rutherford tells him that the scalpel is the only way to deal with his charges. The automaton picks up the scalpel and kills Rutherford. Martin stamps on the tiny robot, only to find it filled with tiny internal organs. A scream is heard from above. Byrom is dead.

Martin heads to Max's office to ring the police. Further shocks and revelations lie in wait.............


A portmanteau film of variable quality. Robert Bloch's one idea is manipulated into four or possibly five stories of split personalities, murder and the nature of existence.

Frozen Fear is reminiscent of The Neat Job from The Vault of Horror and is equally silly, but nowhere near as entertaining. Richard Todd avoided television so that he could keep up the pretence of being a 'film star' - horror compendiums and soft-core comedies helped him to keep up the pretence, but by the end of the decade, he could be seen in low-prestige roles in The Dick Emery Show and other equally-feeble TV shows. For the man who played Guy Gibson and who fought at Arnhem, it was a quotidian end to a career.

The Weird Tailor is much better. Eerie and genuinely sad in places, this Monkey's Paw style tale is perhaps the best of the four stories. The luminous suit has suggestions of The Robe and the Golden Fleece and the warning given by Cushing to Morse obviously inspired Gremlins. The story is always pantomimetic, but there's a melancholy quality to the acting and the story which almost makes up for the silliness at the end.

Lucy Comes to Stay benefits from the classy acting of Rampling and the beauty of Ekland (much better in this than in The Wicker Man), but it's Beazer Homes League psycho-horror at best.

Mannequins of Horror is quite good, but the automatons are clearly cheaply bought and doctored wind-up toys which would have a job walking in a straight line, never mind picking up a scalpel and finding a carotid artery.

A nihilistic ending to the film rounds off the proceedings fairly nicely - if that's the right expression.

And if Richard Todd's career ended with a whimper and not a bang, there's a certain nightmarish quality to Robert Powell's thousand yard stare as he sees his post Jesus of Nazareth /39 Steps career/terrible fate stretching out into the mists of time and transforming into Canned Carrott, The Detectives and Holby Fucking City.....