on January 27, 2000
Tower of Evil is no masterpiece, but an interesting predecessor to the modern slasher film. It often comes across as a poorer version of Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve in terms of exploitation and gore, not in terms of story at all. Fans of Friday the 13th and the like will probably find much to savor here, sex and nudity, brutal murders and a final twist at the end, just for good measure. The disc, by the way, looks wonderful, makes you worship the power of DVD, horror fans should pick this one up.
on September 6, 2013
Back in 1981, I was fourteen and already in love with horror movies, though I had to resort to the get-an-adult-stranger-to-buy-you-a-ticket technique when it was rated "R." As I had loved "The Fog" and had seen it twice in the theater (once by myself) I simply had to go see a movie called "Beyond The Fog" when an ad appeared in Newsday (the Long Island newspaper). Remember, this is long before the internet. (This ad that I saw back then is included in a collage of posters and ads found on the inside of the jacket.) What I didn't know back then was this was a nearly ten year old British film that had been retitled and re-marketed to trick people like me in to thinking it WAS a sequel to "The Fog." When you see this film, imagine what it must have been like for a fourteen year old with no prior clue to see this movie unfurl on the screen. It begins with some salty dogs approaching an island in thick fog, hinting at having to do some morbid task. They disembark and walk in to the fog, heading to a decrepit Lighthouse, discovering a naked dead body on the way (still seems like it could a sequel, though the look of the film stock would be a dead give away to me now). Inside the Lighthouse they find a man impaled with a ceremonial sword and a woman whose severed head falls down a flight of stairs. Then, suddenly, a crazed topless girl springs out of a closet as the door is opened and stabs the older salty dog to death. It was at this point that I started to think "What the hell? THIS is a sequel to The Fog?" This is just in the first few minutes.
Now, all these years later and with a lifetime of knowledge gained about past horror films, I can judge it more objectively and appreciate the film for what it is. The atmosphere, accomplished on mostly small sets, is remarkable even when it occasionally isn't entirely convincing due to some low budget effects designed to show the scope of the island beyond the sets. The interiors are especially creepy and authentic feeling (especially the unnervingly inhospitable, almost medieval looking walls of the Lighthouse). If I had to think of another film that has a similarly queasy atmosphere I'd pick "Dungeons of Harrow" (though that film had much, much lower production values and there's no "toy boat" in this film). The cinematography and production design are quite good (and the blu ray does a great job of showcasing both). The acting is mostly good as well, as none of the cast has an amateurish feel, with the exception of the strangely dressed "Bram" who seems like he's on vacation from a 70's glam rock band (he was actually starring in a UK production of "Hair" at the time). His character doesn't feel anywhere near as authentic as the rest of the cast (he's the hardest to "believe" as a genuine person), and he also winds up behaving mostly like an ass, though it seems like we are supposed to like him. I think.
Some things that make this film interesting today are:
Bryant Halliday - MST3K fans will immediately recognize him from the infamous "Devil Doll" and "The Projected Man". (No, Lembach is not staying and Ventriloquist's dummies can't have ham.)
Derek Fowlds - well known as a lead character in the classic British tv series "Yes, Minister" - others may recognize his likable, heavy lidded face from his other extensive credits. ("Yes, Minister" is considered one of the finest UK TV shows of all time, and rightly so)
George Coulouris - a well known actor who lends authenticity to the opening scenes but isn't in the film for long.
PLUS a bunch of very attractive young people who don't mind getting naked, much in the mold that became known as the "teen slasher" genre. But keep in mind this film was actually made in 1971, so along with Bava's "Bay of Blood" it can be argued that "Tower" is one of the very first of the "attractive young people get slaughtered" genre that would become so familiar (though "Tower" is less graphic than Bava's film).
The sheer amount of nudity is unusual and there is some unexpectedly frank dialogue (ex. a female lead talks about masturbation). This includes the men, though full frontal was obviously not an option at that time. Seeing this in a film of this kind, made at the time that it was (the color of the film stock, the fashions and hairstyles all reinforce the period) is somewhat jarring and unique. Nakedness has always had a cinematic element that can add vulnerability to potential victims, or recalls a primal animal aspect, in addition to the obvious titillation, and that works well here in the setting of rocky, dark Snape Island and its abandoned Lighthouse. It also ties in to a story detail having to do with the island's history and the worship of a God of Fertility, sowing a conceptual seed that somehow Snape Island may bring out passions in its visitors, and may have contributed to past tragedies and the murders committed since. A rather creepy statue of Ba'al figures in to the story, but it's better for me to not explain much about that.
The character of Saul (oddly named in the context of this movie) I personally suspect was a nod to James Whale's "The Old Dark House," though I have no production information to back it. I won't explain much more about that either for spoiler reasons, but listen for the unnerving, maniacal laughter.
ABOUT THE BLURAY -
The image looks great, it's sharp and solid colors faithfully display the character of the film stock of the time. It is described as a 16X9 Anamorphic (1:78:1) widescreen master from the original interpositive. There is little noticeable print damage or dust, I stopped looking for imperfections after the first few minutes and just got sucked in. The sound is clear and I thoroughly enjoyed watching "Tower," it no doubt looks much better than the print I saw in the theater all those years ago. However, Scorpion made a very odd choice in featuring "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" which is meant, I guess, to be like a modern Vampira/Zacherle style sketch/horror host show framing the movie. To me, it is worthless and more than a little embarrassing to watch. Thankfully, you can skip it all together and just play the film without it. Be warned, however, that if you choose to watch the trailers for other Scorpion releases on the disc, for some reason the chapter encoding jumps to Katarina's summing up of the film at the end if you are skipping through those trailers, and she immediately spoils the plot for "Tower," which might prove frustrating. While David Del Valle, whom I've never heard of, has some interesting things to say about the film his interview is shot in an ugly, amateurish fashion with a terribly keyed background. In general the whole "Katarina" inclusion is unfortunate, as if it belongs on a film with less virtues than "Tower" has.
If you are a fan or collector of horror films from past periods in film, this is well worth a purchase in my opinion. People with no particular interest in the history of the genre who only tend to like modern horror will probably find less of value and be distracted by the limitations of the budget. But be clear, "Tower" is not a cheap looking film, especially within the genre. In fact I was quite impressed by the fact that a good deal of care was clearly taken by the filmmakers. This wasn't a cynical dash for cash or budget programmer banged out by careless businessmen. The makers clearly worked to get the most out of their budget and did a professional job. "Tower of Evil" is a somewhat misleading title (is a lighthouse a tower?) but so was "Beyond the Fog" as my 14 year old self could tell you. "Horror on Snape Island" is by far the best and most appropriate title this film ever had, and the surprise for me is that it is a much better film than I thought it would be. I'm rating it four stars for being a genuine curiosity with atmosphere as thick as pea soup, and an excellent transfer. One star is docked, not because of the awful "Katarina" stuff but because the film has some deficiencies, some of which are apparent at the climax. Overall, it's a film that was obviously made by people who cared and most likely did the best they could with what they had. And thus a film that could have been disposable became something that I think is now deserving of cult status, and deserves to be seen by more people. My fourteen year old self forgives the distributors who pulled that little "Fog" stunt.
on July 29, 2004
Another terrific early seventies creep-fest. With me it's always about mood and atmosphere. This one also has some good gore and of course great bell-bottoms. There is just something about watching this one late at night with the lights off and a beer in your hand. Somehow it just seems perfect.
on February 6, 2001
Okay: (1) The acting *is* wank (except for Dennis Price); (2) the script is hilarious (One classic exchange: "If Penny didn't kill those kids, then who did?" "Someone else, obviously."); and (3) the "twist" ending is absurd (although it predates by one year the strangely similar finale in _Don't Look Now_).
But: This movie is lots of fun. AND it can still generate a couple of screams!! Imagine a live-action, British version of Scooby Doo for adults. This movie is the product of the same time and mindset as the cartoon. It has everything the horror movie fanatic could want: gory murders (even the old severed head rolling down the stairs), secret tunnels, buried treasure, a hint of evil spirits, madness, a monster, sexual intrigue, gratuitous nudity, and lots of creepy atmosphere. That island is the most foreboding piece of land I've ever seen.
Check it out.
on April 22, 2003
TOWER OF EVIL
(UK - 1972)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
A group of archaeologists travel to a lighthouse-island off the coast of England where evidence of ancient treasure has recently been unearthed, alongside the corpses of several American teenagers, all of whom were slaughtered by person or persons unknown. Once on the island, the team becomes isolated from the mainland and is stalked by an elusive 'presence' which picks them off one by one.
A trash classic from the heyday of British exploitation, TOWER OF EVIL was helmed by Jim O'Connolly, a talented journeyman whose career had peaked several years earlier with THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1968), one of Ray Harryhausen's best films. Thrown together on a microscopic budget, and fashioned by O'Connolly from an early script by novelist George Baxt (responsible for such memorable British thrillers as CIRCUS OF HORRORS, THE CITY OF THE DEAD and NIGHT OF THE EAGLE), 'Tower' hedges its commercial bets by emphasizing a couple of high profile cameos (Dennis Price and Anthony Valentine), and foregrounding liberal doses of self-conscious nudity and gore.
The opening scenes - in which crusty sea dogs Jack Watson and George Coulouris visit the titular lighthouse and stumble on a series of mutilated corpses - sets the tone for much of what follows, and while the main cast are pretty colorless, their mutual antagonism (borne from a convoluted history of infidelity, too complicated to explain here) demonstrates a rudimentary attempt at characterisation.
Mounted with economical grace on sparse but effective studio sets (designed by Disley Jones [THE ITALIAN JOB]), and photographed by veteran cinematographer Desmond Dickinson (a major player in the glory days of British cinema, whose resumé includes everything from Olivier's HAMLET  to THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST , HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM  and A STUDY IN TERROR ), the film is cheapened at every turn by amateurish dialogue and threadbare visual effects (get a load of the hilarious back-projection during the archaeologists' boat trip to the island!), but it's these very same elements which contribute most to the film's enduring appeal, and the fogbound settings conceal a multitude of budgetary sins. Besides, this unassuming potboiler makes few pretensions to 'Art', and O'Connolly stages the major set-pieces with real technical savvy, culminating in a 'twist' ending which seems to have inspired a similar plot development in Tom De Simone's superior HELL NIGHT (1981).
An ultra-professional cast is toplined by Bryant Haliday (a favorite of producer Richard Gordon), former Broadway actress Jill Haworth (THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR), Mark Edwards (BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB) and Derek Fowlds (TV's "Yes Minister"), while the younger players include Robin Askwith (several years before he found fame in the 'Confessions' films), former physique model John Hamill (a familiar face in UK exploitation movies of the 1970's, and later a co-writer on Bob Clark's TURK 182!), Candace Glendenning (SATAN'S SLAVE) and the late Anna Palk (in her last screen appearance), all of whom are featured in various stages of undress. The film was originally screened in the US as HORROR ON SNAPE ISLAND, and later reissued as BEYOND THE FOG. Interested viewers should check out Simon Hunter's LIGHTHOUSE (1999), an outstanding British shocker which employs a similar lighthouse setting to much greater effect (it's available in the US in a less-than-optimum DVD presentation under the title DEAD OF NIGHT).
on September 10, 2015
I was more than pleasantly surprised by this film, and subsequently glad that I bought it for my collection. It's a precursor of sorts in the slasher genre; part of it utilizes a staple in slasher flicks, that of stranding a group of people in one location then picking them off one by one. In this case, they do this twice. The first group is comprised of young couples not afraid to get naked and cavort. The lone survivor is accused of murdering her friends and immediately subjected to bright lights, hypnotism, and drugs. Meanwhile, this horrific situation notwithstanding, another group makes their way to the island hoping to uncover a treasure trove. They soon meet the same fate as the first group. Will any of them survive to trespass another day!? This island has more than one secret hidden beneath its lighthouse.
I thought this was a hoot. The plot, fresh then, is now quite familiar and overused to some extent. I appreciated its slight overtures of horror. It has a certain style, beginning with a foggy boat ride aboard the Sea Ghost. The lighthouse is creepy, the people are creepy, and there's a mystery.............. Paraffin plays a key role.
on September 20, 2001
The year 1972 brought with it an interesting crop of horror films including the good (The Other, Blacula, Tales from the Crypt), the ridiculously bad (Invasion of the Blood Farmers, Al Adamson's Blood of Ghastly Horror), and the absolutely goofy (Night of the Lepus, The Thing with Two Heads). Somewhere in the middle was Tower of Evil (1972) aka Beyond the Fog aka Horror of Snape Island, written and directed by Jim O'Connolly (Berserk!, The Valley of Gwangi). Appearing in the film is Bryant Haliday (Devil Doll), Jill Haworth (It!), Mark Edwards (Blood from the Mummy's Tomb), Anna Palk (The Nightcomers), Derek Fowlds (School for Unclaimed Girls), and Jack Watson (Schizo). Also appearing is Gary Hamilton, John Hamill (Trog), Candace Glendenning (The Flesh and Blood Show), Seretta Wilson (Psychomania), and Robin Askwith (Horror Hospital), probably best known for his character Timothy Lea in the British `Confessions of ...' comedy/softcore films (Confessions of a Window Cleaner, Confessions of a Pop Performer, etc.).
As the film begins we learn there's been an incident at Snape Island, a lonely, dinky, rocky tract of land whose only structures seems to consist of a dilapidated lighthouse and a funky storage shed. Apparently four young Americans (two guys, two girls), on holiday in Europe, ran into a spot of trouble there as three of them ended up butchered, while the fourth, a brunette named Penny (Glendenning), was found nekkid, in a catatonic stupor (the authorities believe Penny, in a crazed fit, killed her friends, but she ain't talking). Anyway, among the remains is found a 3,000 year old, golden Phoenician ceremonial spear, which sets up an expedition party to find out if there are any more treasures on the island. Members of the party include Dan (Fowlds) and his harpy of a wife Nora (Palk), Adam (Edwards), and Rose (Haworth), all of whom are supposedly archeological experts of sorts. Also thrown into the mix is an American named Brent (Haliday), a private investigator hired by Penny's family to determine what really happened that fateful night, along with a stoic fisherman named Hamp (Watson), and his ne'er do well nephew Brom (Hamilton). Upon arriving at the lighthouse there's an ominous sense of gloom and doom, soon followed by the feeling they're not alone on the island (it's suspected by those present there's a network of caves beneath the island, and also someone may be living in them). After a while various misfortunes occur (the boat is destroyed, the shortwave radio gets trashed), and people start turning up dead due to unnatural causes.
While I thought this an fairly entertaining (albeit sleazy and predictable) feature, it sure wasn't without some seriously obvious flaws. I did feel the sets were fun and atmospherically spooky, and I was surprised, given the large number of characters present, how well director O'Connolly managed to keep things relatively in check, but I felt the main weaknesses in both the script and the characters took something away from the production. The script was full of obvious statements, one example being near the beginning as the expedition is traveling by boat towards the island. Once they're about 100 yards from the island, we hear Hemp, who's driving the boat, state `There's the island, straight ahead.'...oh, are you talking about that small mass of land we can all see with perfect clarity, the only bit of land around with the lighthouse that we're headed directly towards? Thanks for the update, Captain...later on in the film we see Hemp and Brom looking for an entrance to the caves beneath the lighthouse and Brom puts his platform shoe through a humongous, gaping crevice in the ground to which afterwards he states, `Hey, we found an entrance to those caves.' Gee, you think so genius? Another thing that really annoyed me was the continuous acts of stupidity on the part of the characters. Often they'd go off alone, or decide to split up from a larger group, just begging to get killed. In one scene, about three quarters in, the two women are left alone in the locked lighthouse while the men go off to do something or other, and one of the women decides to go upstairs to get some rest. Meanwhile, the other female, upon hearing a noise outside, unlocks the door and proceeds to investigate...alone. She discovers something horrifying (the killer doing something in the shed), which causes her to run off and hide. The killer, hearing a noise, comes out to investigate, finds the door to the lighthouse wide open, and proceeds inside and up the stairs finding the other woman in the bedroom...hey, thanks for taking off and leaving the once locked door wide open so that the killer could get inside and attack me you moron! Anyway, the mystery element really isn't all that big of a mystery, but it's still fun to see it unfold. One positive aspect is there's a decent amount of skin, if that's your bag (Jill Haworth is about the only female in the film who doesn't appear sans her clothes at some point). My favorite scene comes early on, as two fishermen, including Hemp, are investigating the island. At one point they go upstairs and find the body of one girl and discover, well, you'll just have to watch to find out the rest. I did learn a lot from this film, including the following...
1. There are no seagulls on Snape Island...never has been, and never will.
2. Fishing folk are used to tragedy.
3. Fishing folk are none too good at hiding the fact they know more than they do.
4. Robin Askwith sounds really funny with dubbed, American voice.
5. Crabs sure do love dead bodies.
6. The lovin' was free and easy, for the most part, in the 1970s.
7. Jazz festivals were the `in' thing for young people in Europe in the 1970s.
8. Nora's a hard b***h who enjoys the rough stuff.
9. Bravery ain't Brom's bag, man.
10. It's probably best not to chuck ignited lamps about when there's flammable paraffin all over the floor.
The picture on this Elite Entertainment DVD, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), looks very clean, exhibiting only very minor, barely noticeable signs of age, while the audio comes through very clearly. The only extra provided is an original, and effectively entertaining, theatrical trailer for the film. If you're interested in getting this film on DVD, I might suggest checking out a DVD set entitled The British Horror Collection, which contains this film, along with Horror Hospital (1973), Inseminoid (Inseminoid), and Curse of the Voodoo (1965). The first three are fun, but the `Voodoo' one is a real dog.
on July 6, 2013
This creepy and effective horror film set on a desolate foggy island delivers many haunting moments of atmosphere and gruesome murders. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) and not 1,33:1 as listed here in Amazon. The nicely remastered HD transfer is solid but unfortunately there are no English subtitles.
on August 17, 2013
Blu-ray looks good for it's age. The movie is a pretty good Britt Horror with some decent effects in it. The Katarina Nightmare Theater bit is chopped up again and excluded is the entire Movie Theater intro... Katarina's intro and outro are excellent as always and she certainly adds fun to any film she hosts.
Bonuses are slim this time, and i must admit i didn't even watch the one they did include yet. This is a solid entry into Katarina's Nightmare Theater on blu-ray, although they do need to bring back her full Theater intro.
A nice creepy little horror film that will fit nicely into your collection.
on May 18, 2014
I originally saw this film in a U.S. theater under the title HORROR ON SNAPE ISLAND and always enjoyed watching this horror film about a bunch of people trapped on an island with a deadly secret in a lighthouse. Scorpion Releasing uses a great film master to bring this film alive in glorious Blu-Ray form. The reverse cover even contains some of my scans of the film's promotion throughout the decades. BTW: If you are looking for a film by Scorpion Releasing or Code Red, there is no better seller than the_exterminator. The prices are usually lower than what Amazon charges and they are not used copies.