13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
An absolutely brilliant horror movie,
This review is from: Asylum [VHS] (VHS Tape)
As one who has often panned for gold in the stream of little-known horror delights, I have discovered much more fool's gold than gold dust, but Asylum is a magnificent gold nugget. Produced by Amicus, the British equivalent of Hammer Studios, this classic film features a remarkable cast bringing to life a compelling, delightfully shocking tale which comes straight from the pen of none other than Robert Bloch. I think the whole idea of the movie is brilliant, especially the way everything is put together, meshing four largely unrelated tales into one overall and amazingly successful story. We begin with Dr. Martin's arrival at the asylum in pursuit of a position. He is surprised to learn that Dr. Styles, the asylum director and the man he expected to speak with about the job, is now one of the incurably insane inmates housed upstairs. Dr. Rutherford is willing to hire Dr. Martin, but only if he passes a certain test. There are four inmates upstairs, and he must determine which one is actually Dr. Styles (who has assumed a brand new identity for himself). As Dr. Martin makes the rounds, accompanied by the doctor posted upstairs, we are presented with each individual's story as to how they came to be institutionalized.
The first story, that of Bonnie, is a wholly remarkable one. Her lover, having finally agreed to kill his divorce-denying wife and run off with her, chops his wife into several pieces and stows everything in the freezer, including her voodoo-ish protective bracelet He is quite shocked shortly thereafter to see the head, wrapped in butcher's paper, roll into view upstairs, and he is even more surprised by what happens next. When Bonnie arrives, she finds herself menaced and attacked by the separate body parts of the seemingly undead murdered woman. Next we have the story of Bruno the tailor. Facing economic ruin, he is offered two hundred pounds to make a suit for a rather strange gentleman named Mr. Smith (played magnificently by Peter Cushing). The suit must be created under the unusual conditions specified by the customer and must be made from the remarkable fabric Smith has provided Bruno. This metallic, strangely glittering coat is actually an instrument of magic, Bruno finds out upon delivering it. Supposedly it has the power to give or restore life to whoever wears it. Cushing's performance helps make this the strongest of the four stories, in my opinion. Next up is Barbara, who denies having committed the murders that resulted in her institutionalization. It was her friend Lucy, she says. The story plays pretty well until the end, when whatever mystery lingered concerning the truth about Lucy is rather unnecessarily done away with. Finally, we have Dr. Baron, maker of robotic men; actually, he says, the creatures are quite human on the inside, and he claims to have the power to will his own mind into one such creation and essentially make it come alive with his own consciousness. This tale has its weaknesses, but its effect on Dr. Martin is profound and sets in motion the thrilling conclusion of the movie. This conclusion, I must say, is remarkably good, treating me to a wonderful surprise and devilishly good twist.
The plot of Asylum does have a weakness or two in it, but the film's overall effect on the viewer is so gripping that minor questions cease to matter very much. Frankly, I have never seen an anthologized movie such as this succeed so well. Few movies can combine separate tales and succeed as a unified whole, but Asylum accomplishes this feat quite easily. This is an intelligent horror movie that fans of the genre can point to with great pride.