The Asphyx: Remastered Edition [Blu-ray]
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A philanthropist and amateur psychic researcher embarks on a fateful quest for immortality. Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens) has a morbid hobby of taking photographs of dying people, and this leads to his discovery of a nebulous spirit of the dead--known in mythology as the Asphyx--that appears (only visible on photographic plates) at the moment of death. Hugo becomes obsessed with capturing his own Asphyx and thus ensuring that he cannot die, but of course this is an ill-fated ambition that puts him on a ruinous path to destruction and death.
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I can't imagine why I never sat down and watched this before but now that I have I must say that I found it quite engaging. As other reviewers have commented it has a slower pace than modern audiences are used to and the "science" is rather rubbish but the ethical questions that are addressed in this movie will stay with you and give you
pause for thought.
Of what USE would physical immortality be?
Supposing, for a moment, that it COULD be achieved what would one DO with the passing centuries?
One may not be able to die but that does not imply either continued youth NOR freedom from disease, or pain, or senility (Alzheimer's).
I wouldn't exactly classify it as horror or science fiction, it belongs somewhere in the middle. The story is an advisory of sorts, don't muck about with powers you know nothing about. Unfortunately, when tempted, man will investigate, experiment, and seek to do things he shouldn't. The boob in question, scientist Sir Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens), is utterly fascinated with parapsychology. He has a morbid preoccupation with dying and the notion of capturing a photo of the soul as it leaves the body. Using the `smudges' evidenced on only 3 photos, Sir Hugo announces this as conclusive verification, his theory is sound.............but he needs further proof to satisfy family and colleagues. "It's all right. I won't resort to murder." He does, however, show up at a local hanging, photo equipment in hand, to gain additional confirmation. From that point on, a new plan surfaces. He wants to capture his asphyx and thus achieve immortality. Things don't run as smoothly as planned. The results are ironic and terribly sad.
Beautifully photographed by Oscar winning cinematographer Freddie Young, this movie is a stuffy but absorbing period piece. People take time for tea before experiments. They chat. There is no monster (per se) but the asphyx does shriek in an unnerving fashion. There are a couple of (tasteful) shocks. I watched the extended US cut. The additional scenes are a bit ragged but offer more information so it's definitely worth seeing over the shorter UK version, also included on this Blu-ray Disc.
To say that the story is poorly written is being generous. The tragic scenes are completely predictable, over acted and simply ridiculous. The characters are simply not realistic and waver on their positions of life/death/immortality on a minute by minute basis. I'm not sure if the actors were inexperienced or if they were just doing the best with the awful script.
Not even an immortal being should waste 90 minutes of their lives on this abomination.