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Hugo is a brilliant mid-Victorian scientist, loved and respected by his family and friends, admired by his colleagues. But he is a man quickly becoming obsessed with a curious and frightening question... what is the mysterious apparition found in the photographs of his dying subjects? Hugo brings to a family boating party his newest invention-a motion picture camera. The party quickly turns into a disaster as he captures on film the tragic drowning of his wife and son. When the film is replayed later, the same ghostlike presence appears. It flies towards his son, and vanishes inside his dying body. Has Hugo discovered The Asphyx, the spirit of the dead described in Greek mythology? A spirit which lives in constant agony, not finding rest until it takes possession of a human body? Could the spirit, if captured, become the key to immortality? Hugo is compelled to find the answers. It is a ghoulish search, with eternally haunting results. Written by
James C. Allen <email@example.com>
"The Asphyx" a/k/a "The Horror of Death" is one of the most original yet unheralded English horror films. Set in 1870's England, aristocrat Sir Hugo (Robert Stephens) accidentally photographs an entity (mythological name Asphyx) entering a person's body at their death. Sir Hugo theorizes that each person has their own Asphyx and that if the entity can be imprisoned outside the body, the person will be immortal. Can you guess what happens next?
From the physiological standpoint, the concept is not that different from the idea of vampires and zombies; with the same need to suspend disbelief to really enjoy things. Although like the implications of time travel, half the fun is speculating on the ramifications of the idea.
There is a pleasant and very haunting score and the story has a nice touch of irony as Sir Hugo's first experimental subject is his eventual downfall.
The real strength of this film is the production design. Considerable effort went into the meticulously constructed sets and there was much attention to detail in the various scientific apparatus and instruments. While the historical accuracy of these advanced devices is suspect, they are certainly no harder to accept than the basic premise. All looks great on the big screen and is probably fine on the letter boxed DVD, but the VHS tape is of marginal quality and the 4x3 aspect ratio does not do justice to the frame.
Few films from the era that did a better job of filling their frames than "The Asphyx" (credit to Academy award winning cinematographer Freddie Young), but this just magnifies the problems of the full-screen version. It appears that the 1989 Interglobal Home Video trimmed nine minutes from the film and was recorded at the LP speed, so you should avoid that one if possible.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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