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Based on a true story, this action-packed, hard-hitting depiction of the infamous Ashley gang - who terrorized the southeast in the 1920's - also illustrates a desperate love between two people destined for destruction.
An intimate glimpse into the heart of a lost soul and missed opportunity for something great.
'The Pyx' is a claustrophobic murder mystery about experienced detective Jim Henderson (Christopher Plummer) who investigates the death of a heroin addicted prostitute Elizabeth (Karen Black) after she supposedly committed suicide by jumping from a high-rise building. However, as Henderson encounters the various shady and unfeeling characters he begins to delve deeper into the mystery to find instead that Elizabeth has fallen prey to a sinister Satanic cult.
However, despite approaching 'The Pyx' with the best intentions (as after reading a superficial plot summary it brought 'Rosemary's Baby' to mind) it remains fundamentally a patchy film which just about manages to keep its head above water. The film clearly has artistic aspirations in telling the story through two separate strands: one following Henderson's investigation, and the other following the final movements of Elizabeth herself, and constantly cutting between each strand. This is a nice idea but sometimes it seems a little labored and significantly affects the pacing. This said, on a couple of occasions the dual plots converge and scenes of genuine pathos result. In fact, I feel compelled to mention that after about 40 minutes or so I found myself checking my watch and contemplating stopping the film but the scene with Elizabeth injecting heroin and experiencing a drug-induced flashback of happier times which then cuts suddenly to Henderson watching a rope outlining her body being picked up by children for a skipping rope was incredibly poignant and convinced me to continue watching. Another captivating scene was when Elizabeth meets the Satanic head honcho for the first time on his boat and is subjected to the equivalent of psychological rape which I found as unnerving as I found the previously mentioned scene beautiful.
So, the strength of the film is clearly the characterisation of Elizabeth. However, it seems that the vividness of the character and her trials asks questions to other aspects of the film which it fails to answer as it is essentially one long character sketch rather than a story in its own right. As a result, the film is let down by serious pacing issues and an anti-climatic climax (with a Satanist as far from the charismatic and alluring Roman Castevet in 'Rosemary's Baby' as can be). Indeed, it's debatable that the film even needs the whole Satanic thing at all. All of this meant that when the film finished I was slightly annoyed at feeling it had taken so long to tell relatively little and ever so slightly happy that it had ended.
Overall, I find it a difficult film to recommend, and wouldn't be surprised if people who watch it don't like it but I am sure that most who watch the film come away with a peculiar feeling of having seen an intimate glimpse into the heart of a lost soul, which by itself is something the majority of films fail to ever do.
Public domain movie. See it free here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMpLo9xG7co
Watch the trailer here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0qXW-4cKOg&list=UU07_ffsSbmp4slD_PiH5cUA
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