Guided by a genuine musical score, a young doctor is driving towards an asylum for the `incurably insane'
This is the fourth horror omnibus by the specialist production company Amicus. `Asylum' is determined and effective horror, done without too much humor or decoration elements. Fairly new and definitely creative about this anthology is the narrative. The so-called wraparound story involves a young applicant-psychiatrist put to a test by the director of the asylum. Through listening to the stories of 4 patients, he has to make out which one of them is the previous director gone mad! This little extra, interactive elements gives more tension to the film and, as a viewer, you're automatically searching along. The stories themselves vary from simple to ingenious, climaxing in a cheerfully gruesome finale. The first story isn't exactly original and covers the well-known matter of adultery and revenge. Some nice over-the-top scenery in this tale, as well as some pretty good acting. The second tale is a lot better already and features Peter Cushing! Cushing often shows up in these Amicus productions and this time, he plays a mysteriously occult man who approaches a tailor with a strange request. This chapter is very atmospheric, stressing the poverty and the desperate need for money by the tailor (Barry Morse). The premise is silly and not well worked out, but the tension and chills triumph. I didn't care at all for the third story as it's just a lame variant on the `schizophrenic'-theme. It's obvious from the beginning and I wonder why they even bothered to show it as a mystery. The only aspect that made this chapter even bearable was the presence of England's fines female beauties! Charlotte Rampling was rather gorgeous around the time Asylum was shot and the absolute siren in this film is the ravishing Britt Ekland. If you're not familiar with her, run out to the nearest videostore and get yourself a copy of `The Wicker Man' now!! The fourth and final story is close to brilliant and actually takes place IN the wraparound story, which is pretty unique. Veteran actor Herbert Lom stars in this tale that enlightens a whole new kind of `voodoo'. It has blood-thirsty, lifelike manikins and it's bloody good fun. A creepy highlight and an appropriate closure to a good film. Sure as hell recommended for the British horror fans amongst you! Asylum is well written by Robert Bloch (who adapted his own stories) and solidly directed by Roy Ward Baker, who also did some good work for the famous `Hammer' corporation.
If I may proclaim some shameless promotion: Asylum recently got re-released in a worthy Amicus Box Set! The set is uniquely shaped like a coffin and contains besides Asylum other highlights such as `The House that Dripped Blood', `The Beast Must Die', `And now the Screaming Starts' and `Dr. Terror's House of Horror'. Trust me, it'll look great in your collection.