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Asylum

Barbara Parkins , Richard Todd , Roy Ward Baker    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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One of the patients in an institution for the incurably insane was once its director, and a young psychiatrist (Robert Powell) has to figure out which one as they all tell him their stories. What better setting for a horror anthology? It's an inspired framing device, making this one of the better examples of the genre, even if screenwriter Robert Bloch at times resorts to gimmicks rather than invention. The first two stories are less than brilliant (the first is highlighted by dismembered body parts neatly wrapped in butcher paper wriggling back to life for revenge), but Charlotte Rampling and Britt Eklund are marvelous in the third tale, about a mentally unbalanced young woman and her dangerous best friend. Herbert Lom is also excellent in the final story as a scientist who carves an army of dolls he claims he can bring to life by sheer will power.

Director Roy Ward Baker (Quatermas and the Pit) builds momentum with each story until the dark and deliciously bloody climax. This Amicus Studios production looks visually dull compared to Hammer's gothic gloss, but it features a great British cast (including Patrick Magee and Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing), and ultimately Baker makes that gloomy look work for his increasingly creepy production. Amicus produced a series of horror anthologies, including the original 1972 Tales from the Crypt and The Torture Garden (also scripted by Bloch). --Sean Axmaker


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
Format:DVD
This horror movie has very British sensitibilities, and you couldn't ask for a better, more entertaining introduction to the type of horror movie that was popular in the 1970s, before the era of the slasher film. It's stylish and very proper, making the gore that much more shocking.
Basically, we've got a handful of "short stories" very loosely pulled together with the framing device of a psychologist visiting the asylum being asked to "figure out" which of the patients was actually the former director of the hospital. There's very little to this part of the plot, but the various stories the patients have to tell do create varying degrees of chills.
None of the stories are great, nor are they especially surprising, but they are told quite nicely and are better acted than such low-budget stuff has a right to be. Some outstanding actors such as Herbert Lom and Charlotte Rampling are featured, along with a brief but creepy turn by Peter Cushing (who, along with Christoper Lee, owned this genre of horror movie).
In many ways the film is a period piece, not so much about an era of history, but about an era of film history. It distills the style and sensibilities of the Hammer films (so called because they were made in England's Hammer Studio) into one neat, entertaining package. Will this be your favorite movie ever? Nope. But is it an amusing diversion and a wonderful slice of what was once the height of horror film making? You bet.
Check it out!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely brilliant horror movie Feb. 3 2003
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format: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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THOUROUGHLY ENJOYABLE...... Dec 14 2002
Format:DVD
I've had this on DVD for some time now and enjoy watching it when I'm in the mood. It's an anthology film from the old British Amicus studios with a quartet of horror tales related by four inmates of an asylum to the new doctor on staff. It's also a beautiful print from Image. My favorite is the "Frozen Fear" piece with Barbara Parkins as the mistress of a married man who murders his occult obsessed wife, chops her up and stores her in the freezer wrapped in freezer paper. The wife's occult beliefs turn the tables and her body parts reanimate and kill the husband. When Parkins comes by (they were planning to run away together) she is attacked by all the parts shuffling and crawling around on the floor jumping on her as she tries to beat them off. This is very well done and really eerie. The other stories are good too. They include Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland and Patrick Mcghee in great performances. The direction by Roy Ward Baker is tight and Robert Bloch contributed the material. This may be OOP but there are still copies in stores. I recommend this for horror buffs and those who remember the horror anthologies from the 70's. Completely enjoyable.
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By Surfink
Format:DVD
Asylum is of course one of a group of anthology horror films that includes Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, etc., produced by Hammer wannabe Amicus Productions. Never as stylish, daring, or bloody as Hammer's efforts, their movies nevertheless were usually solid, entertaining mystery/horror outings. Half the fun of the Amicus pictures is watching so many terrific veteran English actors going through their paces. Asylum is a perfect example of this, with a great, mostly British cast including Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Barbara Parkins, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland, and Richard Todd. I remember seeing the trailer for this (with the dismembered body parts) back in the early 70s at the theater and the audience went nuts. Unfortunately, decades of gore/slasher movies have lessened the impact of movies like this (see comments of other reviewers), whose horrors are more subtle, though still effective. I found it fairly absorbing and ultimately satisfying on recent viewing. Minor complaints: The film is a bit uneven, with a couple of standout episodes (the first and last) bracketing a couple of less effective, if serviceable pieces. (Anyone who's seen Robert Bloch's original 'tailor's dummy' episode of the Thriller TV series will wish the remake here was done as well.) I also would've saved the first (most blatantly horrific) story for last (somehow), and my wife did guess the "twist" ending fairly quickly. But overall still quite original; creepy at times, shocking at others, delicious fun throughout.
Sadly, Image's DVD is rather standard fare, with nary an extra in sight. The film is presented full frame 1.33:1, though it appears to have been shot this way (according to IMDb and by the way the titles and compositions are framed).
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly creepy despite being the typical predictable stuff
I picked this title at random because it seemed lonely and unreviewed. As it turns out it was a pretty good find. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Rob Slaven
4.0 out of 5 stars The Asylum of Terror!
I got a hold of this DVD quiet by accident and boy did I think it looked cheesy! A 1972, Brit-horror throw-back film (or so I thought), to be piled up with all the rest of the... Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars What a great concept!
When watching this film, you have to constantly bear in mind the era in which this film was made. Doing so will mean you can enjoy the film for what it is and ignore the terrible... Read more
Published on July 6 2002 by Anita
4.0 out of 5 stars You have nothing to lose but your mind.
Here's a fun horror anthology from the early 70's, with a pretty respectable cast including Peter Cushing, Patrick Magee, Herbert Lom, Barry Morse, Charlotte Rampling, and Britt... Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2001 by cookieman108
5.0 out of 5 stars Asylum
This is without a doubt one of the greatest horror films ever made. I first saw it when I was about 8 years old and haven't forgotten about it since. Read more
Published on June 2 2001 by Lisa Ziegen
5.0 out of 5 stars Asylum
This film describes 4 stories told to psychologist Robert Powell by patients at a remote English countryside house. Read more
Published on June 22 2000 by Muhammed Minhaz-ul Islam
5.0 out of 5 stars Asylum
Asylum. This film describes 4 stories told to psychologist Robert Powell by patients at a remote English countryside house. Read more
Published on June 16 2000 by Muhammed Minhaz-ul Islam
5.0 out of 5 stars wierd
This movie is really wierd it's got 3 different stories people might tell you it's got 4 but it's 3. Read more
Published on May 25 2000 by Brian Tyler
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