The Asphyx (1973)

We meet Sir Hugo Cunningham who is an amateur scientist, and the time period is the end of the 1800s. He’s taking photographs of the dead, and have an interest in supernatural phenomena. Through photographing the dead with his newly invented camera instrument, he discovers strange spots on the photographs, that he later thinks could be an Apshyx: a ghostly entity that supposedly shows itself right at the moment when a person is about to die. Through several more experiments while having his macabre photo shoots with the recently deceased, he also gets to witness and film an execution through hanging. Through this it is revealed to him that the Asphyx can be captured by the light rays that emits from his camera invention, and when a person’s Asphyx is captured, this person becomes literally immortal and unable to die. His first test is done on a guinea pig, and when he discovers that it works, the temptation of achieving eternal life becomes too great and he decides to capture both his own and his family’s Asphyxes. But will this really lead to the bliss of immortality, or will there be dire consequences?

 

The Asphyx is an old-fashioned horror movie that can be considered to be on par with many of the Hammer horror movies, with its gothic atmosphere and scenery which is making the film a visual treat. However, similarly to the classic Hammer films there’s an abundance of dialogue and a rather scarce amount of any action. The strength lies in the movie’s rather interesting and quirky concept, together with the gothic visuals and convincing Victorian cinematography (done by Freddie Young) so if you’re familiar with this type of movie setting and can appreciate it for its attractive production design and its Poe-style gothic tale of death, loss and grief, mixed with scientific curiosity which eventually leads to obsession, then you’re in for a treat. It’s yet another tale of an upper-class scientist coming upon a discovery that offers a chance for him to play God…and of course, the decision to do so comes with dire consequences.

 

The special effects of the Asphyx itself and how they try to trap it, really reminds me of something that could have belonged in a Ghostbusters movie, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s lightly spooky rather than creepy or frightening, and the movie even comes off as slightly silly at times. Also, the pacing might be a tad bit too slow for a modern audience…but if you like classic gothic horror films, this Hammer-esque film is definitely worth a watch.

 

The Asphyx

 

Director: Peter Newbrook
Writers: Christina Beers, Laurence Beers, Brian Comport
Country & year: UK, 1973
Actors:Robert Stephens, Robert Powell, Jane Lapotaire, Alex Scott, Ralph Arliss, Fiona Walker, Terry Scully, John Lawrence, David Grey, Tony Caunter, Paul Bacon
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0069738/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terror (1978)

A lady called Mad Dolly is being chased by some mob in a forest who believe she is a witch. She gets captured and about to get burned at the stake, on order by Lord Garrick. Before they get the chance to lit her on fire, she gives her final speech with silly facial expressions, and summons some demonic forces that causes one of the executioners to catch fire, and then all hell breaks loose. Lord Garrick runs back to his mansion where an arm bursts through the wall and strangles him. Lady Garrick, who wanted to see Mad Dolly dead more than anyone else, finds her Lord dangling from the ceiling. The Lady is then confronted by a resurrected and vengeful Mad Dolly, who chops her head off and gives the most cheesy, evil laugh ever. And only eight minutes in it’s fairly okay to ask what the hell this is.

 

What we just saw was the ending sequence of the fresh, new supernatural horror film by James Garrick, which he screened for some of the cast members. What a load of rubbish, says one guy in the audience. The film is supposed to be based on true events that happened to James’ ancestors 300 years ago, and he has inherited the mansion from Lord and Lady Garrick. The inheritance includes the most important item of all: the sword that chopped the head off the Lord, hanging over the fireplace. While James is throwing a party in his inherited mansion, we meet Gary who can’t stop bragging about who great he is to hypnotize people. He gives a demonstration on Ann, a struggling actress who works for James. Things gets an unexpected turn when she slips into full trance, and picks up the sword and tries to attack James. Ok, party’s over! After she wakes up, she runs out the door and back to the hostel where her roommate sees her on the bathroom, washing her hands for what we can assume is blood.

 

And the morning after, James’ girlfriend Carol is found dead near the woods, knifed to death. James highly suspects that Ann did it after she tried to stab him with the sword the previous night and is determined to expose her.

 

This is an odd, little film, made by the English horror film director Norman J. Warren, known for his obscure low-budget exploitation flicks such as Satan’s Slave (1976), Outer Touch (1979), Inseminoid (1981) and Bloody New Year (1987). With Terror he wanted to make something new since the horror films at that time was pretty much the same, and he took a lot of inspiration from the new wave of Italian Giallo films and his new favorite, Suspiria. The inspirations are clearly visible for sure, with the use of colors, but as a whole there isn’t much new to behold here. And that’s a shame since there’s some potential here with its flexible camera work, gothic imagery and classic, gloomy atmosphere with fog machines and all. It has the visual package, but the script turns it into an unfocused mixed bag of supernatural horror, whodunnit mystery, slasher, cheese and sleaze and God knows what, stitched together frankenstein-style with several long and pointless scenes that drag on for too long.

 

One of the highlights is the scene with Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in a certain film called Star Wars the year before. His appearance comes in the most unexpected moment, it took me completely off guard. And there’s also a scene with a nude stripper in a sleazy bar in London, a long and pointless filler scene. Director Norman J. Warren added this in to make the film more commercial. And he’s really determined to give us shots from all different angles and close-ups so we can enjoy some fresh nudity and forget the rest of the movie for some minutes. But it seemed to work, though, since Terror became a box-office success in England after its release, despite the censorship from Video nasty. A fun little nugget of trivia: the stripper in the film was a real stripper they had to hire because the other stripper who auditioned for the scenes seemed too tired and bored. “She was indeed sexy and scary“, Warren said, and her act was so outrageous, they had to cut part of it because there was no way the censors would let it through.

 

There’s some decent gory moments here, such the traditional knife stabbings, glass panels that falls and chops off a head, a drunk dude who gets fence stabbed and then crushed in a garbage truck. Awesome. And then we have…a flying car. Ok, I didn’t expect that one. The last four minutes is the best part which at least ends with a great, colorful and crazy climax. Not a terrible film, but not great either. As a 70’s oddity it works fine as a curiosity, I guess, and it has its moments. Terror is available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo on amazon.com

 

Terror Terror Terror

 

Director: Norman J. Warren
Country & year: UK, 1978
Actors: John Nolan, Carolyn Courage, James Aubrey, Sarah Keller, Tricia Walsh, Glynis Barber, Michael Craze, Rosie Collins, Chuck Julian, Elaine Ives-Cameron, Patti Love, Mary Maude, William Russell, Peter Craze
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0141897/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nude for Satan (1974)

Dr. William Benson is driving late at night to reach a patient, and stops at a mansion to ask for directions. He learns that he must drive a huge detour and that the roads there are bad, and the man at the mansion offers him shelter for the night. As the conscientious doctor he is, he declines the offer and continues on. A lady in white suddenly stands in the way, and this forces Benson to swerve his car which makes it bump into a mountain wall. When he is going to check for the mysterious lady in white, she is nowhere to be to seen, but another lady suddenly crashes in front of him and lies unconscious in the car with a white blouse…which suddenly turns black in the next clip. Just five minutes in and a continuity error already. Impressive. Anyway, he carries her away and brings her back to consciousness by patting her on the cheek, like the doctor he is. But unfortunately he does not manage to start the car, and sees no other way than to return to the castle to ask for help. When he enters the castle the place looks abandoned, with trash, rats and covered furniture.

 

He then comes across an older guy who seems to have been stabbed to death, who glances at Benton with some crazy eyes as he asks “what can I do for you” and gives a sinister laugh. Okay, Dr. Benton, time to turn around, there’s no help to get here. Still, this is just a gentle start on the rabbit hole he has stumbled into. When he opens another door he witnesses someone who has a sex orgy with scenes of a blowjob, close-up penetration and lesbian sex. Okay. After seeing enough, he shuts the door and looks further around, and suddenly the woman pops up…the one he left in the car, with no signs of harm or discomfort. And she’s really happy to see Benson, as she rather calls Peter, as if she’s known him all her life, and gives some obscure lines that don’t make any sense. And just like the viewer, Mr. Benson is just as lost and confused and wants some fucking answers (pun intended).

 

As I said, a rabbit hole. And a hairy one. The movie actually starts out as a classic Hammer movie with thunder, rain and an old castle, but as soon as we see our protagonist, or whatever he is supposed to be, it quickly nosedives into a stumbling, incoherent obscurity of a demented sleazeball of a movie with x-rated porn scenes in between. The balance between horror and porn is completely off. It’s as if the writer and director Luigi Batzella couldn’t decide whether he wanted to make a traditional horror or a porn, but went for both with no clue how to blend it together, with a script that apparently was scribbled in a hurry on his palm between the shooting. With a title as “Nude for Satan” I expected a fair amount of tits and bushy beavers, but I was completely unaware this was actually a x-rated pornflick with close-up penetration and whatnot. But okay, what a pleasant surprise. So let’s just call it “Fuck for Satan”, then, to avoid further confusion.

 

Fuck for Satan is probably most known for a certain random spider scene. And I must say, it lived up to the hype. How can one not laugh at a fake, giant spider that seems to be made of a bunch of layers of cow dung? And to make it more realistic, just stuff some wooden branches into it and it got some really believable legs. Haha, oh my.. Fuck for Satan also has the most frantic use of zoom I’ve probably seen. As if the cameraman was clearly told to zoom in and out as much as possible to makeĀ  a desperate attempt to add some tone of surrealism or whatever. Well, I beg to differ. The movie isn’t trippy for one bit, just weird and messy with lazy directing, while the horror aspects fails as a blind, drunken sailor on an unicycle. And what does the space-like music have to do here? Is there a flying saucer wobbling from a string in the background somewhere I don’t see? Who knows. Who cares. But man, that spider scene..haha.

 

Nude for Satan

 

Director: Luigi Batzella
Original title: Nuda per Satana
Country & year: Italy, 1974
Actors: Rita Calderoni, Stelio Candelli, James Harris, Renato Lupi, Iolanda Mascitti, Luigi Antonio Guerra, Barbara Lay
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0162503/

 

Tom Ghoul