Here’s another Amicus chestnut lovingly resurrected by Second Sight, complete with chunky booklet and special features. As with the recently reviewed The House That Dripped Blood, Asylum is a compendium piece, comprising four short stories revolving around a connecting narrative, in which an ambitious young doctor goes for a job interview at a foreboding asylum for the incurably insane. He gets more than he bargained for though, because if he wants the job he is challenged to interview four of the inmates ‘upstairs’ and try to figure out which one of them is the previous head of the very asylum he is now applying to run himself.
With an impressive ensemble cast including Robert Powell, Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom and Patrick Magee, and a solid script from Robert ‘Psycho’ Bloch, this flatly refuses to be relegated to mere B-movie status and has a lot of fun with some gruesomely silly ideas. A murdered wife reanimates her own dismembered corpse to wreak revenge on her cheating husband, a desperate father will do whatever it takes to bring his deceased son back to life, a recent patient at the asylum is coaxed into bloody murder by her invisible friend, and a deranged professor constructs miniature model people – with minds of their own! It’s all endearingly bonkers, of course, and the effects creak and groan under almost fifty years of advances in cinematic magic (it was filmed in 1972, after all), but if you like your horror tongue-in-cheek and wildly inventive, Asylum will provide you an entertaining evening of mild thrills, chills and laughs.
The extras include audio commentaries, featurettes, trailers and a reversible sleeve with both new and original artwork. It’s good to see an unsung, albeit minor, classic get a definitive reissue, and whilst their faults are many, these old Amicus flicks make you realise how bland and unimaginative the genre has become in more recent years. Ian Glasper