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Asylum (1972)
Movie Review by Professor Corpse Rot

Asylum (1972) Roy Ward Baker, director of 3 other Amicus films, The Vault of Horror and --And Now the Screaming Starts from 1973 in addition to The Monster Club from 1980 bring you, yet again, another portmanteau film from this once prestigious production company. This unique production company established itself at just right the moment in the horror community and upheld phrases such as "the Amicus formula"; describing their infamous anthology setup that easily rivaled the work of AIP and Hammer in the 1960's and '70's. Asylum exists as the second portmanteau film following 1965's Dr. Terror's House of Horrors.

Aside from dated production techniques that will undoubtedly fail to appeal to younglings, Amicus managed to assemble a terrific group of actors and actresses along with a well-written script and low budget to encompass that certain feeling you get from films like these. If you've never had the pleasure of viewing these UK-based films, they were splendid - standing in a league of their own, a time of their own, in which no other genre or sub-genre could ever conquer. Fans are doing themselves a great disservice if they've failed to explore this nether region; whether it's the Universal era, the Romero zombies, or the 80's vampire revival, Amicus undoubtedly deserves a place recognizable, celebrating it's willfulness that inspired modern day cinematic themes and directors alike.

Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) travels to an asylum located deep in the countryside with the intention of receiving a job. He is met by Dr. Lionel Rutherford (Patrick Magee), lead doctor and head of the institution who is confined to a wheelchair after a recent attack by an inmate which left him incapacitated. Rutherford informs Martin that one of the inmates located on the second floor was formerly a doctor at the current establishment. Rutherford devises a scheme, not only to test Dr. Martin's knowledge of psychiatric treatment, but for him to identify the true identity of Dr. Starr based on limited details. Martin is to be received by Max Reynolds, the asylum's attendant, and introduced to 4 patients - each with varying degrees of mental instability that may or may not be the full truth. If Martin successfully identifies who Dr. Starr is, he will be granted a position at the asylum and deemed worthy.

Amicus truly mastered this type of formula. Horror portmanteau films are not made available in heaping amounts (trust me, I'm a huge fan of them), so perhaps this gives reason as to why Amicus devised a method to ensure a niche in the market. Several actors in Asylum have been featured in other Amicus films, in addition to other prestigious films in their day, serving as a testament of their acting prowess - probably the most prominent being Peter Cushing who had been a reoccurring star for Amicus all the while. Asylum offers a twist ending; an ending I choose not to procure so that you may take full advantage of what the film has to offer. It was not uncommon for Amicus to throw a curve at the audience during the height of a conclusion and I firmly believe that Asylum offers the best result from this exercise, scoring even higher than the final chapter of 1972's Tales From the Crypt.

If I haven't stated it a hundred times before, I'll say it once more: give Amicus a try! I can't fully expect all of you to fall in favor with the confines of '70's horror but regardless of technological constraints in the special effects department, the masterful acting skills and superior screenplay make it a fun little diddy for people to enjoy. Besides, what better starting point would a fan of the genre need than Asylum?

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