Sunday, 30 August 2009

Tower of Evil (1972)

When you have a movie such as Tower of Evil that includes Phoenician gods, buried treasure, hints of devil-worship, madness, a cursed island, plenty of gore and lots of nudity you’d imagine you had the ingredients for a classic piece of 1970s British horror. In this case you’d be almost correct. Tower of Evil is great trashy fun most of the way but it doesn’t quite manage to combine all those ingredients in the most effective way.

Two fishermen visit the lighthouse on the lonely and remote Snape Island. The lighthouse is no longer in use, but it appears that the island is inhabited, after a fashion. And it’s been chosen as a holiday spot by four American teenagers travelling around England. When the fishermen arrive they find one of the teenagers still alive, completely insane, and wielding a knife. And they find a scene of carnage.

No explanation is readily apparent, so it’s left to the wonders of psychiatry to unravel the mystery. Dr Simpson (Anthony Valentine whose appearance in any movie is a decided plus) is young, handsome, charming and keen. An he has at his disposal the latest psychiatric technology - a machine with lots of flashing coloured lights. It’s psychedelic psychiatry! Under the influence of the pretty lights Penny (the sole survivor) starts to have flashbacks, and mumbles a number of words, including the word Baal.

While this is going on an archaeological expedition is about to set out for Snape Island. Indications have been found that suggest it may be the burial site of a shipwrecked Phoenician prince, and there may be a treasure trove of valuable and historically important artifacts, and a temple to the notorious Phoenician god Baal. The expedition consists of a group of assorted people who all seem to be sleeping with one another’s spouses and who appear to have very little in the way of archeological qualifications. There are a couple of local fishermen to act as guides, and a private detective investigating the deaths of the American teenagers. Of course things do not go well for the expedition, and in between bouts of adultery there is further carnage.

The acting is generally pretty decent. The island setting is suitably mysterious and gloomy. Jim O'Connolly handles the directing duties fairly capably. The weakness is, as so often, the script. It just doesn’t exploit the potential of the basic premise, and in particular it fails to do anything interesting with the Phoenician gods angle. It becomes little more than a kind of proto-slasher movie. The ending fails to generate any great amount of suspense or excitement. The plot also relies way too much on horror movie clichés, such as having a small group of people in a threatening situation keep splitting up into smaller groups or going off on their own so they can be picked off one by one. It’s a classic example of having a good idea, but being unable to translate that good idea into as satisfactory screenplay.

The Region 4 DVD from Umbrella Production is typical of Region 4 DVD releases - an OK but not great print and no extras at all, sold at an outrageously high price. I’m glad I rented this one rather than buying it. Having said all that it’s still reasonably entertaining and it’s certainly delightfully trashy.

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