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TOWER OF EVIL

This 1972 British splat fest can be viewed, along with Mario Bava’s TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, as the true prototype of the modern “slasher” film. It’s not a good movie, but its approach is memorably over-the-top.

The Package
     This is a film that was re-released several times under a variety of different titles throughout the 1970s and 80s. Initially released in its native Britain as TOWER OF EVIL, it played on a double bill with the 1972 Hammer programmer DEMONS OF THE MIND, and in the U.S. was paired with TALES OF THE BIZARRE (1970). It was later re-released in America under the title BEYOND THE FOG, in order to capitalize on John Carpenter’s THE FOG. In Germany the film was initially released as TOWER OF THE LIVING CORPSES (DER TURM DER LEBENDEN LEICHEN), even though there are no living corpses therein, and later as TERROR-TOWER OF THE ZOMBIES (DER SCHRECKENSTURM DER ZOMBIES). These days it’s known as HORROR ON SNAPE ISLAND.
     The film, however it’s known, had some genuine talent involved in its inception. Director Jim O’Connolly previously helmed the Ray Harryhausen classic THE VALLEY OF GWANGI and scripted the acclaimed sci fi noir BLOOD BEAST FROM OUTER SPACE, while the script was conceived by George Baxt, screenwriter of the cult classics CIRCUS OF HORRORS and BURN, WITCH, BURN. This film also marked one of the final credits of the veteran cinematographer Desmond Dickinson, whose 45-year career included HAMLET, THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER, THE HANDS OF ORLOC and TROG.

The Story
     Late one night, in a thick blanket of fog, some crusty sailors disembark on an island. Upon stepping off their ship they’re shocked to discover a severed hand. In a nearby lighthouse they find a naked woman’s corpse--which when touched disgorges its head. Another corpse is discovered, that of a young man impaled on a door. There is, however, one surviving individual in the castle: a young knife-wielding woman who stabs one of the sailors before being subdued by his fellows.
     The girl, named Mae, immediately goes into a comatose state. The men take her back to the mainland, where she’s hypnotized to reveal what happened on the island. Flashbacks reveal that Mae initially settled on the island with three friends, all looking for fun. But Mae felt scared from the start--she became even more scared, of course, after a shadowy someone began killing off her companions!
     Back in the present the studly private dick Brent is hired. He joins an archeological expedition in search of a Phoenician treasure on the deadly island. What initially results is a lot of bickering among the participants, but after people begin disappearing and a vast cavern is discovered beneath the lighthouse, they gradually come to realize what we already know: that a killer is afoot.

The Direction
     Over the course of his journeyman career Jim O’Connolly did some decent work as a director, and decent adequately sums up TOWER OF EVIL. Dull is an equally strong adjective, this being an overly talky and uneventful film that’s filled with distracting early-seventies conventions--flashing psychedelic lighting effects, zoom lens abuse, unconvincing rear projection--none of which are handled with much flair or imagination. O’Connolly appears cognizant of his film’s shortcomings, and includes much gratuitous T&A and excess gore as compensation.
     In the course of this film heads are split and lopped off, limbs are amputated, a man is graphically impaled and another burned to death. The proto-gore effects are surprisingly strong, and there’s even an hilariously sleazy soft-core sex scene. So as pure exploitation, at least, this film succeeds.
 

Vital Statistics

TOWER OF EVIL
Grenadier Films

Director: Jim O’Connolly
Producer: Richard Gordon
Screenplay: George Baxt, Jim O’Connolly
Cinematography: Desmond Dickinson
Editing: Henry Richardson
Cast: Bryant Haliday, Jill Haworth, Anna Palk, William Lucas, Anthony Valentine, Jack Watson, Mark Edwards, Derek Fowlds, John Hamill, Gary Hamilton

     

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