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.
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
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.
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.
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.
TOWER OF EVIL
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