Tower of Evil (1971) | Revisit the Horror on Snape Island on Blu-ray
This lurid Britsploitation from legendary B-movie producer Richard Gordon (Devil Doll, Horror Hospital) is a gleefully ghoulish celebration of the permissive Seventies, with lots of bare bums (of both sexes), pot smoking, and some really groovy hippy clobber on display as a series of grisly murders take place at a ruined lighthouse on an island off the English coast.
They came, they saw, they died!
It all kicks off when some American jazz-loving tourists (including a dubbed Robin Askwith and former physique model John Hamill) are beheaded and speared in a frenzied attack on Snape Island, and the only survivor (Candace Glendenning) ends up in a sanitorium run by Anthony Valentine (the late Callan/Colditz actor who died on 2 December 2015), whose speciality is hypnosis using disco lights.
With the help of crusty old sea dog (the ever gruff Jack Watson), a private investigator (played by Gordon regular Bryant Halliday) and a team of hipster archeologists (tasked with searching for Phoenician treasure), head out to island where they quicky become prey to the crazed killer (who turns out to be some filthy long-haired feral dude)…
Never mind if the plot doesn’t add up to much, what makes this Brit shocker swing is the combination of fun kills (like a head rolling down the stairs) and an up-for-it cast. They include Cabaret star Jill Haworth as the plucky heroine, Anna Palk as maneater Nora – who gets all the best dialogue (think Noel Coward but with more bitch in its bite), and Derek Fowlds (of Yes, Minister fame) trying to look tough in leather. Big names like George Coulouris and Dennis Price also put in memorable, if token, appearances.
This prime slice of early 1970s British horror looked shite when I first saw it on VHS (grainy dark print and crappy sound) in the early 1980s. But this new HD restoration is a revelation. Yes, it’s all shot on at Shepperton Studios lot, but in pristine Blu-ray, those craggy, cobwebby sets and atmospheric lighting give the film a stylistic nightmarish quality; while the climactic fire sequences have great depth of field with an almost 3D quality.
This was one of cinematographer Desmond Dickinson’s final assignments. His best work was on Olivier’s Hamlet and Asquith’s The Browning Version, but genre fans will know him for lensing Herman Cohen productions like Konga and Trog. Director Jim O’Connolly had previously done Berserk (also one of Cohen’s) and one my favourites, Valley of the Gwangi. And talking of favourites, the the music is by Kenneth V Jones, surely one of the most underrated British film composers. He did the excellent score for Roger Corman’s final Poe film, The Tomb of Ligeia.
Board your one way ticket on the Sea Ghost now for a fun ride into some classic Britsploitation…
Tower of Evil is released on Blu-ray and DVD from Screenbound Pictures (formely Odeon Entertainment), and available from Classic Movies Direct.
• Audio commentary from producer Richard Gordon and film historian Tom Weaver (in which Gordon talks about the cast and Weaver adds in some general trivia)
• Retrospective featurette with Jonathan Rigby (who does a sterling job bringing together all the elements not covered in the commentary)
Posted on December 8, 2015, in British Film, Cult classic, Exploitation, Horror, Must See, Must See, Must-See and tagged Anna Palk, Britsploitation, Bryant Halliday, Horror, Must See, Odeon Entertainment, OEG Classic Movies, Richard Gordon, Robin Askwith, Screenbound Pictures, Tower of Evil. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.