Asylum (1972) – Roy Ward Baker

Roy Ward Baker delivers another slightly spooky anthology film as I move into another section of DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies – Killer Dolls! The segment that features the tiny terrors is the last of four tales that are told to a potential new staff doctor as he tours an asylum and interviews a few of the patients.

Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) arrives at the asylum and is told that he is to interview four subjects to determine which one is actually the head of the asylum, though they have recently suffered a psychotic break.

The interviews all have slightly spooky overtones, a young woman relates the tale of her lover’s murdered wife, and her revenge from beyond death. The second, featuring a brief appearance by Peter Cushing tells the story of a tailor who is commissioned to create a special suit, when the stars are right, that will imbue the wearer with special abilities.

The third tale stars Charlotte Rampling and Britt Ekland, and follows a disturbed (?) young woman whose brother may be gaslighting, and scheming against, her.

The final tale introduces us to Herbert Lom’s character who is crafting little mechanical dolls with heads crafted after people he knows, including himself, believing he can transmit his consciousness into them and carry out a murderous escape.

None of them are overly graphic, gothic, or scary. In fact, they border on the dull, but their cast demands a least an inspection driven by curiosity. There are a few cool moments, the severed body parts conspiring to attack its killers, the mannequin, but overall, you’re left with wondering why Cushing was squandered, and why the stories couldn’t be scarier – I mean they are in an asylum (one of the singular most unnerving experiences I ever had was passing through a Mental Health ward).

Instead, you can imagine British folk (it’s a Brit film after all) simply sharing these stories at a pub, or over a cuppa. Just something to pass the time.

But don’t worry, there are more killer dolls to come, and Lom’s killer doll is, admittedly, pretty well crafted, and brings to mind the wind up toys of yesteryear.

The thing that puzzles me is that Baker has made a couple of anthology films, and none of them are really that spooky, yet they kept coming back to him for another.

That’s scary.

Still, there are some classic movies and dolls coming up as I explore more of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies. Pick up a copy today and find something monstrous to watch.

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