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Tower of Evil
1972's Tower Of Evil, also known as Horror On Snape Island and then later as Beyond The Fog (to cash in on the success of Carpenter's movie), begins with a fantastic scene in which the father and son team of John (George Coulouris) and Hamp Gurney (Jack Watson) take their rickety old boat ashore and set about exploring a creepy island enshrouded in fog. They come across an old lighthouse tower and after poking about discover three naked corpses, one of which is missing its head. The only survivor of what appears to be a massacre is Penny (Candace Glendenning), who runs out of her hiding place naked, screaming, and brandishing a very big knife which she uses to stab John to death on the spot.
From here we cut to a hospital where Dr. Simpson (Anthony Valentine) tries to use some sort of wacky hypnotherapy to pick through Penny's memories and find out the truth about what happened in the tower. Through some flashbacks we learn how she and a few American tourists arrived and met their demise. Meanwhile, a museum director named Laurence Bakewell (Dennis Price) puts together a team to head to that very same island in hopes of discovering the burial ground and potential treasures left behind by a Phoenician king. Consisting of four archeologist: Adam Masters (Mark Edwards), Rose Mason (Jill Haworth), Nora Winthrop (Anna Palk) and Dan Winthrop (Derek Fowlds) and a tough guy detective named Evan Brent (Byrant Haliday), the group set about exploring the grounds with some help from Hamp and his nephew, Brom (Gary Hamilton), a free spirited hippy type who would rather make it with the ladies and bum around jazz festivals than work for a living. What they don't realize is that the Gureny family's ties to the island are far more sinister than they're letting on.
Although there's a weird wife swapping subplot going on between the four archeologist characters that seems to exist only to offer up some welcome female nudity (hooray!) and, as such, there are a few pacing issues, Tower Of Evil succeeds as a pretty enjoyable mix of stalk and slash kill scenes and moody atmosphere. The tower itself is a great spot to set a movie like this, and if it's obviously been made on a soundstage and not an authentic location, the filmmakers make up for that by loading on the cobwebs, skeletons and genuinely weird ‘Phoenician' set decorations. On top of that, the sound mix employed here adds to the movie's odd sense of the macabre, with strange whistling noises frequently used to foreshadow the inevitably sinister events to come.
Made up of some solid players, the cast do a fine job here. The ladies are all fun to look at and some frequently in various states of undress, while the guys turn in fine work too. Jack Watson is great as the lumbering fisherman while Gary Hamilton does a fine job as the beatnik nephew. Dennis Price shows up for a few minutes to add his instantly recognizable face to the cast but doesn't do a whole lot, while Mark Edwards and Derek Fowlds are fine here too. Haliday makes for a good tough guy lead and brings some good screen presence to his role.
Fairly strong stuff for an English horror film of the early seventies, there are plenty of great murder set pieces here. More than just random stabbings, we get decapitations, severed limbs and some pretty solid gore throughout. All of this serves to build to a pretty intense conclusion (featuring some fun makeup effects) that ties all of the various subplots together rather well. Ultimately this one is a lot of fun, solid entertainment with all the exploitative elements you could want and plenty of good atmosphere.
Scorpion gives Tower Of Evil a pretty sweet looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen that is clean, crisp and colorful. Taken from a new 2018 master and looking quite nice the picture is quite clean while still grainy enough to look like a seventies genre film made on a modest budget. Some minor specks are present throughout but there isn't any seriously nasty print damage to note while detail and color reproduction look good. The image shows good detail but there are some times where it is a bit on the soft side, due to the way that the film was originally shot. All in all, the movie looks quite good quite strong on this disc.
The levels on the English language DTS-HD Mono track are a bit low but if you turn the volume up, the mix is fine. Dialogue is clean and clear and there aren't any issues with hiss or distortion. The score sounds good as do the effects. The track shows its age in that it's a little limited in range, but that's not a flaw, just an observation. No complaints here. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.
Extras start off with an audio commentary from producer Richard Gordon, moderated by Tom Weaver. This track covers all the bases, with Weaver guiding Gordon through a history of his career, how he came to be involved in this picture, casting the film, the locations, working with director Jim O'Connelly and lots more. It's a god talk, and quite informative.
The disc also includes a twelve-minute interview with actress Seretta Wilson who speaks about how she got her start in show business, landing the part on this picture, what it was like on set and her thoughts on the film. Composer Kenneth V. Jones is interviewed for thirteen-minutes about his career, talking about how he came to work doing film scores and what it was like working on Tower Of Evil. Lastly, as far as the interviews go, editor Henry Richardson speaks for thirteen-minutes about his career, landing work on this film and collaborating with a few people behind the scenes to get the picture cut and finished. All of these are reasonably interesting and worth checking out.
Rounding out the extras are two trailers for the feature, trailers for a few other Scorpion Releasing titles, menus and chapter selection. As this release is part of the Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, you've got the option of watching the movie play with an into and outro from Katarina Leigh Waters in which she offers up some thoughts and trivia on the picture.
Tower Of Evil offers up plenty of trashy thrills and some legitimately impressive atmosphere. On top of that it's got a solid cast and some enjoyable effects work all set to a cool score and placed on some great sets. Scorpion's Blu-ray release offers it up in nice shape and with a nice selection extras as well. This is definitely one worth seeking out. Recommended
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.