It's rare that there is a horror film from Amicus Productions that I didn't see, but Asylum was one of them. For some reason I had never come across it either on T.V. or in the video store during my youth in the 1980's. I knew of it, I remember a photo of a sinister toy robot creeping up behind an unsuspecting Patrick Magee, but never got to see it. This weekend, thanks to NetFlix, I finally did.
This production, written by Robert Bloch and directed by Roy Ward Baker, is a fine entry in the Amicus horror anthology line (as if there was a bad horror anthology from Amicus). The framing device had Robert Powell as a doctor coming to an asylum and interviewing four patients, all of which tell him their deranged stories.
This was a very minimalist movie, with each episode have just a few sets (mostly a single setting) and at most three actors per story. The tightness of the script by Bloch works here. There is no fat, no unnecessary characters, no scenes wasted, nothing to get in the way of the movie making.
Peter Cushing is great, if a little under used in the second story. But even with a small part (I think his screen time is less than five minutes) he shines and makes an impact. They don't make them like him anymore.
Usually there is one weak story that ruins the flow of the movie for me in anthologies, but here even the weakest story kept my interest. I do have to say my favorite episode was the first one called Frozen Fear.
Pros: Robert Bloch script, great direction from Roy Ward Baker, of course Peter Cushing and a neat little twist at the end that would make M. Night Hasabeen jealous.
Cons: Too short (I wanted more, but that can be a Pro too), weakest story telegraphed the surpirse (making for no surprise) and those horrible 1970's fashions.
On the Cinema Insane Sanity Meter this gets 9 straitjacket's out of 10.