Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January and the “31 Days of British Horror” in March , Jules is at it again in May, treating us to the continuation of his chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.
You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.
Starring: Bryant Halliday, Candace Glendenning, Jill Haworth, Robin Askwith
Director: Jim O’Connolly
A group of young people go to a deserted island for a night of booze, drugs and pre-marital sex, but unknown to them, a deformed killer lurks, who begins to brutally pick them off one by one.
Sounds like a trashy, early ’80s American video nasty eh? Well, it’s actually a trashy, early ’70s British cinema nasty, but it ticks pretty much every box that would later constitute films in the Slasher genre, only with an added chunk of post-psychedelic weirdness thrown in for good measure.
A small fishing boat crewed by Hamp (Jack Watson) and his father docks on the rugged Snape Island, only to find scenes of carnage with several dead and dismembered bodies littering the ground. Penny (Candace Glendenning), a naked and hysterical girl covered in blood leaps from the shadows and stabs the older man before Hamp can knock her out.
While going under regression therapy at a mental institution, the near catatonic Penny begins to recount the horror that befell her and her friends who went out to the lighthouse on Snape Island after attending a Jazz Festival on the mainland. She’s in too bad a state to conclusively explain what happened though, or even to prove her innocence of the murders herself.
As it turns out, the golden spear that skewered one of her friends was an ancient Phoenecian artefact, so a group of archaeologists decide to go to the island to see if there are any more treasures to uncover, accompanied by Evan Brent (Bryant Haliday) a private investigator hired by Penny’s family to prove her innocence.
One there, the group discover that not only is she innocent, but the killer still lurks on Snape Island and he might not be the only one…
Okay. This is mental. There’s no other word for it. There’s so many ideas being thrown into the mix it’s kind of dizzying and that’s before you take into account the non-linear narrative that further complicates matters. The thing is though, it works. Sure, you have to basically strap yourself in and go with it, but man, what a ride.
Speaking of which, there’s a whole lot of sex and nudity going on here, even for the growing permissive culture of 1972. Candace Glendenning’s Penny is naked for most of her scenes and engages in a quite overt oral sex scene with beefy boyfriend Gary, while there’s no shortage of action when the archaeologist group arrive either. It’s risqué stuff.
They’re the strangest academic group ever, too. There’s not a huge amount of archaeology going on, but a whole lot of sexy complication. Dan (Derek Fowlds) is unhappily married to Nora (Anna Palk), who is refusing him a divorce so he can marry Rose (Jill Haworth). Rose is an ex-lover of Adam (Mark Edwards), but isn’t interested in either him or her husband. Adam though, is still in love with Rose, but he has had carnal knowledge of Nora at some point. Still with me?
Oh and Hamp and his young nephew Brom (Gary Hamilton) are with them too. Brom has been to another jazz festival and is right up for some action of another kind with Nora.
The hospital scenes are even more wild than the relationships, with Penny strapped down Clockwork Orange-style in front of a bank of flashing multi-coloured lights they would drive anyone crazy if they weren’t already halfway there.
It allows director Jim O’Connolly to pull off the films best scene though, a dazzling and disturbing fast-cut flashback to Penny’s night of horror, with images of blood, violence, nudity and absolute terror cutting in and out like some kind of acid nightmare. It’s beautifully done and perfectly sums up how off its head Tower Of Evil is.
The cast (and there’s plenty of them) is uniformly decent, dreadful American accents notwithstanding, with folk like Confessions star Robin Askwith, Jill Haworth and Bryant Haliday giving his usual edgy performance that served him so well in films like Devil Doll and The Projected Man.
Naturally, it turns on its head more than once, with the discovery of the killer not being quite the end and yes, some of the effects near the finale are poor to say the least, but O’Connolly smartly doesn’t give us the best of looks at them and instead focuses on tension and horror.
Tower Of Evil was re-released in America as Beyond The Fog to cash in with John Carpenter’s creepy coastal classic, but other than a lighthouse and some fog right at the start, there’s no connection whatsoever. What there is though, is a relentlessly entertaining, barking-mad proto-slasher that was not only years ahead of its time, but stands head and shoulders above many of the exploitation films that followed it.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy