Director: Jim O’Connolly
Cast: Bryant Haliday, Jill Haworth, Anna Palk, William Lucas, Jack Watson
Length: 89 min
Disks: 2 (1BD, 1 DVD)
Label: Anolis Entertainment
Release Date: June 12, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English and German: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- 2011 Interview with Robin Askwith at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester
- Introduction by Marcus Stiglegger (16 min, in German only, no subs)
- Optional German subtitles
- Original US, UK, French, and German theatrical trailers (HD)
- Original French and German title sequences
- Original German press book
- Image gallery
- Full color booklet with German text and full color photographs
Even as Hammer Horror started to decline in the early 1970’s, independent British filmmakers like Pete Walker and Piers Haggard were finding a niche with their low-budget horror films, which usually featured lots of nudity and gore. British actor/director/producer/screenwriter Jim O’Connolly, who had previously helmed The Valley of Gwangi (1969), entered the mix with his quirky little horror oddity, Tower of Evil (1972)—a film that combines seemingly disparate sub-genres like slasher, Gothic horror, and British folk horror, with decidedly mixed results. German company Anolis Entertainment has now released the film on Blu-ray, in a limited mediabook edition, as part of their “British Splatter Classics” series, and the technical presentation is outstanding.
Set on Snape Island, off the British coast, the convoluted plot follows two fishermen who discover a bunch of horribly butchered, naked bodies of teenagers who, in the later tradition of 80s’ slasher films, were murdered while having sex. A detective and a group of archaeologists are sent to investigate the island, and the creepy light house (tower of evil) that dominates its rocky skyline. The archaeologists are looking for a 3,000-year-old Phoenician treasure that is said to be hidden somewhere on the island. It doesn’t take long for the mysterious killer to start picking off members of the group one by one.
One of the problems with the film is its script. Several subplots are woven through the narrative, but they often amount to little. When the archaeologists discover their treasure, there is no revelation to be had. There is nothing that interacts directly with the identity of the killer or the motive behind the brutal killings. Another subplot involves the interrogation of one of the original naked teenagers (Candace Glendenning)—the only one found alive after the massacre. We start getting to know her a little, but then the thread is dropped. There is also an attempt to create drama and sexual tension between certain members of the archaeology team, but it feels forced—their motivations don’t seem genuine. For contrast, revisit the Japanese film, Matango (1963), to see how well a script handles sexual tension among a group of people in a remote location.
The second problem is that, unlike most other low-budget British genre films of the period that were shot on real locations, Tower of Evil was shot entirely on a soundstage. Even the foggy tower exterior during the opening credits looks distinctly like a miniature model. This robs the film of some of its impact and sense of realism. Again, for contrast, see any of Pete Walker’s films, or films like Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and Witchfinder General (1968).
On the plus side, there are some satisfyingly gory slayings and a rotted corpse or two that exploitation hounds will delight in. The acting is mostly top notch (when the actors are given proper motivation), and Hammer fans will spot several alumni from that illustrious production company, including Dennis Price (Horror of Frankenstein), Derek Fowlds (Frankenstein Created Woman), and Mark Edwards (Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb). Robin Askwith (Four Dimensions of Greta, The Flesh and Blood Show, Horror Hospital) makes a welcome appearance as one of the dead teenagers; and Jack Watson (Schizo), Jill Haworth, and Anna Palk round out an excellent cast.
On technical grounds, the video presentation of Tower of Evil is as good as it gets for a genre film. Not that it’s absolutely pristine—occasional white specs and flecks pop up—but a film like this really shouldn’t be. Instead, the image is impressively sharp and well detailed, without a hint of sharpening. Grain is present and well resolved. Color and contrast are rich and satisfying, with all the gore looking realistically red. This looks like it was scanned from the original camera negative, though I can’t confirm that. I also don’t have the US Scorpion release from two years ago to compare it to, but I’m guessing it’s from the same scan. Regardless, this presentation from Anolis is absolutely superb.
This BD contains German and English DTS-HD 2.0 mono tracks. It’s a no-frills audio presentation, and is perfectly effective in supporting the visuals. The music sounds a little opaque, and doesn’t expand as much as it could, but that’s a limitation of the original recording. Optional German subtitles are provided for the English track.
For extras, we are given an hour-long interview with Robin Askwith, conducted in 2011, at the Festival of Fantastic Films, Manchester. This is in English with optional German subtitles, and is exclusive to this release. Also exclusive is a 16- minute introduction by film historian Marcus Stiglegger, but it is in German only, with no subs. Also included are original US, UK, French, and German theatrical trailers (in HD); original French and German title sequences; and an image gallery. The media book also contains an impressive, full color booklet with text (in German), and full color photos.
Tower of Evil may be rather hokey, but it clearly has a cult following among fans, and this Region B release from Anolis Entertainment is the perfect way to see it. On technical grounds, it is one of the most impressive presentations of a Euro genre film I have seen, and Anolis managed to scrape up an impressive collection of extra features. Recommended for fans!