Woo, portmanteau movies! Only horror ever seems to do these. That’s a shame, as they’re a great way to convey a series of shorts together.
Asylum is one of these films. The framing story features a new doctor going through a job interview at a mental institution where one of the previous doctors went insane. The new doctor has to interview the patients and determine which is the previous doctor. Each patient’s story becomes a brief vignette within the film, and while some go heavier on the mental illness angle, there is at least one that is quite inventive.
Of course, the framing story has its own small vignette for the fourth story, and it provides one of the most interesting angles, because it implies that at least some of the other stories could be true. The stories are: 1) A dismembered body attacks a woman, 2) A magic suit that can resurrect the dead brings a mannequin to life, 3) A sick woman believes her friend murdered her sister and nurse, and 4) A doctor believes he can transition his consciousness into a doll. The doll story proves to be shockingly real within the context of the film, which means the magic suit and dismembered body stories might also be real, though story 3 is revealed to definitely be a woman who is hallucinating another person.
The highlights for me were the 1st and 4th story. The 2nd story drags a little bit, though I greatly enjoy that Peter Cushing is in it. It’s also a remake of an episode from Boris Karloff’s TV show Thriller in the early ’60s. I say adaptation, though it technically is an adaptation; the screenwriter, Robert Bloch, was also a writer on that show. Many of Bloch’s stories have been turned into famous horror films and shorts, most notably Psycho.
Amicus Productions is the studio that released Asylum, and they did quite a few of these horror anthology movies around the time. In fact, the next picture they released after Asylum? 1972’s Tales from the Crypt. If you’re a fan of British horror of the era but have spent all your time with Hammer, it’s time to move to Amicus.