RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES calls Tower Of Evil “unquestionably rubbish of the first order”
TITLE: Tower of Evil, aka Horror On Snape Island, aka Beyond The Fog
YEAR RELEASED: 1972
DIRECTOR: Jim O’Connolly
CAST: Jill Haworth, Bryant Haliday, Anna Palk, Derek Fowlds, Jack Watson
The lighthouse on Snape Island lies off the Cornish coast. When three American teenagers are brutally murdered there (including an up and coming Robin Askwith), and a fourth (Penny, played by Candace Glendenning) is left in a catatonic state, psychiatrist Dr. Simpson (Anthony Valentine) and Police Superintendent Hawk (William Lucas) attempt to get some answers from the girl about what happened there.
Meanwhile, an expedition is preparing to visit the island. Their mission is to recover some rumoured Phoenician artifacts which may be buried deep below the surface. Dan (Derek Fowlds, in the middle of his stint on The Basil Brush Show) and his wife Nora (Anna Palk) are an unhappily married pair of art experts on the verge of separation following a string of infidelities (hers more than his). They are accompanied by former couple Rose (Jill Haworth) and Evan (Bryant Haliday), who split up after Evan was seduced by Nora. Rose has also been having an affair with Dan.
(Are you keeping up with all of this?)
They are joined by a private investigator trying to prove that Penny was not responsible for the murders on the island, and they are all taken there by Hamp (Jack Watson). His brother was the former lighthouse keeper, who disappeared along with his wife and son some time earlier.
After the group settles in for the night, it becomes apparent that all is not quite right. For one thing, there are no birds on the island. Then, during the night, someone sets fire to the boat, and trashes the radio. Not only has the group lost all means of escape and communication, but they are not alone. Whoever or whatever is on the island, they are all in danger from it…
This all raises a few questions. Didn’t the police search the island thoroughly after the murders? Shouldn’t the place be at least sealed off to the public to protect any evidence at the scene? Wouldn’t you send a group of people who actually get on with each other? And, why on earth am I still watching this mess?
Because… Tower Of Evil is unquestionably rubbish of the first order, but it’s solidly entertaining rubbish. Like the same year’s Psychomania, it has those magic ingredients which make a “great” bad movie.
It has respected Thespians embarrassing themselves, and wondering where their agent has disappeared to, along with token guest stars who have probably done an afternoon’s shooting for a quick buck.
There’s ridiculous dialogue aplenty, the kind where the writer tries so hard to be hip, and imagines that young people of the time go to jazz festivals (seriously), before renting a boat to head out for a night in a deserted lighthouse (as you do).
Throw in a quaintly dated hypnosis scene involving some psychedelic lighting, completely unnecessary nudity, iffy back projections and some hilarious fashions, and you don’t need carbon dating to tell you this was made in 1972.
The icing on the cake has to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious sex scenes ever committed to celluloid. When Nora implores her latest paramour to “zip me”, I would defy anyone to keep a straight face…
Later re-issued as Beyond The Fog to cash-in on John Carpenter’s similarly titled hit, The Fog, in 1980, Tower Of Evil is one of those films which simply has to be seen to be believed. It does, however deserve some credit as a prototype of what would become the slasher cycle of the late 70s and 80s.
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