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Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: ‘Asylum’

Asylum delivers four tales of madness.

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

Listen to the latest episode of the AIPT Movies Podcast!

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction, this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.

Nothing says Halloween like short spooky tales. Horror anthologies are a holiday staple, and if it’s Hammer related, the better. Amicus Films presents Roy Ward Baker’s 1972 anthology Asylum, where a young doctor seeking employment must interview four patients. Asylum is a stylish, fun, film featuring tales of obsession and madness. 

When young Dr. Martin arrives, he is warned he is in an asylum for the “incurably insane.” As he makes his way through the hospital, he finds that the patients are eager to share their stories. All the Hammer staples are present in the film, complete with the classic Hammer aesthetic of style and glamour. 

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: 'Asylum'

Dr. Martin’s interview is an interesting narrative device and serves as an engaging wraparound piece. Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) is young, hopeful, and exhibits compassion and humanity in his efforts to help those in the asylum. He explores the various afflictions that have consumed the patients and listens to their stories without judgment. Dr. Martin’s good nature is what makes him a prime target for the next creepy event. 


Each patient has a tale of terror, most of which was brought on by their own selfishness or weaknesses. Patients launch into their stories of getting attacked or taken in by something impossible. Dr. Martin is introduced to his first patient Bonnie, a young woman, who was attacked by limbs in paper bags. In an attempt to fight off the monster, she injured her own face with a hatchet. In the short “Lucy Comes to Stay” a young woman named Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) with a bright future succumbs to a pill addiction and an imaginary friend invoked by substance abuse. The dead come to life by way of a magical suit in “The Weird Tailor” and Peter Cushing gives a masterful performance because that is just his way. And Dr. Martin finds himself the victim in “Mannekins of Terror.”

Asylum is a campy film that delivers on great performances and entertaining stories. Wrap yourself in a paper bag and check out this Amicus classic.

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