Euro-Horror Project: The Asphyx

(Peter Newbrook, 1973) The acting’s thick and the dialogue’s chewy, but The Asphyx is a Gothic picture that’s wormed its fustian way into our hearts. Pre-DVD age, we could find it, fairly reliably, on late-night television or grainy, pan & scan VHS tapes. Though it borders on parody at times (it features the kind of Brit corn which the Pythons loved to skewer), the film holds our attention with its premise: everyone has an angel of death which, if trapped, lets us live on perpetually. Humanity’s eternal quest for eternal life provides the scene of horror — The Asphyx is a mad-scientist flick that owes a lot to its Frankenstein roots. In short, one man’s determination to keep his family name alive makes unintentional victims of his loved ones. The movie weaves a conceit about the dangers of patriarchal obsessions of legacy, and it boasts a great guillotine-as-marriage-bed scene. A Victorian period piece, The Asphyx has the look and feel of a Hammer picture, but it was turned out independently while Hammer Studios was trying to gloss up its catalog for the 70s generation. Endearing, hapless characters, succulent theatrics, dense mise-en-scène and one immortal guinea pig (serving as a symbolic warning to geneticists everywhere) help make the movie. As does Robert Powell under a mop-top. -- Ranylt Richildis

What’s the Euro-Horror Project?

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