Scorpion Releasing // 1972 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // July 12th, 2013
A night of pleasure becomes a night of terror.
British horror will always have the great Hammer Studios to lean back on, but outside of that, the country doesn't have the kind of rich tradition in the genre that other nations share. They're out there, of course, and though few of them could ever be considered classics, some are just nutty enough to enjoy. Tower of Evil is a bad film, no doubt, but it's funny and weird with more sex and violence than I expect from the time, making for a fun, mindless experience.
A group of teens traveled to the deserted Snape Island for a weekend of sex and drugs, but while there, something attacked them and killed all except for one. When she returns, she is charged with the murders, but her comatose state makes it hard to get any information from her. A few months later, a team of archeologists are set to head out to the island to look for treasure after a Phoenician statue is found there. Once they land, though, they discover the horror that exists on Snape Island and, when their boat explodes, there may be no way to escape it.
It's hard to think of how a story could be thinner than what Tower of Evil offers. It's so thin that they have to tell the same one two-and-a-half times, with a framing story to fill out the running time. We only get the reveal with the archeologist story, but the rest of it, with the murders and the atmosphere, is repeated throughout without furthering the plot in any way.
Ultimately, that's okay, because that story is so completely silly that you can't help to watch it. While some people, in discussing the film, refer to Tower of Evil as the first slasher movie, it hardly qualifies. Sure, it has people dying after having sex and there is plenty of hacking and stabbing, but even the dumbest '80s slasher flick has more to offer, both in story and in violence, than this could hope to achieve.
On the other side, though, it does have a lot more sex than one would ever have expected to see in 1972. Plenty of both male and female nudity accent the terrible acting, and there are enough kill scenes to keep things lively. The violence is mostly understated, but director Jim O'Connelly (Valley of the Gwangi) does include one fairly graphic bit, with limbs flying and a plainly absurd number of blows to kill one person.
The movie is funny, too; it could easily get the Cinematic Titanic treatment and, content aside, it would probably get a bigger audience with that endorsement. There's really nothing particularly good about the movie, but it's the kind of cringe-worthy guilty pleasure that you can show your friends and have a great time watching, which is better than I can say for much of the obscure horror that I see.
Tower of Evil comes to DVD from Scorpion Releasing on the "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" imprint. We received a screener copy for review, but the strong performance suggests that it's representative of the release version. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image has been given a high-definition transfer from the original negative and the results are surprisingly strong. There is some dirt and damage at various times, but it's minor and never distracting. Colors are natural and black levels are deep and inky. The sound is average, but totally fine. The stereo mix is mostly free from noise and dialog mostly sounds good, but the levels do waver a bit.
There are only two extras on the disc. The first is a thirteen minute interview with horror historian David Del Valle. It's interesting; Del Valle appears to have a wealth of knowledge of the genre, including this movie and, for something so obscure, that's impressive. The other extra is the original trailer for the film, under the name Horror on Snape Island, so it's not the most stacked release in Scorpion's Catalog.
Tower of Evil is basically terrible, but it's easy to have fun with it. The story is as slim as they come and the performances aren't any better. It has a fair bit of violence, though, and a lot more sex than one could expect from a British horror movie of this era. Plus, there are easily enough weird moments to ensure cult fans will get a kick out of this movie.
A guilty pleasure is still guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Rated R