27th Nov2015

‘Tower of Evil’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jill Haworth, Bryant Haliday, Dennis Price, George Coulouris, Anna Palk, William Lucas, Anthony Valentine, Jack Watson, Derek Fowlds, Derek Fowlds, Gary Hamilton, Candace Glendenning, Dennis Price, Robin Askwith, Seretta Wilson | Written by Jim O’Connolly, George Baxt | Directed by Jim O’Connolly

tower-of-evil-blu

Set in deserted lighthouse on fog-shrouded Snape Island, the terror of the Tower of Evil begins when a nude, crazed woman slaughters a sailor who visits the island. When she is taken back to civilization, she is found to possess an ancient relic; and so the authorities mount an expedition to solve a mysterious series of psycho-sexual murders…

I distinctly remember the very first time I saw Tower of Evil, it was on British TV – around the same time as the classic BBC 2 Horror double bills, so around 1993-95 – and, as someone who equated British horror with the likes of Amicus and Hammer, seeing the gloriously exploitative sex and violence of this early Seventies fear flick (which also goes by the title of Horror of Snape Island) was something of a revelation!

Tower of Evil was the brain-child of horror producer Richard Gordon who, despite not finding the same fame as other British horror luminaries, was actually responsible for some fantastic homegrown fear flicks; including the likes of Inseminoid, Devil Doll and Horror Hospital (which is also out on Blu-ray from Odeon Entertainment and well worth a purchase). Like Gordon’s Inseminoid, which took inspiration from sci-fi horrors emanating from the US, Tower of Evil was also inspired by films made outside the UK – in this case the more overtly sexual and gory horror movies from Europe. You can clearly see influences from filmmakers such as Jess Franco and Mario Bava, as well as a heavy influence from the Italian giallo films of the 70s; which, when mixed with very British horror sensibilities, makes for somewhat of a filmic oddity.

You see, despite trying to up the ante on sex and violence, which – to be fair – is light years beyond what British audiences would have been used to at the time, everything is hampered by an obvious pandering to the UK censors. That’s not to say there’s not still an air of sleaze about the film. The rampant nudity and casual sexuality of some of the cast really makes up for the tame(r) visuals. And surprisingly, watching Tower of Evil today you can clearly see the tropes of the slasher movie at work too: teens murdered by an unseen killer, sex and violence married together and a villainous “family”much like Friday the 13th! It’s all very Bay of Blood-ish, another Italian fear-flick with which this film shares some visual cues.

Picture quality on this new Blu-ray looks fantastic. There’s grain present (obviously) especially during the opening of the film but this is easily the best print I’ve seen of Tower of Evil. There’s an odd spot of print damage – a few visible spots etc – but nothing that detracts from the film or the quality of this Blu. Though be warned, watching the movie in HD may spoil your enjoyment of some of the films key effects scenes, which don’t bear up to the harsh scrutiny of a high-def print… Though that can’t be said of the nudity ;)

Odeon’s new Blu-ray also includes a heap of brand-new extras – differing from the US release from Scorpion – including two trailers for the movie, under its two titles: Tower of Evil and Horror on Snape Island; trailers for more of Odeon’s British horror releases such as Dr Terror’s House of Horrors and House of Mortal Sin; the featurette “Screaming Your Head Off”, a 12 minute interview with actress Seretta Wilson talking about her experiences on the film; an audio Commentary with producer Richard Gordon and Tom Weaver, author of The Horror Hits of Richard Gordon; and the best extra - Inside the Tower, a 25 minute featurette with film historian Jonathan Rigby discussing Tower of Evil and the history behind it (which is the best reason to pick up the UK disc rather than the US Blu).

Packed with a cast of familiar British faces – including Robin Askwith (Confessions…); Seretta Wilson (The Zoo Gang); Anthony Valentine (Raffles); Derek Fowlds (Yes Minister); and Bryant Haliday (Devil Doll), who was a mainstay in the work of producer Richard Gordon – this new Blu-ray Tower of Evil is an essential purchase for horror fans.

Tower of Evil is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Odeon Entertainment.

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