‘A night of pleasure becomes a night of terror‘
Tower of Evil – aka Horror of Snape Island – is a 1972 British horror feature film written and directed by Jim O’Connolly, screenwriter of The Night Caller.
In 2019, Scorpion Releasing issued Tower of Evil on Blu-ray from a brand new scan with colour correction of the original interpositive as well as additional clean up on the audio. The disc features:
- Audio commentary by the late producer Richard Gordon, moderated by Tom Weaver
- Interviews with actress Seretta Wilson, composer Kenneth V. Jones, and editor Henry Richardson
- Play Movie in Katarina’s Nightmare Theater Mode
- Subtitles for the hearing impaired
- Original trailer
Snape Island, an undisclosed outcrop of Britain, shrouded in fog, attracts a group of horny (therefore doomed) teens to live it up big time, near the looming tower of the title, actually a lighthouse.
Meanwhile, two archaeologists are pretty sure the lighthouse has an ancient Phoenician treasure within its walls, a relic of worshippers of the God Baal; a private investigator arrives to try and clear the name of the surviving girl who has been accused of murdering her friends.
The two-story strands eventually merge and the murderous presence emerges to deal with the meddling intruders…
Shot for $400,000 at Shepperton Studios in Surrey and paired on its initial UK release on a double-bill with Hammer’s Demons of the Mind, Tower of Evil is in some respects a missed opportunity, more gruesomely graphic and eyebrow-raising rude than much of the British horror output of the time. Retrospectively, it’s a terrific film but one which, at the time, simply seemed gratuitous for the sake of it.
The notion of horny, dope-smoking teenagers being violently dispatched, seems an idea older than the hills but Tower of Evil has a good claim to be one of the first.
The creaky beginning with its cardboard miniature of the lighthouse bodes badly but this proto-slasher is never less than engaging, even though it lurches into being unnecessarily talky and perhaps even tries to be a bit too clever from the middle onwards.
Director O’Connolly had a relatively slim career as top dog but had proved himself more than capable with both Berserk and Valley of the Gwangi under his belt. Having tested the horror water, he certainly doesn’t hold back with copious amounts of nudity and some grisly killings, surprisingly strong for the time.
Though the script (by George Baxt who also scripted Circus of Horrors) is very ‘of the time’ with some rather cringeworthy ‘drug speak’ and overly Americanised chat (complete with utterly unnecessary dubbed Yank accents) which seems out of kilter with the resolutely British cast, this lends it a strangeness and charm that later slashers largely omit.
Coping with the toing and froing of the plot is a dizzying cast of recognisable faces; Dennis Price doesn’t hang around for long but his previous roles in the likes of Twins of Evil and Horror of Frankenstein, lend the film certain credence.
Bryant Haliday (Devil Doll; The Projected Man) is an odd choice for what is essentially the lead part but to criticise anyone’s acting would be to rather misjudge the kind of film you’re watching. Haworth, alas, is round about the only female to keep her clothes on, though Candace Glendenning – later in Satan’s Slave – obliges. Other recognisable faces include John Hamill, previously seen in Trog, The Beast in the Cellar and apocalyptic doom flick No Blade of Grass and star of Psychomania, Seretta Wilson.
Askwith seems a bizarre choice but equips himself more than adequately. The film comes off the back of lightweight TV work but starts a string of more ‘thoughtful’ roles including Four Dimensions of Greta and Horror Hospital. ‘Thoughtful’ is possibly the wrong word. Back in ‘cheeky chappie’ mode, Askwith went on to encounter Queen Kong (1976).
Europe struggled to work out how to market the movie; Germany renamed it Der Turm der Lebenden Leichen (“Tower of the Living Corpses” – artistic license, considering the lack of zombies) and in Italy, it was called Perché il dio fenicio continua ad uccidere? “Why Does the Phoenician God Continue to Kill?” a typically colourful rechristening.
In Britain, Tower of Evil was somewhat ridiculed for being too graphic and too ridiculous, with nothing contemporary to compare it with; history has been more than obliging, though, whilst not perfect, it is entertaining and even somewhat trailblazing in its style and content.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES & MANIA
“Apart from the novelty of its double climax, this is predictable, youth-oriented horror of the “I thought I heard something” school, with a group of unusually attractive, pot-smoking, sex-starved archaeologists stranded on the archetypal accursed isle. As much energy is expended on the self-conscious nudity and violence as on the suspense, but dialogue and performances are anyway equally unconvincing.” David McGillivray, BFI Monthly Film Bulletin, 1972
” … a gleefully ghoulish celebration of the permissive Seventies, with lots of bare bums (of both sexes), pot-smoking, and some really groovy hippy clobber on display… Kultguy’s Keep
In 1981, the film was cheekily reissued in the US as Beyond the Fog to cash-in on John Carpenter’s The Fog.
On 14 December 2015, the film was re-released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD by Screenbound Pictures with the following special features:
• Commentary from producer Richard Gordon and film historian Tom Weaver
• Retrospective featurette with Jonathan Rigby, author of English Gothic
Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.co.uk
Cast and characters:
- Bryant Haliday as Evan Brent
- Jill Haworth as Rose Mason
- Anna Palk as Nora Winthrop
- William Lucas as Superintendent Hawk
- Anthony Valentine as Doctor Simpson
- Jack Watson as Hamp Gurney
- Mark Edwards as Adam
- Derek Fowlds as Dan Winthrop
- John Hamill as Gary
- Gary Hamilton as Brom
- Candace Glendenning as Penny Read
- Dennis Price as Laurence Bakewell
- George Coulouris as John Gurney
- Robin Askwith as Des
- Frederic Abbott as Saul Gurney
- Mark McBride as Michael Gurney
- Marianne Stone as Nurse
Some image credits: Serious Miami Horror & Sci-Fi