They came. They saw. They died.
Where are Mike, Tom Servo, and Crow when you need them?
If Scream introduced me to the joys of good horror movies, then “Mystery Science Theater 3000” introduced me to the fun that can be had with bad horror movies. Alas, MST3K has left the air, and I’m left watching cheesy horror movies all by myself.
The 1960s and ’70s abounded with bad horror movies. Generally, the genre sells itself with promises of murder and gore, and doesn’t rely on star power, expensive sets, or anything else that will elevate the production costs above the bare minimum. Naturally, quality ranged from the really good (Hitchcock’s bad horror, like Psycho or The Birds) to the awful sort of dreck that silhouettes make fun of on late night television. Tower Of Evil is definitely the latter.
If you try looking for Tower Of Evil in horror movie guides, you probably will not find it. I know I didn’t. If you look it up at the Internet Movie Database, it will bring up Horror Of Snape Island. That’s because the title changed several times after its release, from that chilling moniker to Beyond The Fog, to Horror On Snape Island (just in case everyone forgot how bad it was when a different preposition was used), finally to the scary-sounding Tower Of Evil.
Most of the action takes place on Snape Island, and the titular tower is actually a lighthouse. There’s nothing really all that evil about the lighthouse, except that happens to be built upon the grave of an ancient Phoenician king and the statue of Baal that guards his tomb. But forget about all the hokey stuff, because it really has nothing to do with the plot. The real story revolves around a crazy guy who lives in the catacombs and only emerges to kill anyone who ventures to the island. The killing spree begins with four teenagers who venture to the island. Naturally, the one girl who won’t give up the nookie is the only survivor. She is interviewed by a creepy British psychologist and his strobing light arrays, but is catatonic from the horror she saw. A team of four archaeologists is dispatched to the island, accompanied by a detective, a local fisherman, and a teenager who looks like Greg Brady on a bad day. One by one, most of them are killed by the crazy guy, who ends up being the fisherman’s uncle or something.
There’s nothing particularly remarkable or interesting about Tower Of Evil. The plot (such as it is) never strays from the predictable. No one dies in anything resembling a creative way. Conventions of the genre are followed as strictly as religious principles. Examples: someone blows up the only boat back to the mainland. Everyone rushes away from the lighthouse. While they’re gone, someone smashes the radio. Even my cat saw that coming. Or, who would guess that the pot-smoking designated slut is going to die, while the nice tea-drinking girl will live to the final frame? The only thing that sets Tower Of Evil apart from the lamest entries of the 1950s or ’60s was that the looser R rating allowed more nudity and gore (not that either is that explicit).
Elite Entertainment did a unexpectedly good job of transferring Tower Of Evil. The print quality is surprisingly good, not at all what you would expect of a non-mainstream title from the early 1970s. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Colors are accurate and vibrant with no bleeding. Minimal digital artifacts or print blemishes were visible. Black level was appropriately dark and menacing without loss of detail. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo. I detected no separation between the channels, so my guess is it’s actually two-channel mono. The only extra is a theatrical trailer.
There’s no point in mentioning any of the “talent” behind Tower Of Evil, because you won’t have heard of them anyway. The director’s slight filmography includes memorable favorites like Mistress Pamela and Circus Of Terror. The “stars” appeared in other such low-rent horror flicks and guest-starring turns in shows such as “Mission: Impossible” and “The Avengers.”
Tower Of Evil might be fun if you’re drunk and with a group of rowdy and inebriated friends, because it doesn’t offer anything to the lucid.
I hope no one misconstrues my comments about Hitchcock’s horror movies. Psycho and The Birds are two of the greatest of the horror genre, but they’re still just lurid horror movies. Neither lacks the complexity or depth of his best movies like Rear Window, Strangers On A Train, or North By Northwest.