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Film / Asylum

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Asylum (also known as House of Crazies in subsequent US releases) is a 1972 British horror film made by Amicus Productions. The film was directed by Roy Ward Baker, produced by Milton Subotsky, and scripted by Robert Bloch (who adapted four of his own short stories for the screenplay).

Dr Martin arrives at a secluded asylum "for the incurably insane" to be interviewed for a job by the wheelchair-bound, authoritarian Lionel Rutherford. Rutherford explains that he owes his current incapacitation to an attack by an inmate.

Rutherford reveals his unorthodox plan to determine Martin's suitability for the post of chief doctor. One of the asylum's current inmates is Dr B. Starr, the former head of the asylum, who underwent a complete mental breakdown. Martin is to interview the inmates of the asylum to deduce which one is Dr Starr. If his choice is correct, Rutherford will "consider" him for the post.


The attendant Max Reynolds admits Martin through the security door to the inmates' solitary confinement cells, where he interviews each in turn. He hears stories about 1) the revenge of a murdered wife, 2) a tailor who makes a suit with some highly unusual qualities, 3) a woman who questions her sanity when it appears that her brother is conspiring against her, and 4) a man who builds tiny toy robots with lifelike human heads.

Nothing to do with the KISS album of the same name.



  • Actor Allusion: This isn't the first time Patrick Magee played a character confined to a wheelchair.
  • An Axe to Grind: In "Frozen Fear", Walter murders his wife Maggie with a hatchet. Later, Bonnie uses the same hatchet in an attempt to fend off Maggie's animate body parts.
  • Bedlam House: Dunsmoor Asylum is not a very cheerful place, and Dr. Martin objects strenuously to the manner in which Dr. Rutherford is treating his patients. Additionally, some of the staff seem to be insane.
  • Cut Phone Lines: In "Lucy Comes to Stay", Lucy cuts the phone lines in the house so Nurse Higgins cannot call the police when she returns to the house.
  • Dead Guy on Display: In "The Weird Tailor", Smith is keeping his son's unpreserved corpse in an open coffin in an otherwise empty room.
  • A Deadly Affair: In "Frozen Fear", Walter murders his wife so he can run off with his young mistress Bonnie.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Occurs in the Framing Device: in order to get a job at a mental asylum, the psychiatrist Dr. Martin has to interview the patients there and determine which of them is really Dr. B. Starr, the former asylum head who had a mental breakdown and adopted a new personality. None of the patients are B. Starr - Max, the orderly who has been taking him on a tour of the asylum, is... Once Dr. Martin guesses incorrectly, Max takes the opportunity to kill him.
  • Gun Struggle: In "The Weird Tailor", Smith attempts to take the suit off Bruno at gunpoint. Bruno throws the package at him and attempts to wrestle the gun off him, which ends with Smith being shot.
  • Helping Hands: In "Frozen Fear", Ruth's severed arm strangles her murderous husband Walter, and later attempts to strangle Walter's mistress Bonnie.
  • Imaginary Friend: This is what Lucy appears to be to Barbara in "Lucy Comes to Stay". At the end of the segment, it turns out that Lucy is really a Split-Personality Takeover.
  • Living Toys: In "Mannikins of Horror", Dr. Byron has constructed a group of toy robots with human heads. When Dr. Martin crushes one beneath his foot, he discovers it has real internal organs.
  • Mr. Smith: When Peter Cushing's character places his order for the strange suit in "The Weird Tailor", Bruno asks for his name. After a moment's hesitation, he replies "Smith". Thereafter, the character is only referred to as "Mr. Smith".
  • Murderous Mannequin: In "The Weird Tailor", a magical suit designed to restore the dead to life is placed on a shop mannequin. The mannequin comes to life and attempts to strangle Bruno.
  • One-Word Title
  • The Place
  • Psycho Psychologist: The former head of the asylum, Dr. B. Starr, underwent a complete mental breakdown and attacked his deputy Rutherford. Starr now believes himself to be someone else and is incarcerated in the secure wing. Dr. Martin task is to determine which of four patients in that wing is really Dr. Starr. He's actually Max, the orderly — or rather, he's killed the real Max and has taken his place.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: In "Frozen Fear", Walter murders his wife Ruth and cuts her body into pieces. Later the individual pieces start moving around on their own to extract revenge on him and his lover.
  • Shear Menace: In "Lucy Comes to Stay", Barbara finds George slumped in his chair: stabbed in the chest with the shears Lucy had been using to cut the phone lines.
  • Slipping a Mickey: In "Lucy Come to Stay", Lucy slips a sedative into George's tea to knock him out.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: In "Lucy Comes to Stay", Barbara has just been released from hospital and brought home by her brother George. She encounters her 'friend' Lucy, who appears (to the audience) to be an Imaginary Friend. However, as Lucy commits a series of acts, culminating in the murder of George and Nurse Higgins, it seems that she might be a Not-So-Imaginary Friend. But when Dr. Martin interviews her in the asylum and asks where Lucy is, Barbara points at the mirror, and when she looks into it, she sees Lucy's reflection looking back at her.
  • Two-Faced: At the end of "Frozen Fear", Bonnie pushes back her hair to reveal to Dr. Martin that the right side of her face is crisscrossed with deep scars where she used the hatchet to hack the crawling hand off her face.
  • Wicked Toymaker: In "Mannikins of Horror", Dr. Byron constructs toy robots with tiny human heads. He sends one of these robots to murder Dr. Rutherford.