Thursday, October 01, 2009


An old fisherman and his son make their way through the fog and the spiders on Snape Island to discover a bloody human hand and the dead naked man it belonged to sprawled out on the rocks. Next up: a dead girl whose head has been cut off, a dead boy speared to the wall of a lighthouse, and finally a crazed, naked girl who stabs one of the fishermen to death before being subdued. A doctor tries hypnotizing the traumatized girl to get the full story, and that story, told in fragmented flashbacks, is a mini-“Friday the 13th” slasher movie of its own: horny pot-smoking teenagers have sex and are murdered by an unseen figure. A detective (Bryant Haliday) agrees to visit the island to find out what really happened. Meanwhile, a group of archeologists is planning a trip to the island to look for the remains of an ancient Phoenician burial site dedicated to the god Baal, now viewed as a devil figure. Haliday joins the group, composed primarily of bickering husbands, wives, and lovers, and one beefy, long-haired, dimbulb "stud," son of the surviving fisherman from the first scene. The group hears the story of a miserable family who once lived on the island but are now all presumed dead. So we now have all the pieces in place for a second, more prolonged slasher narrative: how will these sober but horny adults die, and in what order?

Ah, it's October, which means it's time for me to watch a month's worth of horror and sci-fi movies. This horror film, which I’d never heard of until it aired on Turner Classic’s Underground, is no gem, but it’s not bad. The island and the lighthouse (the tower of the title) give good atmosphere, the gore is plentiful, the nudity gratuitous, and at least one sex scene is surprisingly vigorous. The look of the actors keeps the film mired in the 70’s: the men wear tight pants and turtlenecks, and one woman in a shiny brown jumpsuit looks like an Abba reject. The Baal plotline is a red herring, though the sacrifice room that is uncovered is creepy (though my partner noticed that the gigantic statue of the fearsome god looked a little like the muppet Gonzo). Jill Haworth, the original Sally Bowles on Broadway in Cabaret, is the "good" (i.e., least horny) archeologist who does, of course, survive, and though none of the actors stand out talentwise, Mark Edwards (pictured), with his very 70's hair and mustache, is easy on the eyes, and classic-era character actor George Coulouris has a small role as the doomed fisherman in the opening. The TCM print, taken I assume from the Elite Entertainment DVD, is sharp, clear, and colorful. [TCM]

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