The Asphyx (1973)

Sir Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens) is a rich philanthropist, social reformer and inventor who becomes curious about a series of photographs taken of people upon the point of death.  In each one, a strange smudge appears.  In a speech to a number of other people involved in paranormal research he proposes that the image is the soul leaving the body.

However, his views change while filming his family with a homemade moving picture camera.  When his betrothed Anna (Fiona Walker) and son Clive (Ralph Arliss) are killed in a freak boating accident, the footage shows he smudge moving toward Clive instead of away from him.  Research leads him to believe that, instead of the soul, it is a creature from Greek mythology called the Asphyx - one which exists locked away from its human host but is suddenly released and possesses the body seconds before death.

Reaching nothing but dead ends in his search for an explanation, serendipity strikes while Sir Hugo films a public execution.  A blue light emitted from his "light booster" seems to briefly capture the Asphyx and prolong the hanged man's life.  From there, Sir Hugo figures that if the Asphyx can be captured then immortality can be achieved - something he proves on a guinea pig and, later, with the help of his adopted son Giles (Robert Powell), upon himself. As one would guess, immortality doesn't turn out to be all it's cracked up to be.

This is a great British horror film, and I am glad I stumbled across it the other night after watching The BabyThe story seemed eerily similar to one of my favorite Amazing Stories episodes.  Of course, it turned out to be nothing like it.  Instead, we get both a serious story about hubris as well as the strangeness of a number of people attempting to kill themselves in complicated ways in order to become immortal.

And, at least for Sir Hugo, it works.  And it works with no insanity, no backlash of turning into a violent criminal, no nothing - just unending life.

As for the special effects, it looks like a good thing that the Asphyx is filmed in blue exposure and bad lighting, for directly lighting of what looks like a skeleton prop with muslin over it would not have been as convincing.  What is really interesting, though, are a number of the gadgets that were used.  If you're into steampunk, you're going to love watching this just for Sir Hugo's inventions and experiments.

Definitely a movie to check out if you think you have seen all that British horror has to offer - especially since this one is from neither Hammer nor Tigon, so unfortunately got lost in the shuffle.

The Asphyx (1973)
Time: 83 minutes
Starring: Robert Stephens, Robert Powell
Director: Peter Newbrook


  1. I finally saw this for the first time this Challenge. I rather enjoyed it.


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