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London, turn to the 20th century: On his photos of people at the moment
of their death, inventor Sir Hugo (Robert Stephens) realizes weird
smudges, and since they can't be explained away by some technical
shortcomings, he and a few colleagues come to the conclusion it must be
the soul leaving the body ... until Hugo films a very tragic event, the
death of his wife-to-be (Fiona Walker) and his son (Ralph Arliss), and he
sees the smudge is not actually leaving the body but moving towards it at
the moment of death ...
Later, Sir Hugo films a public hanging, and when he turns on his light
booster he realizes he is capturing something in it, and as long as he has
captured whatever-it-is in his light, the hanged man does not die - so he
figures whatever-it-is must be the spirit of death of Greek mythology, or
the Asphyx, that gets those dieing into the land of the dead.
After a series of experiments, Sir Hugo figures how to capture the
Asphyx, which ultimately results in immortality. And after he has already
lost his wife-to-be and his son, he decides to not only make himself
immortal but also his daughter Christina (Jane Lapotaire) and her fiancé
Giles (Robert Powell), who also happens to be his adopted son ...
So at first, he has himself killed on the electric chair, but Giles
capture his Asphyx at the moment of his death - an experiment which almost
fails, but ultimately it makes Sir Hugo immortal, as he finds out in later
experiments, and he will stay immortal as long as his Asphyx is
safely kept in a vault beneath his house.
Then he and Giles want to make Christina immortal too, this time using
a guillotine which is supposed to only almost behead her, enough to lure
the Asphyx to her ... but when Sir Hugo's (immortal) guinea pig gnaws
through a few of the wires, Christina loses her head for real, and now Sir
Hugo and Giles see no other way than to release her Asphyx and letting her
die for real.
Giles is so shattered by the death of his fiancée that he uses the
experiment to capture his Asphyx (in a gas chamber) to actually kill
himself for real by a mighty explosion. It is now that Sir Hugo realizes
the madness of his plans, and to repent for his sins, he decides to
destroy the combination to his vault and live forever in grief, only
accompanied by his immortal guinea pig.
In pure writing, The Asphyx sounds like a more than silly movie,
as much is certain. But as a film, The Asphyx is surprisingly
charming, a macabre blend of dark comedy and all-out-horror carried by
excellent actors playing strong characters, great writing, and a thorough
examination of the themes underlying the film's (admittedly silly) story.
Strongly recommended !