Director:  Peter Newbrook

Starring:  Robert Stevens, Robert Powell, Jane Lapotaire

A pair of Victorian scientists (Powell and Stephens) discover that an invisible creature leaves the body at the moment of death, and hope, by experimentation, to use this knowledge to make themselves immortal.

The Asphyx (also known as Spirit of the Dead and  Horror of Death) has been rather harshly treated since its theatrical release. TV screenings usually of a muddled version that’s missing almost twenty minutes of material, (often prematurely ending scenes with hasty fade-outs). It was this mutilated version that had also become the stock version used by broadcasters both here and in the US. It was also the one released on VHS  by A Taste of Fear in 1995. None of these versions preserved Freddie Young’s excellent Panavision cinematography in its original framing, however, leaving it to independent American company, Allday Entertainment, to be the first home video company to release the film in letterboxed (2.35:1) format, and the first to present the full-length version. The quality is a bit patchy, (especially the restored scenes, which were probably sourced from a different print). The colour has been restored, but, as expected given the film's chequered history, is rather inconsistent. At its best, is not really markedly different from the BBC’s version. It often looks worn, but overall this is a fine, if modest, example of restoration.

The disc was issued in 1998 to mark the 25th anniversary of the film's American release (it was released in the UK in 1972). Like many early DVDs, the extras are modest (basic filmographies for key cast and crew members, and a reproduction of one the film’s press kits). Allday, a company dedicated to “reviving films that have fallen through the cracks”, is to be commended for their work in restoring a minor classic’s ailing reputation. 

The UK DVD, from Anchor Bay, is of the shorter version of the film.


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