Don't Look in the Basement

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All is not well at the secluded Asylum run by Dr Stephens. The lunatics are most definitely taking over!

And what a wonderfully entertaining bunch of lunatics they are.

Ladies and gentlemen

I give you the roll call of madness:

Sgt Jaffee (Hugh Feagin) is the ever useful hallucinating 'Nam veteran character (though this idea was still pretty new in 1973) who is constantly waging his own private war.

Sam (Bill McGhee) is the childlike lobotomy patient who likes to play with his boats, suck lollies and go on 'missions' with Sgt Jaffee.

Harriet (Camilla Carr) is a borderline psychotic when it comes to protecting her baby, "Get away from my baby! I'll kill you! I'll kill you"! The thing is her 'baby' is really a scruffy looking doll!

Mrs. Callingham (Rhea MacAdams), a cackling, poetry spouting, profit of doom old lady who is plagued by hallucinations.

Allyson (Betty Chandler) is a raging Nymphomaniac who's just looking for love

"Come on! I do taste like strawberries! Taste me"!

Danny (Jessie Kirby) is an annoying ginger perm who races around the place irritating everyone (including the viewer) with his mad, piercing laugh.

Jennifer (Harryette Warren ) spends most of her time gazing into space and looking rather pissed off with life.

And finally we have Judge Cameron (Gene Ross) who, in the most ill advised bit of treatment in the history of Psychiatry, is encouraged by Dr Stephens (Michael Harvey) to beat out his inner conflict by chopping at tree trunks with a bloody great axe!

Exactly how ill advised this therapy is, is shown to the very silly Dr Stephens one day when the crazy Judge decides to chop the good Doctor instead!

To add to this disaster Nurse Jane (Jessie Lee Fulton) is then bumped off by the hysterical Harriet leaving one Dr Geraldine Masters (Annabelle Weenick) to try and keep order.

Then a young woman called Charlotte Beale (Rosie Holotik) arrives at the clinic to take up a Nursing post she says was promised to her by the late (and of course very foolish) Dr Stephens.

Reluctantly Nurse Masters accepts her employment and Charlotte enters the realm of complete and utter madness that is "Don't Look in the Basement"!

S.F Brownrigg ("Poor White Trash 2") is pretty much a love or hate him director with a sadly small output of films to his credit, and "Basement" is perhaps his most famous and is actually a pretty entertaining watch, despite some dubious plotting.

Quite frankly this Asylum is the worst mental clinic in the known universe! No security, open doors everywhere, knives left lying out and loony tune patients running around with total freedom.

It also shows up how low the low budget is, the Asylum is simply a bland looking mansion house without any actual medical trappings anywhere in sight. It's simply a house in need of a good decorating job.

The script by Tim Pope (director of pop videos and the awful "Crow: City of Angels") has little time for horror elements following the initial outburst of murder and instead concentrates on the inmates.

The film does tend to drag as the patients all have their moment of madness in the spotlight, but luckily things are kept interesting through the sheer weirdness and screaming insanity that abounds!

Performances range from the enjoyably hammy to the genuinely effective.

Especially good are Chandler as the love starved nympho Allyson, who moves from fawning joy to screaming rage in the blink of an eye according to how people react to her advances, Weenick as the strict Dr Masters and Gene Ross ("Lost Highway") as the brilliantly bonkers Judge.

And given the lack of action in the script there is a lot of weight on the shoulders of the actors, so it's to their credit that they manage to keep the movie interesting and give the characters so much life.

Despite it's place on the infamous 'Video Nasties' in the UK there is actually very little in "Don't Look in the Basement" that pushes any kind of violence or bloodshed boundaries.

There is some argument over whether the fully uncut print exists any longer (there is most certainly a cut version around) but even in it's, supposedly, uncut version most of the violence is tame or off screen with only the aftermath being seen (like a tongue removal).

The only real exception to this is the deranged, screaming insanity filled finale (after the film's twist is revealed) which delivers a lot of the red stuff in suitably violent fashion. It's one hell of an ending and packs the horror punch that the rest of the film lacks.

So to sum up we have a solid little film that relies on its wonderfully fun characters to carry it until the pounding denouement. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's well worth a watch and is better than some of the movies on the 'Nasties' list.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering

the basement you should not look in, has nothing to do with anything!

Reviewed by 42nd Street Freak