Friday, 1 March 2013

Asylum: The Weird Tailor

‘The Weird Tailor’ is the best of the episodes, full of atmosphere and dread. It’s also terribly sad, but we’ll get to that. Max (Barry Morse) is a tailor, and a good one – but one that can’t make a living. His problems seem to be over when the prosperous looking ‘Mister Smith’ (Peter Cushing) walks into his shop with a special order he is willing to pay £200 for. Using a strange irridescent material that Smith has provided, Max is to make a suit for Smith’s son, but can only work between the hours of midnight and five am, and to a very exact set of specifications.

After several long shifts, Max completes the suit and delivers it to Smith’s large townhouse. Smith is not quite what he seems, however: his home is in darkness and disarray, and he readily admits that he cannot pay for the suit now, but still desperately needs it – for his son. Max discovers that Smith has spent all of his money on obtaining a rare, ancient book of magic, and that the design for the suit has been taken from its pages. His much loved son is in the next room, dead and decomposing in an open coffin.

A gun is produced, a scuffle takes place and Smith is accidentally shot and killed. Max takes the book and the suit back to the shop, asking his wife to burn them. Instead, she puts the suit on the shop dummy, Otto, hoping the unusual design and material will bring in some trade. Horribly, Otto comes to life and goes on the rampage before escaping out into the night. According to Max, Otto is still out there somewhere so, if you see someone that looks like Nigel Mansell in a flashy two tone suit lumbering towards you, leg it.

An excellent story with a genuinely frightening finale, ‘The Weird Tailor’ again benefits from brevity and from good writing, with a weight of ideas conveyed beyond the sparse dialogue and compact running time. Peter Cushing’s performance is full of an overwhelming sense of loss and desperation, but is achieved without histrionics or showboating, conveyed simply with a modulation of his finely tuned voice and a haunted, tragic look in his expressive eyes. It’s tempting to link Peter’s obvious feeling for the role with the loss of his wife, Helen, a few years earlier, a tragic event that he never fully recovered from, but that would be conjecture. What is quite clear, however, is that he was a wonderful actor.

1 comment:

  1. In common with most people reading this, seeing Asylum for the first time late on the BBC as a child was a life-changing experience.
    I once had the great privilege to meet Roy Ward Baker and tell him so. He seemed very pleased, but not as much as me.