Monday, October 8, 2012

Black Death: "The Pyx" (1973)

Montreal detective Christopher Plummer investigates the death of prostitute Karen Black, who had a little help falling from a penthouse balcony.

The film makers play with the time continuum as we see Plummer doggedly find out more about Black and discovers other murders, and at the same time we relive Black's final hours, seeing her deal with her eventual murderer as part of a satanic black mass.

Christopher Plummer is excellent. His Detective Henderson is not a "Die Hard"-type superhero, just a homicide detective doing his job. This could have made an excellent film series, especially set in an interesting city like Montreal, Canada. Karen Black turns in a great performance as Elizabeth Lucy, a heroin addicted prostitute getting in way over her head. She tries to help another friend get off heroin, but Elizabeth is no hooker with a heart of gold, she is a flawed mess of emotion, and Black is great.

The finale seemed just a little too neat and tidy, and the horrific aspects of the story do not really deliver. Jeers to Prism Entertainment, who released the VHS version I saw. The print was very muddy, with the front credits being completely unreadable, and the first few minutes of the film impossible to comprehend.

Anytime the film takes place in anything other than daytime, it is hard to see what is going on. The video box I saw featured Karen Black half clothed on the cover, and the box notes talking this up like it was "Salo" since it featured "prostitution, drug abuse, and homosexuality." Yes, there is a prostitute, she is on drugs, but she is not gay. There is one homosexual supporting character, but no onscreen sexual content. He just mentions it to Plummer. Reading the box, you would think you need a shower when the end credits finally rolled (which you can read).

"The Pyx" is suspenseful and entertaining, and hopefully you can find a decent copy of it. I strongly recommend it. (* * * * *) out of five stars.