A pair of fishermen, Hamp (Jack Watson) and his father, venture out to the old, abandoned lighthouse at Snape Island to investigate the apparent disappearance of a group of young, American holidaymakers who supposedly went to stay there for the night for a lark. There does not seem to be anyone else around when they land, but after tying up their boat they wander among the rocks to discover a severed hand lying on the ground, and nearby its very dead owner, a naked male corpse. They are disturbed by this revelation, but plough ahead to see if there is anyone left alive in the building itself - then they see another man impaled behind the door, a headless woman on the stairs, and hear a noise behind another. Hamp's father opens it to see a nude woman wielding a hatchet, which she plants in his head!
Tower of Evil did not receive much of a welcome when it was first released, shoved out on the lower half of a few double bills and getting short shrift from the critics, but thanks to a few broadcasts on television, as well as a home video release to cash in on the renewed interest in horror flicks, it did gain a following against the odds. Admittedly, this was for the tawdriest of reasons: producer Richard Gordon knew what he was doing when he stuffed the movie as full of nudity and violence as he could get away with under Britain's strict censorship rules (and even then it suffered a few trims, since restored), but what was an exploitation endeavour worth its salt without that sort of content anyway?
It had one of those casts you would get in a British shocker of the era, packed with television talent basically, though there were a few faces aficionados might have recognised from actual films, chief among them no less a personage than Robin Askwith, just before he would become a softcore legend and one of the nation's biggest homegrown stars (for a few years, at least) with Confessions of a Window Cleaner and its sequels. Not that he lasted very long in this, being part of the flashback sequences to the deceased tourists where we saw them meet their grisly fate, and apparently dubbed according to some sources, though it does sound as if he is performing that American accent by himself.
The main stars were the investigation team who delve into the survivor's testimony, such as it is for she (Candace Glendenning) has been rendered catatonic and only the psychiatrist's disco lights (some form of treatment, supposedly) bring her out of it to deliver panicky remembrances at screaming pitch. Seeking "Phoenican treasure", improbably, they were a motley crew of minor-to-middle league actors, Jill Haworth for instance a regular presence on television, and Derek Fowlds pre-political sitcom Yes Minister and foil to loquacious puppet Basil Brush for that matter, though Bryant Halliday was top-billed despite not having a tremendous amount to do, apparently because he had been written into the script at the last minute. Making the biggest impression was Anna Palk as Fowlds' character's wife, a saucy lady with a roving eye for the gentlemen.
Although that was mainly down to her dialogue, which sounded like a teenager's idea of what a grown-up would say if sex were on her mind; there, at least, was an element that made this of a piece with the British cinema aimed at adult audiences of the day. As for the solution to the mystery, it was similar to that of the far better Death Line, only set on that lighthouse and its surroundings, proving the spooky true story of Flannan Isle where three keepers disappeared forever still loomed large in the consciousness of writers of horrors and thrillers. Tower of Evil (which featured a neat, dry ice-bound model in its opening titles) was at its most diverting when it tried to be as lurid as possible, which luckily for the thrill-seeker was often, though that did not necessarily make for an accomplished work in general, just silly enough to keep you watching with characters spouting lines like "Bravery ain't my bag, man!", but containing some interest as one of the number of proto-slashers that were hanging around before John Carpenter showed up. Music by Kenneth V. Jones.