• Pyx, The

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: October 18, 2011.
    Director: Harvey Hart
    Cast: Karen Black, Christopher Plummer, Donald Pilon
    Year: 1973
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    The Movie:

    Also known as The Hooker Cult Murders, 1973’s The Pyx isn’t quite as exploitative as that alternate title would have you believe but it’s not a bad thriller – and it is just that, a thriller rather than a flat out horror film. When the film begins, a couple of cops, Detectives Henderson (Christopher Plummer) and Paquette (Donald Pilon), are investigating the murder scene where the body of a prostitute has been discovered. As they dig around the crime scene, they notice that on the body is a Pyx, a small container used in the Roman Catholic Church for those intending to carry the Eucharist to those they deem in need.

    As the detectives continue their investigation, we learn what happened to Lucy through a series of flashbacks. Henderson is sure that the murder had something to do with the brothel near the murder scene, run by a Madame named Meg who would rather not cooperate with the local cops if she can help it. While in the house of ill repute, Henderson manages to get some face time with a prostitute named Elizabeth Lucy (Karen Black) who tells him that the murder victim wasn’t Catholic, making the presence of the Pyx all the more unusual. As the story unfolds, we learn how Elizabeth’s heroin addiction has caused her all manner of problems and how her rendezvous with a strange client named Mr. Lefram who has requested her personally from Meg for some entertainment. She resists at first but Meg talks her into it and when she arrives on Lefram’s yacht she’s asked to strip and grilled about her views on Catholicism. When Henderson realizes that the cross found at the murder scene is actually inverted, he starts to put some of the strange pieces of the puzzle together and starts to figure out Elizabeth’s role in all of this – Elizabeth, however, is being primed for something very strange indeed.

    Shot entirely on location in the Montreal of the early 1970s (which gives the movie some pretty unique local flavor), The Pyx doesn’t always move at a particularly quick pace. In fact, it’s actually pretty slow – but it does eventually build to a satisfyingly bizarre conclusion and Black, who not only gets naked but also contributes a trio of strange songs to the soundtrack, is very good in the female lead role. When she breaks down during the ‘interview’ before her meeting with Lefram, it’s nothing less than completely believable and she just really works well in this part. That’s more than we can say for Plummer, who is a bit of a fish out of water here (though certainly less so than he was in Starcrash!) and who doesn’t seem particularly engrossed in his work on this picture.

    The film’s occult/Satanist leanings help it to fit in alongside other popular seventies movies dealing with the same subject matter, but it never goes full tilt into horror movie mode, even during the big finish. Spooky, maybe, but horrifying, no but the film gets a few bonus points for some nice location photography, a great leading turn from Ms. Black, and that help make up for the fact that it’s a bit on the long side and it takes its sweet time getting to the point.


    The Pyx looks pretty good in this 2.35.1 anamorhpic widescreen transfer. The image is frequently grainy but in a natural looking way and only minor print damage is noticeable. Some of the darker scenes don’t show the greatest shadow detail you’re ever going to see but this looks to be how it was shot and not a transfer problem. There are no issues to note with compression artifacts or edge enhancement and both skin tones and color reproduction look nice and natural.

    Audio chores are handled by an English language Dolby Digital Mono track. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided. This isn’t a particularly fancy track but for an older film fast approaching its fortieth birthday it sounds just fine. Dialogue is clean, clear and audible and the levels are well balanced.

    The best extra on the disc is the commentary track included here with leading lady Karen Black moderated by Marc Edward Hueck. Here the actress discusses her involvement in the film, her part in contributing to the soundtrack her co-stars, what it was like working with Plummer, and the time she spent working on the film in Montreal. Hueck does a good job of keeping Black talking and she winds up having quite the conversation with him about some of the music and the images in the film. Black is quite game here, and offers some good insight into the production. As it's part of the Katarina's Nightmare Theater line from Scorpion, you can play this DVD with or without the optional intro/outro from the wrestler turned horror hostess. There’s also a trailer for the film, trailers for a few other titles in the Katarina’s Nightmare Theater line, menus and chapter stops.

    The Final Word:

    Definitely worth seeing if you’re in the right frame of mind for something with more of a slow burn to it, The Pyx is more or less carried by Karen Black’s strong performance and a pretty bizarre ending. Scorpion’s disc is a good one, offering up the film in nice shape and with a welcome and informative commentary track as well.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jimmy Simard's Avatar
      Jimmy Simard -
      It was kind of fun to see one of our ex Governor General in this too