The aged mesmerist ambles into the store to face his disinterested young critics, and so begins the vindication of Michael Powell, whose vituperated Peeping Tom is at the heart of Michael Reeves’s own heady excoriation of voyeurism. "Bloody artistic temperament!" The Old Guard (Boris Karloff and Catherine Lacey) in Swinging London, aghast and resentful, ready to try out their hypnotic apparatus to plug into the new generation’s pleasure dome. Their avatar (Ian Ogilvy) is a juvenile who runs a junk shop named "The Glory Hole," a punk grown weary of the modish enchantment of the discotheque. Promised "multicolored miracles," he goes to the couple’s apartment and promptly becomes a nonplussed Cesare, his actions experienced vicariously by the geriatric Caligaris. Their séances take place in an increasingly darkened living room, with squeamish Karloff and eager Lacey absorbed over the checkerboard tablecloth as if peering into a sulfuric cauldron. "Ever experienced speeding?" she asks, her gnome-granny wrinkles vibrating with glee. The addiction of cinema is the presiding metaphor, sensation (the more unsavory the better) is all: A swimming pool at night, the excitement of a jewelry burglary, the rush of a motorcycle race, a warm touch in bed and the cold kick of murder. Reeves’s modern England is hardly less bleak than the medieval nightmare of Witchfinder General, a land of woozy nightclubs, snakey back alleys, and cozy flats with closets leading into sinister laboratories. Borges y Yo, Skolimowski’s The Shout and Bigelow’s Strange Days, years of virtual reality foretold. Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse is tellingly adduced for the furioso finale, vacuous youth and envious dotage on opposite sides, charred together. With Elizabeth Ercy, Victor Henry, Sally Sheridan, and Susan George.
--- Fernando F. Croce