Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Pyx (1973)

          A Canadian-made thriller with elements of character drama, police procedure, and supernatural horror, The Pyx is noteworthy for the presence of American actress Karen Black in the leading role. In addition to contributing poignant and subtle work to many scenes, she sings a few wispy songs on the soundtrack. Although it would be pleasant to report that the movie is a quality piece deserving of Black’s commitment, The Pyx is a rudderless and sluggish, with Christopher Plummer’s half-hearted performance in the underwritten co-leading role of a hard-driving police detective draining much of the energy that Black’s portrayal generates. Furthermore, because of the story’s structure, the stars never have scenes together. By the time The Pyx climaxes with a grim showdown involving Satan worship, the picture has devolved into utter mediocrity. That said, how many movies have been made about Montreal devil cults? The picture opens with the death of Black’s character—she falls or is pushed from a balcony atop a high-rise building and splats on the pavement far below. Two detectives, Jim Henderson (Plummer) and his French-Canadian partner Pierre Paquette (Donald Pilon), lead the ensuing investigation. The movie cuts back and forth between cop scenes and extended flashbacks depicting the final days of Elizabeth Lucy (Black), a heroin-addicted prostitute who ran with a dangerous crowd.
          The cop scenes are rudimentary, with Plummer essaying a tight-lipped tough guy who seems to get off on beating suspects even as he withholds his emotions from his long-suffering girlfriend. Yawn. The investigation itself is just as plodding, because none of the informants and/or suspects makes a real impression. Happily, the flashbacks bear more fruit. Not only do these scenes culminate in a creepy ritual, which adds much-needed visual flair, but Black does a fair job of conveying her character’s angst, confusion, and self-loathing. In one effectively overwrought scene, for instance, Elizabeth tries to comfort a drug-addicted friend while foolishly claiming that she can control her own addiction. The notion, presumably, was to demonstrate why Elizabeth’s psychological wounds made her susceptible to victimization by Satanists. In any event, the true thematic focus of the picture remains as murky as the storyline itself, even though The Pyx features a handful of colorful and emotional peaks.

The Pyx: FUNKY


starofshonteff0 said...

I found this to be really grim and oppressive, filled with the kind of Catholic self-loathing to make William Peter Blatty proud. However, without the sensational elements that turned THE EXORCIST into such a phenomenon, it's simply too bleak to be the North American breakout hit that the Canadian film industry was desperately seeking at the time.

Cindylover1969 said...

Too many rough movie cops with emotional remoteness; too few movie cops who are happily married with children (like Roger Murtaugh in the "Lethal Weapon" movies).