The Asphyx is – in ancient Greek mythology – the spirit of death, said to have existed in constant unspeakable agony since time began. Each person has their own Asphyx and when in mortal danger or close to death, the spirit of death hovers near. For only taking the soul of a person at the point of death can release the Asphyx from its torment.
In Victorian England, well-to-do country squire, scientist and photographer Sir Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens) invents a machine to capture moving pictures and accidentally captures on film the tragic drowning of his wife and son, Clive (Ralph Arliss).
When the film is replayed later, a ghostlike presence appears, flying towards his son and entering his dying body.
Hugo becomes morbidly obsessed with experimentation with the dying, searching for a way to escape death and capture immortality by capturing and imprisoning his Asphyx for all time.
But the horrific effects of eternal life upon him are revealed as he involves his adopted son Giles (Robert Powell) and his daughter Christina (Jane Lapotaire) in his work – intending to immortalise them also – and it is they who take the brunt of his sophisticated experiments with cameras and lights.
The script was clearly in need of at least one more rewrite although the film has impressive set design and photography, and a memorable screen monster in the imp-like Asphyx creature. The ending is clever, too.
Sir Hugo Cunningham
Sir Edward Barrett