Pyx, The (1973)

“You’re going to help me achieve a miracle.”

Pyx Poster

Synopsis:
After a woman (Karen Black) is seen falling to her death from a high-rise building in Montreal, a pair of detectives (Christopher Plummer and Donald Pilon) investigate the case while Black’s life as a heroin-addicted prostitute with a controlling madam (Yvette Brind’amour) is shown in flashback.

Genres:

Review:
This atmospheric thriller — featuring Karen Black as both lead actress and singer/songwriter on the soundtrack — was directed by Canadian Harvey Hart, perhaps best known by film fanatics for the prison exploitation flick Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1971). The Pyx (the title refers to a container for the consecrated “body of Christ” in Catholicism) taps into both the nascent heroin-addiction crisis — chronicled in movies like The Panic in Needle Park (1971) and Dusty and Sweets McGee (1971) — and, as noted in Mondo Digital’s review, the success of Klute (1971), another film about a high-class call girl in trouble. Unfortunately, the film’s flashback structure — in addition to “giving away” the ending — makes the timeline needlessly confusing, as we’re shuttled back and forth between the detectives’ quest to learn why and how Black died, and Black’s life as a heroin-addicted prostitute. Black turns in a fine performance, but we learn too little about either her or the cult she’s sucked into to remain truly absorbed.

Note: This film’s more colorful video-release title was The Hooker Cult Murders.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Karen Black as Elizabeth
    Pyx Black
  • René Verzier’s cinematography
    Pyx Cinematography
  • Good use of Montreal locales

Must See?
No, unless you’re a Karen Black fan. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Pyx, The (1973)”

  1. First viewing.

    A once-must cult item, for its unique structure. I don’t find the film confusing, nor do I think the ending is tipped early. In fact, the way the story is told is probably the film’s biggest asset and the film would be less powerful otherwise. I don’t think it’s a great movie (Plummer’s performance is solid, but Black can only try valiantly in a role that gives her too little to play). It’s designed for the purpose of a tension-build that leads to a ‘big finish’. And that’s the main ‘disappointment’ – not that what we ultimately learn makes no sense, but the handling of it seems a bit flaccid. Still, director Hart does a good job with the tension-mount up to then.

    I rather like Black’s songs on the soundtrack. They contribute well to the general eeriness and add an appropriate sense of loneliness and longing.

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