“You’re going to help me achieve a miracle.”
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, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
- Christopher Plummer Films
- Detectives and Private Investigators
- Flashback Films
- Karen Black Films
- Prostitutes and Gigolos
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
- Good use of Montreal locales
No, unless you’re a Karen Black fan. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.
One thought on “Pyx, The (1973)”
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.