The Pyx (1973) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

So what the hell is a pyx, anyway?

Well, it's a real thing, with an obscure religious purpose. Let me explain with an analogy.  Suppose you want to take your wife to Applebee's for her birthday because she really likes the hot taco salad, but she's too sick to travel. You can go by yourself and pick her up a take-out order, which Applebee's will pack in a styrofoam container to keep it warm on the trip home.

Now suppose you are a Catholic, and your wife is too sick to go to Mass, but she wants to participate in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist (communion). Well, like Applebee's, the Catholic Church has take-out orders which can be delivered to shut-ins. They do not, however, stick a consecrated host in a styrofoam container. I'm pretty sure they would consider that disrespectful, since they believe that the consecrated host is the body of Christ himself. Instead, they deliver the blessed hosts in something called a pyx. There are many different kinds, but the most common type looks just like a pocket watch, except that when opened it contains no mechanical parts, but merely a small piece of unleavened bread. Many of them are intricate and ornate, and they are usually formed from various combinations of gems and precious metals.

So how do you write a script about such a thing?

Something like this:

A police detective in Montreal investigates the mysterious death of a hooker. Her nearly naked body is found on the sidewalk in front of a high-rise building. She either jumped or was pushed from the roof. The detective believes that the explanation of her death will hinge on determining why an heroin-addicted prostitute, who was not even a practicing Catholic, was clutching something so esoteric as a pyx.

Once you learn what a pyx is, you can probably solve this mystery quickly. Let's see, I think we can assume that a non-religious junkie hooker was not bringing the sacrament of Holy Eucharist to the sick. So what else might one need a consecrated host for? How about a black mass?

The film is told in two separate stories, cutting between them almost at random until they converge inevitably. On the one hand, we watch the detective try to solve the crime. On the other hand, we flash back to watch the hooker's final days. As we see how she died, the story cuts back to the detective, who has finally figured out what we just saw, and is bursting in on the killer, handgun drawn. The hooker's half of the movie is resolved with no supernatural elements. She is recruited for the black mass, she rebels when asked to defile the consecrated host, runs from the room, tragedy ensues, and she is back on the sidewalk where we first saw her. There is no indication that the Satan-worshippers are anything but deluded maniacs. On the other hand, the final face-off between the detective and the senior satanist seems to veer the film ninety degrees away from the straightforward police procedural which it has been, and to imply that the maniacs may really be in contact with pure eeee-villlll.

Or not.

To cut to the chase, this film is not worth watching in its current condition. To begin with, some scenes are completely irrelevant to either of the parallel stories (an argument between the detective and his girlfriend, and various "driving to the destination" scenes, for example). That might not be so bad except that those irrelevant scenes are also banal and utterly boring, so you would have to struggle to keep your concentration on this film even under the best of conditions.

Unfortunately, we do not have the best of conditions. If the film itself is merely bad news, the DVD is a catastrophe. Although the DVD includes a widescreen version, the picture quality is inferior to the worst video tape you have ever seen. It looks like a movie taped from broadcast TV, then dubbed and re-dubbed until your copy is several generations removed from the original. Every scene is filled with noise. Some dark scenes are nearly solid blackness, while some bright scenes are nearly pure white. Not only that, but the aspect ratio is not correctly represented, so you will see a film consisting entirely of very thin people. The sound is not much better than the picture, with voices sounding hollow and sometimes appearing to be dubbed poorly.

Having recited that litany of problems, let me also state that there are some interesting elements to the film:

  • Christopher Plummer plays the police detective, and brings a modicum of professionalism to the film. On the other hand, Plummer is not one of those energetic Shakespearian actors like Olivier or Richard Harris. His brand of professionalism is stiff and aloof, and that makes some tedious scenes even more tedious.
  • Karen Black plays the junkie hooker, and she walks through her last few minutes on screen wearing nothing but see-through lingerie. (The character also has two rear nude scenes, but these seem to have been performed by a body double.)
  • Miss Black also composed and sang several songs for the soundtrack. Her numbers sound sort of like a cross between Buffy Saint-Marie and Enya, thus lending some scenes a spooky, warbling folk vibe.
  • Speaking of music, the Gregorian chant accompanying the black mass is some of the strangest stuff I've ever heard. In some cases the sound editor slowed down the human voices to a bass growl in order to make them sound spooky. The effect was pretty creepy, so that decision made some sense. What didn't make sense is that he also sped some of the voices up, and that section sounds like a 33 1/3 record played at 78. This is supposed to be a tense scene, but I challenge you not to laugh out loud when you hear the speeded-up music.

Or maybe that sound editor didn't really speed up some stock Gregorian chant. Maybe he just used the famous Chipmunks Unholy Sabbath album. Yeah, I guess that would explain why Satan keeps saying, "Alvin! Alvin!!!!"



  • The Pyx is also known as The Hooker Cult Murders
  • No features
  • The widescreen transfer is not anamorphically enhanced, and the picture quality is exceptionally poor


The hooker (Karen Black) appears in a see-through negligee, and is twice seen standing naked from the rear. Black's body appears in the negligee, but the full dorsal nudes seem to be a body double.

The detective's girlfriend is also seen topless in an apres-sex dialogue. I was not able to identify the actress in this role.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's an F as shown on this DVD transfer. I might be persuaded to say "D" or maybe even "C-" if anyone ever issues a good remastered transfer on DVD, but that's just not very likely with an obscure Canadian film from 1973.

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