Images (1972): Altman’s Psychological Horror Drama, Starring Susannah York

Robert Altman, in change of pace after M.A.S.H., wrote and directed this psychological horror melodrama, starring Susannah York as a schizophrenic author of children’s book who suffers from hallucinations, unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not.

Images (1972 poster).jpg

Conceived by Altman in the mid-1960s, Images secured financing in 1971 by Hemdale Film Group and shot on location in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Sparsely composed by Altman, the script was further developed during the shoot with the actors.

The picture follows an unstable children’s author who finds herself engulfed in apparitions and hallucinations while staying at her remote vacation home.

In the course of the tale, Cathryn (York) receives a series of disturbing phone calls in her London home one dreary night; the female voice also suggests that her husband Hugh (René Auberjonois) is cheating on her.

When Hugh comes home, he finds Cathryn in distress, and as he tries to comfort her, she begins to witness a different man behaving as if he were her husband. She screams in horror and backs away, only to see her vision of the figure revert to her husband.

Images premiered at the 1972 Cannes Film Fest, where York won the Best Actress Award, after which it was released theatrically on December 18, 1972.

Critical reception of the film was mixed, with some critics praising York’s performance and Vilmos Zsigmond’s ominous cinematography, while others faulted it for being incoherent, comparing it to superior films like Polanksi’s 1965 Repulsion, with Catherine Deneuve.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Original Dramatic Score: John Williams

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

The winners of the Original Score Oscar were Charles Chaplin, Raymond Rasch, and Larry Russell for Limelight, which was made in 1952 but was eligible for awards consideration due to late theatrical release in the LA County.