Tag Archives: Amicus Productions

Amicus Productions anthology horror, Part III

Amicus 3

Amicus’ horror anthology films left a long lasting impression on me and I still find them just as enjoyable to watch today as ever. Yeah they can be a little campy and even cheesy by today’s standards, but look past all of that and there are some truly great stories being told in these films that are well worth checking out.

Sadly Amicus went under after the release of; The People That Time Forgot (1977) with their final horror anthology film being; From Beyond the Grave (1974). But the horror anthology sub genre lived on when Amicus co-founder, Milton Subotsky produced three more films.

Uncanny

The Uncanny: Written by Michael Parry, directed by Denis Héroux and released in 1977. The film stars; Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Ray Milland, Joan Greenwood, Donald Pilon, Samantha Eggar, and John Vernon.

Writer Wilbur Gray (Peter Cushing) goes to his publisher Frank Richards (Ray Milland) with his latest book all about the evilness of cats. Wilbur explains how he believes that cats are supernatural creatures capable of evil deeds and are in control of everything. Wilbur then goes on to tell three stories from his book which he claims are all true.

London 1912: Wealthy woman, Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) decides to rewrite her will leaving her fortune to her cats instead of her nephew Michael (Simon Williams). Janet (Susan Penhaligon) is the maid of the house working for Miss Malkin, she is also the mistress of Michael. Janet steals a copy of the will from the lawyer and then tries to destroy the original copy which is being kept in a safe so that her lover, Michael can inherent to money. When Miss Malkin discovers Janet trying to steal the other copy of the will from the safe, Janet kills her. However, the cats of Miss Malkin seek out revenge.

I quite liked this tale, its well shot and looks great. Solid performances all round and offers a few chills along the way.

Quebec Province 1975 After the death of her parents in a plane crash, Lucy (Katrina Holden) goes to live with her aunt Joan (Alexandra Stewart), her husband (Donald Pilon) and her cousin Angela (Chloe Franks). Lucy takes her cat, Wellington along too. Lucy also packs a few books that used to belong to get mother on the subject of Tarot and Witchcraft. Angela belittles and bullies Lucy as she starts to feel a little jealous of not being the centre of attention any more and even turns her bitterness towards the cat. Wellington dislikes Angela and is not afraid to show it either, Angela’s meddling and influence eventually convinces her parents to get rid of the cat and Joan asks her husband to take Wellington to be put to sleep. One night, Wellington mysteriously returns to the house and Lucy decides to turn to her mother’s old books for revenge on how her and Wellington have been treated.

Chloe Franks is really quite nasty as the jealous cousin in this yarn. The ending is quite bizarre and macabre as Lucy and Wellington teach Angela a lesson.

Hollywood 1936: A supposed mix up at the prop department sees actress Madeleine (Catherine Bégin) killed during filming of a horror film when the blade of a fake pendulum is replaced with a real one. Madeleine’s actor husband, Valentine De’ath (Donald Pleasence) suggests they replace his dead wife with a new, young and aspiring actress Edina Hamilton (Samantha Eggar). It turns out that Valentine is having an affair with Edina and it was he that switched the blades on the pendulum that killed his wife so he could pave the way for his young mistress. Edina moves into the marital home where Madeleine’s cat is waiting. The cat gives birth to a litter of kittens and Valentine gets rid of them in a rather unorthodox manor. Valentine and Edina try to get rid of the cat while the cat avenges the death of her kittens and Madeleine.

Donald Pleasence is excellent as the slimy cheating husband. The chasing and attempted capture of the cat is often played for laughs and a few of the other scenes are clearly meant to be tongue in cheek too. While the cats revenge is slightly more gruesome and bloody.

So how does the opening story wrap up in this one?
The publisher rubbishes Wilbur’s claims that the stories are true, but still agrees to publish the book anyway. Wilbur leaves his manuscript with Frank for safe keeping and heads back home. While walking home, Wilbur is stalked by several cats when they attack and kill him. Back at the publisher, Frank starts reading Wilbur’s new book himself but mysteriously throws it on the fire instead as if he is being controlled by his cat.

This was a decent film and in many ways, still felt like an Amicus picture the way it is shot. I have always felt that cats were a bit creepy and this film really has not helped my suspicions much either. Not as good as some of the previous films, but still worth watching.

Monster club

The Monster Club: Released in 1980, Directed by Roy Ward Baker, written by Edward Abraham and Valerie Abraham. Starring; Vincent Price, Donald Pleasence, John Carradine and Stuart Whitman.

Famous author, R. Chetwynd-Hayes (John Carradine) bumps into a strange man (Vincent Price) who is in need of help. Chetwynd-Hayes agrees to help him as the man suddenly bites into his neck. It turns out the man is a starving vampire named Eramus needing blood. Eramus only takes a little blood just enough to feel better and Chetwynd-Hayes is unharmed. Eramus thanks Chetwynd-Hayes for his blood and reveals he is quite a fan of his books. He offers to repay Chetwynd-Hayes’ kindness by inviting him to an exclusive gathering place for a multitude of supernatural creatures, The Monster Club. When there, Eramus begins to tell three stories about three specific monsters.

The Shadmock: Angela (Barbara Kellerman) is a a young, financially struggling woman living with her controlling boyfriend George (Simon Ward). George finds a job in a newspaper at a secluded manor house and suggests that Angela takes it so she can steal some of the riches found in the manor house. The house is owned by Raven (James Laurenson), a hybrid creature called a Shadmock. The Shadmock is notorious for its demonic, high-pitch whistling. Angela first refuses the job after being scared by Raven’s appearance, but eventually returns after being convinced to take the job by George. After a while of working at the house, Angela develops a friendship with Raven. He even proposes to her but Angela refuses the offer. However, George forces her to go through with the marriage so they can gain the Ravens vast wealth. At the engagement party, Raven catches Angela stealing from his safe. Angela screams that she will love him and reveals she is only there for his money. Heartbroken, the Shadmock whistles…

This story is really well done, touching at parts and gruesome at the end. You really do feel sorry for this Shadmock monster and as the story continues, you realise that he is not the real monster here.

The Vampires: Young Lintom (Warren Saire) is the shy and timid boy and often bullied at school, his father (Richard Johnson) barely spends any time with his son as he sleeps all day and works at night. Lintom discovers his father is actually a vampire who is being hunted by a team of undead killers lead by Pickering (Donald Pleasence). The vampire hunters gain access to the vampire’s home after Pickering befriends Lintom. The vampire hunters seemingly manage to kill the father, yet he is not quite dead as he manages to bite Pickering which will turn him into a vampire himself. Pickering’s own assistants then have to chase down and stake him to ensure he dies before becoming a vampire. Pickering is now dead and his men carry his body away while Lintom and his mother (Britt Ekland) go to the basement to find that the father is not as dead as Pickering hoped.

This one is the comic relief of the film, played up for laughs. Donald Pleasence does well here playing the vampire hunter while Richard Johnson does his best Bela Lugosi impression. Its a fun story with a few chuckles along the way.

The Ghouls: Movie director Sam (Stuart Whitman) goes out location scouting for his new film and he finds a isolated, decrepit village called; Loughville. Sam finds that the residents of the village refuse to let him leave and he discoverers that the village is inhabited by species of corpse eating demons called ghouls. The village has run dry of graves and corpses for the ghouls to eat as they grow hungry for flesh. Sam is imprisoned by the ghouls where he meets Luna (Lesley Dunlop), the daughter of a ghoul father (Patrick Magee) and a deceased human mother. Sam learns that the ghouls can not cross holy ground and so he and Luna hide in a church for protection. While in the church, Sam discovers that centuries before, a plague of ghouls invaded the village, mated with the humans and took the village as their own. Sam and Luna try to escape the village only for Luna to be killed as Sam manages to get away…or does he?

A pretty downbeat and dreary tale. Well shot and the mysterious village looks great, very moody and gothic with a sting of an ending.

The film ends…
Eramus suggests that his tales would make good stories for R. Chetwynd-Hayes to write and even thinks that Chetwynd-Hayes could become a member of the club. Chetwynd-Hayes points out he can not become a member as he is not a monster. This is when Eramus delivers a great speech explaining how humans are the biggest monsters of all with all the death they have created over the years, the weapons we have created and so on.

The Monster Club is a great slice of horror anthology that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I enjoy the meta joke of John Carradine playing real life author R. Chetwynd-Hayes. In fact it was Chetwynd-Hayes’ stories that were the basis for this very film and with Eramus suggesting the stories would make a good book…just the icing on the cake of this in-joke. The three stories are split up with musical segments, with a particular highlight being “The Stripper”. Good fun overall.

Cats eye

Cat’s Eye: Written by the great Stephen King, directed by Lewis Teague and relased in 1985. Starring; Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Robert Hays and Candy Clark.

Opening with a stray cat being chased by big dog as the dog chases the cat into the road and is almost hit by a car, the cat escapes into a van. Eventually the van stops and is opened as the cat explores the city (New York) it finds itself in. Coming to a shop front where the cat hears the cries of help from a young girl. the cat is found by and captured by an employee of Quitters, Inc where it is carried away as the first story begins.

Quitters, Inc: Chain cigarette smoker Dick Morrison (James Woods) decides to try to quit smoking by joining a controversial new company called; Quitters, Inc. Dr. Vinnie Donatti (Alan King) is the owner of the company and he explains they use unique methods to make people quite smoking and from this point on, if Dick smokes a cigarette, horrors of increasing magnitude will befall his wife and child. Donatti uses the cat from the opening as he demonstrates the first of these horrors: the cat is locked in a metal room and tormented with a series of electric shocks. Donatti explains that if Dick is caught with a cigarette, Dick’s wife Cindy (Mary D’Arcy) will be subjected to the same treatment as the cat while he is forced to watch. Then if he still smokes after that, his young daughter afflicted with down syndrome (Drew Barrymore) will be put into the room and given the same treatment too. After the third time, his wife will be raped, and after the fourth infraction, they “give up”/kill him. Dick hides the looming threat from his family.
That night, Dick goes home and tells his wife he has quit smoking, yet he finds an old pack of cigarettes in his desk. Just as he prepares to smoke it, Dick spots a pair of feet in his closet, believing it to be a Quitters, Inc employee he quickly disposes of the cigarette. A few weeks later, Dick is at a party where everyone is smoking as he finds it hard to resist the temptation but still avoids smoking.
But while stuck in a traffic jam, Dick finally snaps and smokes after finding an old forgotten pack of cigarettes in his glove-box as a Quitters, Inc employee spots him. Back at the Quitters, Inc office, Dick is forced to watch as Cindy suffers in the electrified room. Dick attacks Donatti as the cat manages to escape. Donatti gains the upper hand in the fight and says he understands and forgives Dick for his slip of smoking. Dick is determined never to smoke again and tells his wife everything.
Weeks later and Dick has finally quit smoking for good but as a result has gained some extra weight. Dr. Donatti prescribes diet pills to help lose the weight and sets a target weight for Dick to hit. Jokingly, Dick asks if a man would attack his house with a flame thrower if he continues to gain weight. Donatti returns the joke by saying that someone will cut off his wife’s pinky finger. Dick and Cindy have a dinner party where friends toast Quitters, Inc for a job well done, as Dick learns Donatti was not joking.

A good story with a nice hard message behind it. Woods gives a believable performance as the struggling to quit smoking addict and the ending has a nice punctuation it.

The Ledge: The cat, having escaped Quitters, Inc and manages to travel to New Jersey, where it hears the same girl’s voice from before asking for its help again. Meanwhile, gambler and former tennis pro Johnny Norris (Robert Hays) is seeing a married woman Marcia (Patricia Kalember) who’s jealous husband is a major crime boss and casino owner Cressner (Kenneth McMillan). Cressner is a betting man and wins a wager that the cat will successfully cross the busy road outside his casino. The cat makes the dangerous crossing and Cressner takes the cat home. Johnny is kidnapped by Cressner as a form of revenge for seeing his wife.
This is when Cressner blackmails Johnny into taking a dangerous wager. Johnny is forced to make his way around a narrow 5″ wide ledge that surrounds the exterior of Cressner’s penthouse apartment atop a skyscraper. If he can make it all the way around, Cressner will give up Marcia making her available for Johnny. But if he refuses the challenge, Cressner will call the police and have Johnny arrested for possession of drugs, which have been planted in his car. With little choice, Johnny accepts the wager and climbs out onto the ledge to make his way around. Along the way, Cressner and henchman Ducky (Mike Starr) occasionally appear at the various windows around the penthouse to ensue Johnny does not cheat and even try to hinder his progress. Yet despite their continual harassment, Johnny makes it all the way around back to the apartment.
Here he learns that Marcia has been dead the whole time, killed by Cressner, who claims he will honour his bet, the drugs have been removed and Johnny can have Marcia…well some of her anyway. Johnny attacks Cressner as Ducky drops his gun when tripped by the fleeing cat. Johnny grabs the gun and kills the henchman. He then forces Cressner to undergo the same ordeal on the ledge, but Cressner is not quite as successful.

This tale is well put together though lacking in any real surprises. Its one of those you can tell what will happen 3 minutes after the story begins.

General: The cat hops aboard freight train and travels to North Carolina where it is adopted by Amanda (Drew Barrymore) and calls the cat General. Amanda’s mother, Sally (Candy Clark) refuses to allow the cat in the house during the night and puts General out. At night a small, evil troll comes out and kills the family’s parakeet with a tiny dagger and then even tries to steal Amanda’s breath while she sleeps. General manages to find a way back into the house and battles the troll who wounds the cat’s shoulder with his dagger. The troll successfully flees as Amanda and her parents to discover the dead bird.
Amanda tells her parents a monster killed the bird but they are convinced that General killed their parakeet. When the father discovers the dagger wound on the cat and realises its too large to have been caused by a bird, he starts to doubt that General killed the bird after all. General is taken to the animal shelter and is scheduled to be put to sleep the next day at Sally’s request. That night, the troll comes back and wedges Amanda’s room door shut from the inside. The troll again attempts to take Amanda’s breath while she sleeps. At the animal shelter, General is brought his last meal before being put to sleep. But when his cage is opened, he escapes and rushes back to the house determined to save Amanda from the troll.
Back in Amanda’s room, General and the roll have a fight which General wins. The noise the fight creates wakes the parents as they find what is left of the Troll and it’s dagger that caused General’s wound before. The parents finally allow General to stay to protect Amanda and the cat now has a loving home.

The end fight scene between the cat and the troll is really well done here and the troll itself can be pretty scary. A good story and a great way to end the anthology.

This film is an enjoyable one. Its not in the same vein as other anthology films in this retrospective as it’s not really “horror”. But the stories work well enough and offer plenty of entertainment. There are a few fun nods to other Stephen King work to find throughout this film; the dog chasing the cat in the opening is similar to Cujo from King’s book and the car that almost runs over the cat has a fender sticker with the name “Christine” on it and one of the characters in the film is reading Pet Cemetery.
This anthology was the last one Amicus co-founder Milton Subotsky was involved in before his death in 1991 and marked the end of an era.

Just for a bit of fun and seeing as we ended with a Stephen King based film. I can even make this whole retrospective come full circle…
Back in the early 80’s, George A. Romero wanted to pay homage to the classic Amicus horror anthology films and tried to get a remake of the 1972 Tales from the Crypt off the ground. He even asked Stephen King to get involved. But there were early production problems the duo just could not get the film made. So instead, they decided to stick with the homage idea and create an all new horror anthology themselves inspired by EC comics and what we got was the amazing Creepshow (1982).

Creepshow 2

So there you go, if you are a fan of Creepshow as I am…then you have Amicus to thank of that.

I genuinely miss the horror anthology sub genre and it has unfortunately dropped out of favour with film fans over recent years. There have been the odd attempt at a revival with the really good; Trick ‘r Treat (2007) and even an announced sequel…which has still yet to arrive.
Then there has been the over the top and rather experimental; ABCs of Death (2012) and ABCs of Death 2 (2014) with its approach of having 26 individual short films who’s title starts with a letter of the alphabet.
There has even been an attempt to revive the great Creepshow franchise with Creepshow 3 (2006)..but it was utter shit and us horror anthology fans like to pretend it never existed.

Still, even with all these efforts at getting this sub genre back in favour. I still hold a very special place in my film loving heart for the Amicus films on the 60s and 70s as well as Milton Subotsky’s final three contributions here.

I’d love to see this sub genre as popular as it was back in the 60s and 70s, but I really do not see it happening.
To coin an often used phrase, they just don’t make them like this any more.

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Amicus Productions anthology horror, Part II

Amicus 2

Welcome to part II of my retrospective look back at Amicus and especially their horror anthology series of films. We are off to a great start with possibly the best film Amicus produced in this sub genre and one that went on to spawn its own infamous franchise.

TFTC

Tales from the Crypt: This one was released in 1972, directed by Freddie Francis and written by Milton Subotsky. With a cast that includes; Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Patrick Magee and Ralph Richardson.

Five strangers take a tour of old catacombs. While walking around, they become separated from the main group and find themselves in a room with a mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson) who begins to tell each of the five how they will die.

…And All Through the House: Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) murders her husband (Martin Boddey) on Christmas Eve. She realises that she needs to get rid of the body and starts to cover up her crime, when she hears a radio broadcast about a homicidal maniac (Oliver MacGreevy) who has escaped and is on the loose. After not too long, Joanne sees the maniac roaming around outside of the house dressed up in a Father Christmas costume. Realising she can not call the police without giving away her crime, she locks herself in the house believing she will be safe. Unfortunately, Joanne’s young daughter, Carol (Chloe Franks) thinks the costumed maniac is the real Father Christmas…

A very tense and well made tale that was even turned into the very first episode of the Tales from the Crypt TV show in the late 80s. Great start to this anthology.

Reflection of Death: Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) walks out on his wife and children to run away with his girlfriend he has been having an affair with, Susan Blake (Angela Grant). As they are driving away together, they are involved in a car crash. Carl wakes up in the wrecked car some time later to find he is alone. He tires to get help and even hitch-hike, but nobody will stop to help him. Eventually, he arrives back at his family home and sees his wife (Susan Denny) with another man. Carl knocks on the door asking for help and when she opens the door, she just screams and slams the door in his face. Carl decides to go to see his girlfriend, Susan at her place and learns she has become blind after the car accident earlier. But why would nobody help Carl after the accident and how did Susan get from the car accident to her home if she was blind?

This one is a great story with a fantastic twist that I really do not want to ruin here. Probably my second favourite story in this one, as my favourite is next.

Poetic Justice: Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing) is a caring but rather shabby old widower who owns a number of animals and likes to entertain children in his house. His neighbour, Edward Elliott (David Markham) and his son James (Robin Phillips) look down on Arthur and resent his scruffy and lax attitude towards his home as they feel he is bringing down the reputation of the area. Edward and James decide to create a smear campaign against Arthur hoping he will sell his home and move away. First the farther and son have Arthur’s beloved dogs taken away from him, they also persuade a member of the council to have Arthur sacked from his job and the farther and son even exploit the local parents’ paranoiac fears and hint that Arthur may be a child molester. Then, on Valentine’s Day, James sends Arthur several poison-pen Valentines which James signs from the various neighbours. Having lost everything he has ever cared about and believing he is hated by everyone, Arthur eventually commits suicide. One year later and Edward and James find their hate campaign comes back to haunt them.

This one is definitely my favourite tale of this anthology. Peter Cushing’s performance is mesmerising as the loving but misunderstood and bullied old man. I later discovered that Peter’s real life wife died shorty before he made this film and you can really feel his pain in the performance.

Wish You Were Here: Close to financial ruin, Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) and his wife, Enid (Barbara Murray) discover a Chinese figurine that says it will grant three wishes to whoever possesses it. To get themselves out of the financial trouble they are in, Enid wishes for a fortune and it does come true. However, Ralph is killed in a car accident on his way to his lawyer’s office to collect the newly found fortune. The lawyer Charles Gregory (Roy Dotrice) tells Enid she will inherit the fortune due to her deceased husband’s life insurance plan. She decides she is not happy without her husband even with all the money and uses the second wish to bring him back to the way he was immediately before the accident. Unfortunately, Ralph’s death was due to a heart attack which lead to him crashing the car and Enid bringing him back immediately before the accident results in him still suffering the heart attack and so he is still dead. So Enid uses her third and final wish to bring him back alive and to live forever…which does not quite turn out how she expects it to.

This yarn is based on the classic; The Monkey’s Paw story by W. W. Jacobs. Its a tale that has been done many times over the years in various ways. This one is a good take on the tale that while sticks to the basic three wishes staple, it still does its own thing with it.

Blind Alleys: A home for the blind being run by Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick) starts to make drastic financial cuts by reducing heat and even rationing food for the residents. While the blind residents suffer at the hand of Major William Rogers, he himself lives a life of luxury with his dog Shane. The Major and Shane look after themselves with all the money he is saving that should be spent on the residents. Major William Rogers and his dog eat the very best food while the blind residents have to put up with poor quality slop. The cold eventually kills one of the residents and one of them, George Carter (Patrick Magee) decides to stand up to and confront Major William Rogers over the cuts. The residents decide to extract revenge on the Major and kidnap him while they starve his dog, Shane. The blind men construct a maze of narrow corridors in the basement, some of them lined with razor blades. They then release the Major into the maze and turn off the lights, making him blind. As the Major attempts to escape, he cuts himself on the razors and begins to bleed, the residents then release the starving dog…

A great little story about abuse and revenge and a fantastic way to end this film….except for the wrap around story of course.

After the final story is told.
The Crypt Keeper reveals that he was not actually warning the strangers of what would happen, but really telling them what has already happened. Each of the five have all “died without repentance”. There are even some nicely placed clues in the opening that hint they are already dead for you to spot. The door to Hell opens, and the five strangers enter.

This one is Amicus at their best. Each of the five stories in this one are all really well done with some great twists and resolves. This film even spawned the much loved; Tales from the Crypt TV series that ran from 1989 to 1996, as well as that show itself creating several film spin offs.

Asylum

Asylum: Another one released in 1972. This one was directed by Roy Ward Baker and written by Robert Bloch. Joining the cast this time around, we have; Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Robert Powell, Herbert Lom, Barry Morse and Patrick Magee.

Dr Martin (Robert Powell) arrives at an asylum “for the incurably insane” for a job interview. Dr. Lionel Rutherford (Patrick Magee) is the wheelchair bound authoritarian of the asylum. Rutherford explains the reason he is in the wheelchair is due to an attack by one of the inmates. He intends to test Dr Martin to see of he is suitable for the job by asking him to interview five of the residents in order to find Dr B. Starr. Starr was the former head of the asylum, who underwent a complete mental breakdown. If Dr Martin can work out which of the people he talks to is Dr B. Starr then Rutherford will “consider” him for the job. An asylum attendant Max Reynolds (Geoffrey Bayldon) takes Dr Martin through a security door to the inmates’s cells, where the interviews take place.

Frozen Fear: Bonnie (Barbara Parkins) is the teller of this tale. Ruth (Sylvia Syms) is a wealthy heiress who has an interest in and studies voodoo-like magic. Her husband, Walter (Richard Todd) buys Ruth a new chest freezer as a gift that he has had delivered to their home. Walter takes her to see her new gift but actually kills her, cuts her body up with an axe, wraps up the individual pieces and places them in the freezer. It is revealed that Walter has been having an affair with Bonnie and he plans on stealing his wife’s fortune and running away with his mistress. The only problem is that Ruth just refuses to die as her dismembered corpse comes back for revenge and kills Walter. Later, Bonnie comes looking for her lover at his home only to find Walter dead and Ruth is still out for revenge…

This one is pretty standard stuff and doesn’t really offer any twists or surprises. Yet its till a good tale with the moral of; “Hell hath no fury…”

The Weird Tailor: Bruno (Barry Morse) is a tailor that recounts how poverty forced him to accept an unusual request from a customer. Mr. Smith (Peter Cushing) comes to Bruno’s tailors and asks for a very special suit to be made from a unique material. This fabric is a gleaming, shimmering textile with mysterious powers. Mr. Smith says he is willing to pay a lot of money for the suit to be made, this money would be enough to get Bruno and his wife, Anna (Ann Firbank) out of the financial trouble they are currently in. The suit is made and Bruno goes to deliver it to Mr. Smith, yet he learns that Mr. Smith is not as wealthy as he claimed and can not actually pay for the suit after all. Mr. Smith tells Bruno he must have the suit as he wishes to place it on his deceased son. They fight and Bruno accidentally kills Mr. Smith. Bruno returns to his shop with the suit but no money. Anna dresses their store mannequin in the suit as the suit’s powers are revealed.

Peter Cushing is great in this creepy yet charming role. This is a well shot story with a gloomy style that drips atmosphere.

Lucy Comes To Stay: Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) tells her story and informs Dr. Martin she has been in an asylum before. When she was released from her previous asylum, Barbara was placed under observation by her brother George (James Villiers) and a nurse, Miss Higgins (Megs Jenkins) at their family home. Barbara’s complex life is put into even more chaos when her mischievous best friend, Lucy (Britt Ekland) comes to visit who starts to make Barbara’s life very difficult.

I don’t really want to say too much about this one as it really is a great story with a fantastic stinger of an ending. I feel going into to much detail will ruin the story for those that have not seen it. For me, the best tale in this film.

Mannikins of Horror: Finally, Dr. Martin interviews Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom). Byron explains he has been working on an experiment. Soul transference with a small automaton he had created whose head is a likeness of his own. Byron hopes he can create a living mannequin and even says how his robot’s inner workings are in fact organic. Martin ends the interview and returns to Dr. Lionel Rutherford to deliver his judgement as to which of the five inmates really is Dr B. Starr, but he refuses to play this “game” Rutherford is playing.

Pretty short story that is really used as the set up for the film’s epilogue.

So about that epilogue…
It turns out that Dr. Byron is actually successful in bringing his mannequin to life which he sends down to Rutherford’s office and kills him with a scalpel. Martin destroys the mannequin, which results in the death of Dr. Byron. Martin seeks help and finds Max Reynolds, the asylum assistant he met at the start. Reynolds reveals he is in fact Dr B. Starr and that he killed the real Max Reynolds a few days earlier and then he strangles Martin to death. Sometime later, a new candidate for the job arrives and is met by Dr. Starr, who escorts him into the asylum.

I really enjoyed this one, there are some great tales. The wrap around story and ending works out really well and the laugh delivered at the end by Geoffrey Bayldon as Dr B. Starr still chills me every time I hear it. Great anthology film worth checking out.

VOH

Vault of Horror: Directed by Roy Ward Baker and written by Milton Subotsky, released in 1973. This one stars Terry Thomas, Dawn Addams, Denholm Elliott, Tom Baker, Michael Craig, Terence Alexander, Glynis Johns, Robin Nedwell, Geoffrey Davies, Daniel Massey and Anna Massey.

In an office block in London, five strangers board a lift that reaches the sub-basement, though none of them pressed that button. They find themselves in a fully furnished room as the lift door has closes and there are no buttons to bring it back or any other exit. With no choice other than to wait for help to arrive. The five men settle down with a few drinks and talk. The conversation turns to dreams, and each of them tells of a recurring nightmare they have.

Midnight Mess: Harold Rodgers (Daniel Massey) sets out to track down his sister Donna (Anna Massey) who mysteriously disappeared a while back. It seems that Donna is in line for an impressive inheritance after their father died a few weeks ago leaving everything he owned to Donna. Harold goes to a strange village he learns his sister is staying in, when he arrives at Donna’s house, he finds she is not home so instead goes into a near by restaurant for something to eat. Only he finds the restaurant is closing and they will not serve him. Harold goes back to the house and this time Donna is home. When inside the house, Harold kills Donna so he can claim the inheritance for himself. He leaves the murder scene and sees that the restaurant is still open and people are going inside so decides to settling down for a post-murder meal. He learns that the food served is a little strange and the village is not quite what it seems, also that Donna is not as dead as he hoped.

An intriguing little fable with a doozy of an ending where Harold becomes the toast of the village.

The Neat Job: Arthur Critchit (Terry Thomas) is an obsessive compulsive when it comes to being tidy and organised. He marries Eleanor (Glynis Johns) as a trophy wife who turns out not quite the domestic goddess he hoped for. Eleanor leaves things out of place, moves furniture around, etc. All of which starts to annoy Arthur and agitates his OCD. Arthur takes Eleanor down to the basement and his workshop where he shows her how he likes to keep everything neat and organised. Arthur constantly nags as his wife about how he wants everything organised and Eleanor starts to become more and more nervous and drives her to borderline madness. One day, Eleanor accidentally spills some furniture polish on the carpet, among other disasters, and tries to cover it up. Arthur eventually finds the chaos and disarray including in his beloved workshop. Arthur starts to continually shout at her, “Can’t you do anything neatly?” over and over again. Then Eleanor shows Arthur just how neat she can be…

This one is played quite light in tone and not really scary. But its a good anecdote regardless with a nice, dark humoured ending.

This Trick’ll Kill You: As a magician on a working holiday in India, Sebastian (Curd Jürgens) and his wife Inez (Dawn Addams) are out looking for inspiration for some new magic tricks to take back home for their act. They find nothing of any real interest and even points out the flaws in the tricks he has seen so far. Then Sebastian sees a young girl (Jasmina Hilton) charming a rope out of a basket with a flute and even climbs the rope. He just can not work out how the trick is done and offers to buy the trick, but the girl tells him it is no trick and not for sale at any price. So he persuades the girl to come to his hotel room for a private display of the rope trick. Sebastian and Inez murder the girl and steal her rope trick for themselves. Sebastian plays the flute, and the rope rises just as it did with the girl previously. Realizing that they have discovered a genuine piece of actual magic, the couple begin plans to work the trick into their act which does not work out well at all.

A mysterious yarn with a happy ending…just not for Sebastian and Inez.

Bargain in Death: Mr. Maitland (Michael Craig) and his friend, Alex (Edward Judd) plan an insurance scam where Maitland agrees to be buried alive by Alex to fake his own death so Alex can claim the insurance money and give it to Maitland after he digs him back up. However, Alex double-crosses Maitland, leaving him to suffocate in his grave instead of digging him back up. Tom (Robin Nedwell) and Jerry (Geoffrey Davies), two trainee doctors bribe a local gravedigger (Arthur Mullard) to dig up a recently buried corpse to help with their studies. The gravedigger digs up Maitland’s recently buried coffin and opens it and Maitland jumps up gasping for air, leading to an ending of misfortune for Maitland and Alex.

Really enjoyed this one with its “everything works out fine in the end” conclusion…as long as you don’t try to double-cross a friend.

Drawn and Quartered: Moore (Tom Baker) is an artist living on Haiti, struggling for money. Moore learns that his paintings have been sold for high prices by art dealers Diltant (Denholm Elliott) and Gaskill (John Witty) after being praised by critic Fenton Breedley (Terence Alexander), all of whom told him that they were worthless which forced Moore to sell his paintings to the dealers at incredibly low prices. Feeling cheated, Moore goes to a voodoo priest and his painting hand is given some kind of voodoo power. Moore discovers that whatever he draws or paints, the subject can physically be harmed and manipulated if he damages the original image he has made. These events coincide with Moore completing a self-portrait he had been previously working on, which he keeps under lock and key to prevent the voodoo from turning on him. He returns to London and paints portraits of the three men that conned him previously. Moore begins to deface the paintings in various ways as to extract his revenge. However, he learns that keeping his own self-portrait locked away in an airless safe nearly suffocates him. So he lets his own portrait out in the open for some air. Then a workman accidentally drops a can of paint thinner onto Moore’s self-portrait…

This is a nice twisted tale of revenge with Tom Baker in excellent form as the wronged artist seeking retribution with a nice ending.

After all the stories have been told.
The five men ponder the meaning of their nightmares. The lift they arrived in eventually opens, and they find themselves looking out onto a gloomy graveyard. The men walk out and slowly disappear one by one. Sebastian stays behind, and explains that they are all damned souls compelled to tell the story of their evil deeds for all eternity. He then looks back into the room they came from that has now changed to the inside of a tomb with a coffin in the centre as the door slams shut behind him.

This one has some great stories and performances throughout. Creepy at times and even a fair amount of gore for the time too.

FBTG

From Beyond the Grave: From 1974, Directed by Kevin Connor, written by Raymond Christodoulou and Robin Clarke. With a cast of; Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Ian Bannen, Diana Dors and David Warner.

There is an antique shop called; Temptations Limited who’s motto is; “Offers You Cannot Resist”. The shop is owned and run by a strange old man (Peter Cushing) sells items to all that come in and each item has its own story to tell.

The Gatecrasher: Edward Charlton (David Warner) purchases an antique mirror after tricking the proprietor into believing it is a cheap reproduction. Back home, Edward and his friends decide to hold a séance and he falls into a trance. While in the trance, Edward comes face to face with a malevolent figure (Marcel Steiner) and this figure proceeds to stab Edward. Waking from the trance screaming, he then sees the same figure appear in his mirror and orders Edward to kill so that it can “feed”. He kills for the mirror several times until the mirror persuades Edward to kill himself, which he does so by impaling himself on a knife held by the now living spirit of the mirror. The mirror is left abandoned in Edward’s flat for years, until the new owner moves in and decides to hold a séance…

Not a bad little tale here. David Warner give a very sinister performance as he slowly is driven insane by the mirror. Though the “twist” ending really does not surprise in any way.

An Act of Kindness: Frustrated and bored with his job while trapped in a loveless marriage to Mabel (Diana Dors), Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen) befriends Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence) an old soldier and war hero. Desperate to impress he newly found friend, Christopher tells Jim that he is a decorated soldier himself. To further back up his lie, he tries to persuade the antique shop proprietor to sell him a Distinguished Service Order medal. The proprietor says that he can not sell the medal unless Christopher can provide a certificate to prove he had been awarded the medal before. Without the proof, he steals the medal instead. Jim is impressed by the medal, and invites Christopher to his home for tea where he gets to meets Jim’s daughter, Emily (Angela Pleasence). After a while, Christopher is seduced by Emily’s unusual charm and they begin an affair. Emily produces a miniature doll Christopher’s wife, Mabel, and holds a knife to it. She asks Christopher to order her to do his will, he agrees and orders her to cut the doll. As the doll is cut a drop of blood appears from its mouth. Christopher rushes home to find Mabel is indeed dead. Christopher and Emily eventually marry now that he is a free man, but during the wedding and as the cake is to be cut. Emily asks everyone present if they want her to cut. They all say yes and Emily brings the knife down, but rather than cut the cake, she cuts into the head of the decorative groom on top.

This one is a slow burner, but well worth it all in the end (I didn’t give away all of the ending). With mesmerising and rather bizarre performances from both Donald Pleasence and he real life daughter Angela.

The Elemental: Snooty and pompous businessman Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael) enters the antique store. He cheats the proprietor by swapping the prices on a snuff box so he can buy it at a lower price. The proprietor sells him the box at the altered price, bidding him farewell with a cheery “I hope you enjoy snuffing it.” On the train heading home, Reggie meets an eccentric old lady, Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) who claims that she is a clairvoyant/white witch. She claims that Reggie has something called an Elemental on his shoulder, Reggie dismisses her crazy claims…at first. But when his dog disappears and his wife Susan (Nyree Dawn Porter) is attacked and almost choked to death by an unseen force, he calls upon the services of Madame Orloff who exorcises the supposed Elemental from Reggie’s home, and all seems well. Even his dog returns home. Yet later, Reggie hears some strange noises coming from upstairs and goes up to investigate. He gets knocked down the stairs by something and is rendered unconscious. Eventually he wakes up to find Susan possessed by the Elemental.

Kind of like a light hearted version of The Exorcist. Margaret Leighton as the whimsical Madame Orloff provides some comic relief and has a few funny lines. Yet even with this lighter tone, the ending few minutes of the story are really quite tense and moody.

The Door: A young writer, William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy) wants to purchase an ancient ornate door from the proprietor. Unable to meet asking price, he manages to agree to a reduced price instead. The proprietor goes to the back of the shop to note Seaton’s details for delivery of the door and he leaves the till open. After Seaton leaves the shop, the proprietor starts counting the money in the open till. Rosemary (Lesley-Anne Down), William’s wife can seem to see what originally lay behind the door when she touches it. The door used to replace and old stationary cupboard door and when William opens it, he finds a mysterious blue room lies behind it. The room contains notes of Michael Sinclair (Jack Watson), an evil occultist who made the door as a means to trap anybody who walks through it so that he can steal their souls and live forever. William escapes the room but finds that the influence of the door has spread and will not let him leave the house, trapping William and Rosemary. In some kind of a trance, Rosemary opens the door and enters the room where she finds Michael waiting. Rosemary is carried away by Michael Sinclair as he begins to taunt William into following them. William starts to attack the door with an axe which begins to destroy the room. Rushing into the room to help Rosemary they both eventually escape and continue to destroy the door and room. While back the the antique shop, the proprietor finishes counting the till and finds all the money is there.

A simple enough story that doesn’t really do much right or wrong, its just kind of there. I kind of like the whole counting the money gag as you think William has maybe short changed/stolen from the shop when it turns out nothing is amiss. But aside from that, the story is a little flat.

The ending?
A shady looking character (Ben Howard) enters the antique shop and persuades the proprietor to hand him two loaded antique pistols. Now in possession of the guns, he attempts to rob the shop. The proprietor refuses to hand over any money begins to walk towards the thief. As the thief shoots both of the pistols directly at the proprietor, but the bullets seems to have no effect. The terrified thief continues to stagger backwards and falls into an iron maiden and is killed. The proprietor then talks to the camera and welcomes the viewer as his next customers and says that each purchase comes with “a big novelty surprise”.

This one is a bit hit and miss I find. There are good stories here and even great performance, Peter Cushing is as awesome as ever in the wrap around story. But overall, the film just lacks any real punch. A sad and slightly disappointing ending to Amicus and their horror anthology films really.

From Beyond the Grave was sadly the final horror anthology film from Amicus before the studio went bust. But in part III I cover the three horror anthology films Amicus co-founder Milton Subotsky went on to create after Amicus, one including a film based on the work of horror writing legend Stephen King.

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Amicus Productions anthology horror, Part I

I love the sub genre of anthology/portmanteau films. I like the fact they have several smaller stories contained into one film, often wrapped up in a connecting story in itself. So if you don’t like one story, there will be another one along in a few minutes to enjoy.
Its a classic storytelling format that has seemingly and sadly fallen out of favour in recent years.

When you think of great anthology horror films, most people think of Creepshow…and rightly so to.

Creepshow

Creepshow is an amazing film, written by Stephen King, directed by George A. Romero and special effects by Tom Savini. That is pretty much horror royalty of the 70s/80s right there. For me, Creepshow is the cream of the crop of the horror anthology sub genre. But I don’t want to talk about Creepshow here. This retrospective is all about Amicus Productions.

Amicus 1

Amicus were a British film production company, based at Shepperton Studios, England. Though technically a British company, it was actually founded by Americans; producer/screenwriter Milton Subotsky and producer Max Rosenberg.
Amicus relased many films from 1962 to 1977. The films they produced covered a variety of genres including; sci-fi, espionage, drama and musicals.

But it was their horror films they became known for and managed to even be a notable rival to the awesome Hammer Film Productions who were THE film studio for horror films back in the 60s/70s with their versions of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and so on.

Amicus even managed to attract some of the biggest stars of the time including; Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Patrick Magee, Terry Thomas, Burgess Meredith and Sir Ralph Richardson. They also featured a lot of then unknown actors like; Donald Sutherland, Robert Powell, Tom Baker and Joan Collins among many others. Watching classic Amicus horror anthology films now is like walking around a museum of classic British and American actors, it can be quite surprising to watch these films now and see the star power (past, present and future) they really had.

Amicus used the classic EC horror comic series for some of the stories in their anthology films, but they also had the help of famed horror/thriller writer Robert Bloch, you may know him as the writer of the amazing book; Psycho. They would also often use some humour and a touch of the macabre to great effect in their films.

For this retrospective, I am going to take a look at my favourites of the Amicus produced horror anthology films and each of the stories in those films until the studio finally went under. As well as take a look at what happened to Amicus afterwards with a few other horror anthology films Amicus founder Milton Subotsky continued to make after the company went bust.

These films and the stories within the films are famed for having twists, stings and surprises. If you don’t want anything spoiled then stop reading now and go watch these films as I’ll be covering each film and the stories including important plot points but I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers. Yet I do have to pre warn, possible spoilers ahead.

With a total of ten films and each film with multiple stories contained within them…there’s a lot to cover in this retrospective, I had better get started.

Dr Terror

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors: Released in 1965 and sporting a cast including; Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Donald Sutherland and Roy Castle. Directed by Freddie Francis and written by Milton Subotsky.

This film starts with five strangers boarding a train and sharing a carriage. They are then joined by a sixth man, Doctor Schreck (Peter Cushing) who reveals he can read Tarot cards and offers to tell the five strangers their futures…

Werewolf: The first story of this film features Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum) an architect who travels to Scotland and his former home to make alterations requested by the new owner, Mrs. Biddulph (Ursula Howells). Jim finds a secret room in the cellar which reveals the coffin of Count Cosmo Valdemar, who was the original owner the house 200 years ago. It is revealed that Valdemar was killed in a conflict with the Dawson family centuries ago and they stole the house from him and Valdemar swore revenge since then and wishes to reclaim his house. Jim learns that Valdemar is emerging at night and takes the form of a werewolf to seek his revenge.

An interesting take on the werewolf mythos with some creepy atmosphere and tense scenes. Great way to start the anthology but not the best story in this film.

Creeping Vine: Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman) along with his wife (Ann Bell) and their daughter (Sarah Nicholls) return from a family holiday to find a fast growing vine has begun to sprout in their garden. Whenever Bill tries to cut the vine down, it reacts violently. Deciding to go to The Ministry of Defence for help, it turns out the vine has become intelligent and has learned to react to anyone or thing that threatens it. The vine slowly kills off anyone that dares to interfere as it continues to grow and grow.

This one is a bit of a silly tale and doesn’t really offer much in the way of scares or surprises. But there is a nice mini botany lesson thrown in though.

Voodoo: Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) plays a jazz musician who accepts a job playing in the West Indies. Once there he steals a tune from a local religious voodoo ceremony. Now back in London, when Biff plays the tune he stole there are some serious and disturbing consequences as he is pursued by an unknown force.

This one is the comic relief of the anthology and is played for laughs so it more lighter in tone than the other stories and as a result there is not really much here to find scary, but it does provide a few laughs and some great jazz music.

Disembodied Hand: The fourth tale has Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee) playing well known art critic. He is a man self absorbed and enjoys putting people down with his wit. Artist Eric Landor (Michael Gough) gets on the receiving end of one of Franklyn’s overtly aggressive tirades, yet he gets even with the critic by humiliating him publicly. Franklyn is not the kind of person that takes humiliation well and drives over Eric with his car, resulting in him losing a hand. Unable to paint any more, Eric commits suicide and Franklyn Marsh is haunted by the disembodied hand.

Without giving too much away, this one packs quite an ending and for me the best story in the film. With a brilliant and smarmy performance by the great Christopher Lee who ends up getting what he deserves.

Vampire: The last story of the film where Dr. Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) returns home to America with his new French bride, Nicolle (Jennifer Jayne). Bob discovers the existence of a vampire and learns that the vampire is indeed his new wife. After seeking advice from fellow doctor and friend, Dr. Blake (Max Adrian). Bob agrees to kill his vampire wife. The police arrive and this is where twist of this tale is revealed.

Pretty good tale this one with a then unknown Donald Sutherland. Giving us an interesting vampire story that is not as back and white as it first seems. It moody and well shot with some great cinematography.

The film concludes with another twist.
Doctor Schreck informs the men that the only way to avoid these terrible futures is to die before they actually happen. The train comes to a stop and the men discover they are already dead having died in a train crash earlier while Doctor Schreck reveals himself to be none other then Death incarnate.

Overall, this one is a decent anthology if a little uneven. But for Amicus’ first foray into the sub genre, its good enough. But it did set the tone and style Amicus were going for and shape the films that were to come after it.

Torture Garden

Torture Garden: This one came out in 1967 with Freddie Francis directing and written by Robert Bloch. starring; Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith, Beverly Adams and Peter Cushing.

This one begins with a group of people visiting a fairground. Here they come across an unusual sideshow, Torture Garden being run by Dr. Diabolo (Burgess Meredith). Dr. Diabolo shows the five strangers a simple horror themed attraction, the electric chair, which is all rather underwhelming. He then offers to show five people an unimaginable horror in exchange for some extra cash. Here, the five get to see their futures via an effigy of the female Greek deity of fate and destiny, Atropos who holds a pair of shears.

Enoch: In this first tale of the picture, a greedy and selfish playboy Colin Williams (Michael Bryant) finds himself in some financial trouble. He takes advantage of his dying Uncle Rodger (Maurice Denham) by bribing him with medicine for information of where his uncle’s money is. Uncle Rodger dies before he can give any information on his supposed fortune. Colin stays the night in his late uncle’s home alone and begins searching for his uncle’s cash. He eventually finds a mysterious cellar door and begins to investigate, digging around in the cellar he finds a cat that changes his life.

This tale has that Amicus style they became famous for with some impressively atmospheric scenes and a very creepy cat with some strange influence.

Terror Over Hollywood: Carla Hayes (Beverly Adams) is a young and eager Hollywood starlet struggling to become known. Sharing an apartment with another actress, Carla purposely sabotages her room mate’s date with a known Hollywood producer and takes her place instead. At dinner, Carla gets to meet people that can make her famous as she starts to sell herself in order to become a known actress. She eventually lands a part in a movie but her backstabbing ways end up coming back to haunt her as she learns her cast and crew in the film are not quite what they seem.

A nice little story about betrayal and greed. Not what I would call scary at all but still a story with a nice unexpected reveal.

Mr. Steinway: Dorothy Endicott (Barbara Ewing) is a young and beautiful musical journalist who interviews famous classical musician Leo Winston (John Standing). During the interview, Leo offers to show Dorothy his pride and joy, Euterpe a rather impressive grand piano named after the Greek muse of music. Dorothy and Leo slowly become close and eventually become lovers. Due to their relationship, Winston struggles to maintain his concentration as his manager and friend Maxine Chambers (Ursula Howells) begins to notice. Leo’s career starts to wane as friction between Dorothy and Maxine gets worse. Maybe Leo is not the talent behind his music after all?

A nice tale, but doesn’t really offer any surprises or scares as its made quite clear exactly what is going on quite early on.

The Man Who Collected Poe: A collector of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing, Ronald Wyatt (Jack Palance) meets a fellow Poe collector, Lancelot Canning (Peter Cushing). Ronald finds Lancelot is in possession of a very rare Edgar Allan Poe first edition and tries to buy it. However, Lancelot is not interested in selling but he does invite Ronald to his home to see his full collection of Poe’s books and other collectables. Their shared interest kindles a friendship and Lancelot offers to show Ronald his most favourite and prized Poe treasures. Lancelot takes Ronald down to his cellar where he keeps the most rare and impressive of his collection, including original Poe manuscripts of unpublished stories. Ronald discovers that these unreleased stories were written in 1966 meaning Edgar Allan Poe could not have written them at all. So this means that Lancelot and his collection is fake…doesn’t it?

Great performances from both Jack Palance and Peter Cushing and brilliantly shot with a creepy and story as the truth behind Lancelot Canning’s impressive Poe collection is revealed. For me, the best of the stories in this one.

This film ends with that typical Amicus twist.
If you have been paying attention, then you’d notice there were five people entering Dr. Diabolo’s Torture Garden, but only four stories. The fifth stranger (Michael Ripper) goes crazy before he can be shown his future and uses the shears of Atropos to kill Dr. Diabolo in front of the others. This causes panic and the others run away. It is revealed that the fifth stranger was in fact working with Dr. Diabolo and the whole thing was a con to gain some extra money as Dr. Diabolo is really unhurt still very much alive. The two congratulate each other for their acting, yet Ronald Wyatt (Jack Palance) shows he did not actually run off like the others and says he is interested in making a deal with Dr. Diabolo to work with him as Dr. Diabolo reveals himself to actually be The Devil in a double bluff ending.

An improvement over their first effort with some good stories. Torture Garden is a fun romp with a few good twists and turns along the way coupled with great performances from Peter Cushing and Burgess Meredith. The 70s are next as Amicus welcome in a new decade of anthology horror.

THTDB

The House That Dripped Blood: Directed by Peter Duffell, written by Robert Bloch and Russ Jones. released in 1971 and starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Nyree Dawn Porter, Denholm Elliott, and Jon Pertwee.

Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) from Scotland Yard is called to a house to investigate the disappearance of its newest tenant, film star Paul Henderson. During the investigation, Inspector Holloway discovers more of the house’s history and talks to an estate agent (John Bryans) who tells Holloway about some of its previous tenants.

Method For Murder: Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott) a writer of horror stories, moves into the house with his wife Alice Hillyer (Joanna Dunham). While staying in the house, Charles starts to have visions of Dominic (Tom Adams), the main character from the book he is writing. Dominic is written as a psychopathic murderer and the visions Charles has begin to get more intense and scary the more he writes the book. The visions eventually start to turn him insane and drive him to seek a psychiatrist for help. But is Dominic real or is Charles just losing the plot?

Really creepy and tense with a brilliant performance from Denholm Elliott. This story really hits home what Amicus were great at and why they became so good at this genre of film and stories with intriguing twists.

Waxworks: Philip Grayson (Peter Cushing) a lonely widower visits a macabre horror themed waxwork museum run by a mysterious proprietor (Wolfe Morris). While looking at the various wax models, Philip recognises one of the figures as a his wife who died. Philip’s friend, Neville Rogers (Joss Ackland) turns up at the house for a surprise visit. Philip takes Neville to the wax museum where Neville notices the wax work of what appears to be Philip’s dead wife. Neville leaves the next day while Philip goes back to the wax museum once more, here he finds Neville staring at the enigmatic wax work. They both agree never to go back to the museum and part ways but Neville eventually tells Philip he just can not leave and feels he needs to go back to the wax work museum again. Philip rushes to the museum and discovers a disturbing sight just in time for the proprietor to explain what has been going on.

Not really much in the way of surprises in this tale, if you have seen any horror film set in a wax museum then you’ll know what to expect here. But its still quite an effective story none the less and Peter Cushing is his normal masterful self.

Sweets to the Sweet: John Reid (Christopher Lee) moved into the house with his overtly shy daughter Jane (Chloe Franks). John is a single parent after his wife died and needs somebody to take care of his daughter while he is away working. He hires Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter) an ex school teacher to home school and care for Jane. Ann and Jane don’t really hit it off as Jane does not trust Ann at all and is scared of fire but she slowly opens up to An and even eventually even overcomes her fear or fire. John has always made sure Jane lead a sheltered life, no toys no friends and she is never allowed to leave the house. Jane’s confidence grows and grows with the help of Ann and we learn that Jane is not quite as sweet and innocent as she seems to be. She’s a little too much like her mother…which is not necessarily a good thing at all.

Its the angelic Chloe Franks that makes this story work. A nice little tale that is well shot and acted throughout.

The Cloak: We finally learn what happened to the missing actor, Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee) that started this whole film. Paul moves into the house while working on a new vampire film being shot near by. Paul is an arrogant actor who demands perfection and is upset at his costume for his new film, so he goes out and buys a cloak from a peculiar shopkeeper; Theo von Hartmann (Geoffrey Bayldon) to use as his film character’s costume instead. Whenever Paul wears the cloak, he feels a strange chill and begins to notice strange occurrences like not having a reflection when he looks in a mirror. It seems this cloak is a little more than just a simple costume piece, as Paul’s co-star Carla Lynde (Ingrid Pitt) soon discovers.

Good little vampire story that has a few laughs along the way, there are even a few tongue in cheek jokes at the expense of Amicus’ rivals, Hammer Films and in particular Christopher Lee. More funny than scary, but still a good story worth watching.

The epilogue for this film ends with a nice sting.
Inspector Holloway demands to go to the house itself as he does not believe the stories he has just been told about the previous tenants. While there, he discovers a locked room in the cellar which he forces open. In the room he finds that Paul Henderson hasn’t really been ‘missing’ after all.

One of Amicus’ better anthology films as the stories get more interesting and feel much more even as a piece of storytelling.

That will do for part I but there are still many more films and stories to cover yet. Part II sees some of the best films Amicus produced in the horror anthology sub genre.

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