Anyone who is a fan of the British horror films that Hammer studios put forth from the fifties thru to the seventies are all well aware of just who Amicus Productions are. They’re the “other” studio that was putting chillers into local cinemas, borrowing members of the Hammer fraternity for their productions. Most notably Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Under the guidance of Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, they seemed to specialize in the anthology styled thrillers such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and Tales From The Crypt.
I for one have fond memories discovering these chillers on late night TV and oversized coffee table books on horror films with gloriously bloody color photos. Thanks to a couple of recent finds, I thought I’d spread the word to either revisit these or discover them for the first time yourself.
British Cult Cinema : The Amicus Anthology by Bruce G. Hallenback
At a bit less then 250 pages, this is a nice volume on the history of just how the two producers began there journey into film and primarily settled on the horror anthologies to keep the studio afloat. Writer Hallenbeck also goes over the history of the anthology film as a whole from titles like 1945’s Dead of Night to Corman’s Tales of Terror and others that turned up in the market place. A chapter is dedicated to each of the Amicus thrillers and the casts involved as well as the studios other attempts to fill the cash registers with titles like The Beast Must Die and The Skull.
The comic book origins and tales of Robert Bloch are covered as well as the fact that William Friedkin directed an art house feature for the company with the straight drama The Birthday Party starring Robert Shaw and Patrick Magee.
Plenty of back stage stories within help bring the productions to life and with the cast of various name actors involved in their anthologies, they have become required viewing for the Cushing – Lee crowd. Other actors that turned up include Herbert Lom, Jack Palance, Charlotte Rampling, Ralph Richardson, Denholm Elliott, Britt Ekland and Burgess Meredith to name just a few.
The anthology productions are as follows;
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors – 1965
Torture Garden – 1967
The House That Dripped Blood – 1971
Tales From The Crypt – 1972
Asylum – 1972
The Vault of Horror – 1973
From Beyond the Grave – 1974
Writer Hallenbeck has a series of books out on Hammer Films as well that I’ll have to get to now that they are on my shelf.
Amicus : House of Horrors
At just over 3 hours and spread out over two DVD’s, this turned out to be a great follow up after reading the Hallenbeck book. It’s been put together by Derek Pykett and features various interviews with many of the people who either populated the films or worked on them behind the scenes telling of the productions and just what kind of men Subotsky and Rosenberg were. Actor Geoffrey Bayldon plays a central part in the story telling and seems to relish the opportunity to go back in time and reminisce of his working days with the studio and the actors and directors surrounding him.
Archival footage is included at times as the documentary takes us through the years and productions involved. Trailers are mixed in with tales of working on films beyond the anthologies like the two Peter Cushing efforts that brought Dr. Who to the big screen in the mid sixties. Vincent Price joining in the festivities in a couple of thrillers, Madhouse and Scream and Scream Again. The directors are featured and discussed, mainly Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker who are well known to fans of the genre.
The final films of the studio are covered and ones I remember fondly from my early years. The lost continent films from the mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot and At The Earth’s Core which saw Hammer Glamour Queen, Caroline Munro join in the Amicus fraternity
Though one might think the feature long at 3 hours, it’s never dull or draggy if you love the films as I do. I watched it over two nights and it made for a nice viewing only increasing my desire to revisit these fun films once again. Shortly after my completing the discs, I found myself shelling out some cash to get the recent release on blu ray of Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. I was long overdue to replace the poor quality VHS release I’ve had here for the last twenty years.
For fans of Peter Cushing, this really is a must have. Once again, those featured on camera never had a bad word to say about the horror icon leading me to yet again believe I’ve missed the opportunity to meet the sweetest man who ever worked in the film industry. Even better for Peter’s fans are two lengthy interviews that he gave. One in 1983 and the other in 1990.
This feature is easy to come by on Amazon at a relatively bargain price.
O.K. now it’s time to turn the lights low and see just what The Proprietor has to offer us at Temptations Limited.