Let me start by thanking Lance Lumley of Lance Writes for inviting me and several other writers to be guests at his engaging website. I’d encourage one and all to pay him a visit and see what others including film historian Gary A. Smith have to recommend for one’s viewing pleasure as we approach October 31st.
Here’s my contribution ……
Considering the success Hammer Films had from the late 1950’s on into the 60’s and 70’s, it should come as no surprise that as we look back to the films produced by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg under the Amicus Productions banner that they’d be considered Hammer knock-offs.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true they often employed both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in front of the camera, they shied away from the Gothic era thrillers and in turn scored a number of hits, notably the anthology films that they are probably best remembered for.
Narrowing the field to just five titles is a tough endeavor so we shouldn’t be surprised if I throw in a few other titles to wrap up this love in with the nostalgic horrors the company brought to my childhood on late night TV.
Here are five titles to look up based on the date of their release.
Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)
It’s Peter Cushing as the instrument of terror on board a train sharing a compartment with five other gents. He’ll cajole them into a reading with his tarot cards and from there our five tales of terror begins. Werewolves, a creeping vine, Roy Castle and voodoo, arrogant Christopher Lee and a creeping hand followed by a young Donald Sutherland tangling with vampires. Director Freddie Francis sets the standard for the company that they’d emulate over the next few years and even following the breakup of Rosenbloom and Subotsky when the latter would continue with the central theme on his own in films like The Uncanny and The Monster Club.
The Skull (1965)
Oscar winning cinematographer turned director, Freddie Francis, continued his association with Amicus in this Robert Bloch tale that features Peter Cushing in the lead role with fine support from his on/off screen pal Christopher Lee. The plot mainly focuses on the skull of the Marquis De Sade and the evil happenings it will bring upon those who dare to possess it. If you saw it as a youngster it’s the camera work and POV filming we vividly recall. The film also stars Nigel Green, Patrick Magee and genre favorite Michael Gough turns up as well. A fine entry for us Lee and Cushing fans.
Torture Garden (1967)
Freddie Francis was again brought on board for another multiple tales of terror outing. Four Robert Bloch stories surrounding Dr. Diablo played with great relish by Burgess Meredith. It’s a carnival setting where Meredith will tell the fortunes of four complete strangers. All you really need to know about this one is that the final story is a sure fire winner. Titled, The Man Who Collected Poe, it stars Jack Palance as an obsessive collector of all things Poe. He’ll find the ultimate collector in Peter Cushing and will of course want Dear Peter’s most prized possession for his own. At all costs.
The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
Far and away my favorite of the studio’s anthology films, this one again employs Robert Bloch as our writer. The stories revolve around a house in the countryside with a history of unstable tenants that is available for rent. Denholm Elliott as a writer who may have brought to life the murderer he writes about proves an eerie intro followed by Peter Cushing’s obsession over a wax figure at a small museum in town. Then we get a memorably creepy effort with Christopher Lee who is scared to death of his cute little daughter. Could she be a witch just like her Mother? Once again Lee proves that NO ONE can act as arrogant as he can on screen. Finally we get a Jon Pertwee vampire segment that is for me the most enjoyable story of the film. And what’s not to like when we have Ingrid Pitt as an actress starring in a vampire movie within our movie? Makes for a great wrap up at the film’s conclusion.
For my fifth selection let’s go with a two for one……
The Land That Time Forgot (1974) and The People That Time Forgot (1977)
These films from director Kevin Connor hit theaters and played TV often enough when I was but a lad that I have nothing but fond memories of them. Adapted from the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first film stars Doug McClure in a WW1 story where he and others find themselves onboard a German U Boat as prisoners that has ventured to a forgotten land ripe with dinosaurs and stone age tribes. Volcanoes on the ground and pterodactyls in the skies make this a great adventure from my early years and one I fondly remember. As I do the sequel, The People That Time Forgot. Yes indeed, McClure has been lost to time but thankfully Patrick Wayne is on hand to lead a search party to find his long lost friend. The sequel features a pair of pin-ups in case your interested. Sarah Douglas and Dana Gillespie. It’s also got Hammer graduate and soon to be Darth Vader, David Prowse, in this far away land as well among the dinosaurs and warring natives. The Film poster alone is enough to sell this one.
Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably switch a title or two. I guess the problem with all these anthology films is that I love some of the segments but not necessarily enough to include the film as a whole. I mean there’s the Peter Cushing segment from Tales From the Crypt I so adore, Poetic Justice. The Britt Ekland/Charlotte Rampling segment from Asylum. Terry-Thomas is always memorable so what’s not to like about his appearance in Vault of Horror? Donald Pleasence starring with daughter, Angela, in From Beyond the Grave proves a must see. Let’s not forget the one with Curt Jurgens and the …. yes I could go on and on….
Then there are stories the studio released as feature films on their own though we could argue most if not all could have been easily shortened into a 20 minute segment for another anthology title. Among them I’m a big fan of The Beast Must Die (1974) which I could have easily shoehorned in above and for Dr. Who buffs it should be noted that the studio released two movies with Cushing in the title role, Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks : Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (1966).
So if you know the studios output of 28 titles, did I miss one you hold near and dear?