Have you ever watched a film that you just knew was a Hammer film, only to discover it wasn’t? Chances are, you had just watched an Amicus film. From the early 60s through the mid-70s, Amicus produced films were giving their British counterpart, Hammer Studios, a run for their money in the production of top-notch sci-fi and horror films.
While never the force that Hammer was, Amicus produced films were entertaining, stylish and continue to garner fans to this day. What is unknown to many of the Amicus fans……Amicus was the result of a partnership between two men from the United States; Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg, both from New York City. These two men managed to put together a production company that churned out some of the best horror films to be produced in the 60s and 70s.
Amicus forte seemed to lie in the making of anthologies, although, the studio certainly didnt limit itself to just anthologies. Amicus films covered a little bit of everything, sci-fi, horror, psychological thrillers and fantasies and regardless if critics sang a films praises or not, the film-going public seemed to clamor for anything associated with Amicus. There are several reasons for the success of the Amicus films, they employed fantastic writers, directors and actors/actresses and part of the reason that Amicus may be considered, *Hammers Little Brother* is, so many of the actors and actresses as well as the directors that built their reputations on Hammer films, did cross over and work on Amicus films, too.
While Hammer films often have a more polished look to them, Amicus films certainly cant be disregarded, as the Amicus film often delved into society’s darker side, the side that is often better left behind closed doors or locked in ones own heart…..a side to society that most tend to hide, but Amicus dared to bring to the forefront. So, next time you find yourself in a rental shop or happen to stumble across an airing of an Amicus film…..stop, look and enjoy!
Tales From the Crypt Story
Five travelers find themselves on a tour of some strange catacombs with a mysterious monk awaiting them in one section and it seems this man has the uncanny ability to foresee the futures of these five guests. Now for a closer look at each story…..
All Through the House
Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) chooses Christmas Eve to murder her wealthy husband and carries out the deed as their young daughter Carol lay in her bed awaiting the arrival of Father Christmas. Soon after Joanne murders her husband and is doing her best to clean up the mess and make it appear as an accident, an announcement on the radio warns of an escaped homicidal maniac and his escape from an asylum….dressed as Father Christmas. Joanne is terrified to see the man standing outside their home and quickly begins to barricade the home from any enterance by the lunatic. The question is, will she succeed or will Father Christmas gain entry through an unlikely source.
Reflection of Death
After Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) makes the decision to desert his family for his mistress, Susan Blake (Angie Grant), they leave one night, heading for a new city and start to their lives together. Driving along the highway, they are involved in an accident and Carl escapes from the car wandering around in a dazed state. Wandering through the darkness, he asks several people for assistance, only to have them scream at the sight of him and leave.
His wanderings eventually take him back to Susan’s apartment where he discovers Susan at home, but she’s confused when he identifies himself and explains that she was blinded in an accident months ago….the same accident in which he was killed. Maitland catches a glimpse of himself and sees a decomposing corpse….as he screams at the sight, he suddenly awakens from a dream and finds he’s in the car with Susan and she’s at the wheel. Suddenly, they crash and the nightmare begins, again…..
James (Robin Phillips) and Edward (David Markham) Elliott are well-to-do homeowners who live across from Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing), the local garbage man. The younger Elliott feels that Grimsdyke’s home is an eyesore and resents the fact that Grimsdyke brings the neighborhood children into his home distributing toys that he has repaired, found during his garbage collecting.
The elder Elliott explains that he has made numerous offers to buy Grimsdyke out, but the old man refuses, explaining that he and his wife lived their during their entire marriage and now that she’s passed away, he wants to live his remaining days, in the home. Upon hearing this, James sets out to force Grimsdyke into relinquishing his home. His campaign smears the poor man’s reputation and ends with Grimsdyke receiving hundreds of Valentine cards with nasty rhymes that appear to come from friends and neighbors. The distraught Grimsdyke hangs himself and is buried. One year later, the rotting corpse of Grimsdyke rises from his grave to deliver his own Valentine’s card.
Wish You Were Here
Ralph (Richard Greene) and Enid (Barbara Murray) Jason learn that they are now in debt and in order to break even, they are forced to sell off their prized collection of valuables gained through their many travels over the years. Enid had purchased a strange curio in Hong Kong and upon reading the small print on the back of the curio, it appears that this curio has the ability to grant the owner three wishes…..a “Monkey’s Paw”.
Enid immediately wishes for money and Ralph receives a call from their solicitor (Roy Dotrice) requesting the return to the office…something about money. Ralph takes off but is followed by a motorcyclist and as the cyclist comes closer, Ralph looks in his rearview mirror and sees a skull face staring back at him. Ralph is killed and Enid sets out to use the remaining two wishes.
Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick) becomes the superintendent at a home for blind men and quickly proves he cares nothing for the men he’s in charge of, he’s more concerned with his own comfort and that of his dog. When one of the men in his charge dies as a result of his neglect, the men decide to exact their own revenge involving the Major’s starving dog and a darkened tunnel of razor blades.
Tales From the Crypt is a film based on the E.C. Comics of the 1950s and what a job Amicus did with this effort! Directed by Freddie Francis and starring some of the biggest names in British cinema, this film is non-stop thrills from beginning to end. All five stories are well done and performance are strong in each, but my personal favorites are; “All Through the House” and “Poetic Justice”.
Joan Collins fighting off a maniac Father Christmas is a scene not soon forgotten and Peter Cushing as poor Grimsdyke in “Poetic Justice” is a role that pulls at the heart….made even more remarkable by the fact that this was Cushing’s first role in a film following the death of his wife, Helen and the mourning of that loss makes the character of Grimsdyke that much more real. Amicus hit the mark right on with this 1972 film and in my opinion, it’s the anthology that all others can only be compared to.
The Terrornauts Story
Dr. Joe Burke (Simon Oates) has spent his career hoping to prove the existence of life forms in the far reaches of space and with the help of Ben Keller (Stanley Meadows), a communications specialist and assistant Sandy Lund (Zena Marshall), he hopes to prove his beliefs along with a grant to keep their studies going. Dr. Henry Shore (Max Adrian) is the head of the outpost used for the studies and experiments and is less than pleased with Burke’s efforts over the last few years and means to see his studies put to an end. Knowing that his funding could end at any time, Burke, Keller and Lund began a race against time to prove that Earth does indeed receive signals from planets and that their work should continue to be funded.
Taking the last bit of money at their disposal, they begin a push on receiving and sending these signals. The sudden depletion of their finances causes the funding foundation to send an accountant out to see just how and why so much money has been sent. This accountant comes in the form of Joshua Yellowlees (Charles Hawtrey), a nervous and irritating man who upon hearing some signals and the chance that they could be famous, decides to hang around and see the end result of their work.
Mrs. Jones (Patricia Hayes) works at the outpost delivering coffee and tea to the various crews and stops by to see her favorite crew before heading home for the night. As the small group of people wait to see if their signals being sent out will be received, a spaceship from a distant planet heads towards Earth and beams the building and it’s occupants to their planet. Once on the planet, the group is put through various tests to see if they are hostile or are a peaceful group. It seems that they have been chosen to stop an invasion of Earth by hostile forces, so the small band of travelers begins the quest to save Earth.
This sci-fi effort from Amicus is simply put……pure entertainment. It starts out as a serious sci-fi film and I believe it was intended to remain a serious effort, but with the addition of the Mrs. Jones and Mr. Yellowlees characters the film takes a bit of a comedic turn….well, that and the effects! Nothing said can prepare you for the enjoyment you’ll experience with this film, so if you find yourself with about seventy-five free minutes and can lay your hands on this video, by all means, do so.