Sunday, September 28, 2014

"From Beyond the Grave" (1973) d/Kevin Connor

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We'll wrap up September with another one of those groovy early seventies British horror anthologies from the folks at Amicus, with segments based on four short stories from R. Chetwynd-Hayes, and featuring the likes of David Warner, Donald and Angela Pleasence, Diana Dors, Lesley-Anne Down, and Peter Cushing tying the whole thing together, as a creepy, old antiques dealer with a clientele of cheats, chumps, and burglars who all get more than they bargained for in the end. The first-time director, Kevin Connor, would move on to Doug McClure drive-in fodder like The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and At the Earth's Core (1976) before moving on to campy cult classics like 1980's Motel Hell and 1982's The House Where Evil Dwells, which, for those of you that happened to be wondering, also stars Doug McClure.

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"I seem to have stumbled out of my flat and onto a Mario Bava set..."
In "The Gate Crasher", we see an artsy know-it-all twat (David Warner) con The Proprietor (Peter Cushing) on the sale of an antique mirror, which after an obligatory seance, proves to contain a murderous spirit that resembles Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, leading the man down a dark path that surely can't end well for anyone involved, especially birds picked up on the fly at a dance club. Then, in "An Act of Kindness", an unfulfilled husband (Ian Bannen) pockets a wartime medal  from the shop without paying, thus becoming the focus of a down-and-out war vet named Underwood (Donald Pleasence) and his pin-happy lookalike daughter, Emily (Angela Pleasance). Diana Dors is in there, too, and she's delightfully abrasive, up until her untimely demise.

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"He's bad, bad Leeroy Broooown, baddest man in the whole damned tooooown..."
Next, a chap named Warren (Ian Carmichael) switches out the price tags in a pair of antique snuff boxes, and manages to get a troublesome, invisible titular "elemental",  burrowing psychically into his shoulder, strangling his wife in bed, and making a general nuisance of itself until he calls upon the services of  Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) who's apparently just the woman for the job. Then, a young fellow (Ian Ogilvy...shee, there's a lot of Ian's in this one) purchases a ornately decorated, bulky antique door for a linen closet in his flat, only to discover that it sometimes leads into a blue room from another era, belonging to an evil nobleman who dedicated his life to the pursuit of, as if you couldn't guess, more evil. Finally, an enterprising criminal enters the shop with designs on relieving it of any excess cash lying around, only to provide the final twist for the audience, whom the Proprietor addresses directly before closing his doors and end credits roll.

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For those about to rock, Donald salutes you.
Amicus Studios filled a genre niche with a fine run of pormanteau-style anthologies, starting in 1965 with Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, followed by Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972), Vault of Horror (1973), and this, which would turn out to be the final one they'd tackle. Nothing out of the ordinary going on here, but the whole production is handled so well by all involved, you'll be too entertained to notice. On the scale, Grave earns a solid score of three Wops, and should really be checked out, if you're on board with this style of film. Recommended.

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"No, you certainly may not have the freeze-dried crocodile for five quid."
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Nigel M said...

Definitely on board with these. The first I saw was in 76,the year of the drought. I was 7 and it was Asylum- the body parts scared me so much that I had to hide my face under the blankets!

I think I first saw this one as part of what was the BBC Horror Double bills- erm maybe. It creeped my out (but I was maybe 9 or 10 by then). Angela Pleasance creeped me completely out as did the head in the mirror segment.

Funny thing is, the films that scared me as a kid still have an impact on me today- From Beyond the Grave, Race With the Devil and Don'Look Now especially.

By the way BW, if you can find them online somewhere, check out the listings for the old BBC horror double bills. Some great ideas for film pairings there.

beedubelhue said...

Angela Pleasence always seems to have the creep factor cranked up high, doesn't she? The high hairline makes her look like her dad as the President-in-a-wig punked out by the Duke of New York, A-number one, in Escape From New York, I thought. I've always loved these anthologies too, Nigel, and I'll seek out those BBC double bills, for sure. Cheers!


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