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From Beyond the Grave

Dumped by EC Comics (see Vault of Horror), Amicus buy up the stories of esteemed horror scribe Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes, and create their masterpiece. Everything here is done right. Peter Cushing, as the sinister owner of the Temptations antique shop who sells the various cursed items which fuel the tales, has never been better, opting for an understated northern pipe-smoking manner where lesser theatricals would creep and pout. He’s no vengeful wizard with forked beard and red velvet Richard Shops cape, just a homely flat-capped shopkeeper you rip off at your peril. More importantly, the stories are all tip-top, with not a duff entry among them (although the final in-store twist at the end is admittedly a bit weak).

First up, David Warner stiffs Cushing for an ancient mirror which harbours the spirit of a Ripperesque Victorian murderer, who compels Warner to go out to groovy cellar nightclubs with spinning stained-glass lampshades in order to lure women of easy virtue back to his place ‘just off the Edgware Road’ and stow them under the floorboards, until a nosy neighbour with an underarm-mounted ginger tom starts complaining about ‘all that ‘ammerin’ and ‘bloody great big patches all over my ceiling’. Then humdrum office manager Ian Bannen uses a dishonestly purloined DSO medal to curry favour with street beggar and ‘ex-seviceman’ Donald Pleasence, cultivating an alternate life of domestic bliss with him and his creepy daughter (Angela Pleasence) away from flameproof nightie-clad, sausage-reheating harridan of a wife Diana Dors. When the black candles come out of the sideboard, things go a little too far in the expected way, before going off in a genuinely unexpected way. Along with the ace performances from all, especially the Pleasences, to say nothing of a kipper tie to make the head reel, this is probably the best of a fine bunch of stories.

The obligatory ‘daft’ entry is great too, as Surrey suburbanites Ian Carmichael and Nyree Dawn Porter are plagued by a shoulder-squatting demon from an old snuff box,and Margaret Leighton turns up with a perfectly judged ‘dotty medium’ performance of near-Routledge brilliance to get rid of it, making this the only film outside Dead of Night to get the comedy story to work on its own demented terms. And if the final tale, in which Ian Ogilvy buys an old door which leads to an eerie blue room populated by Jack Watson’s demonic Regency sorcerer, is a bit light on plot (and rather too similar to the opening segment), it’s more than made up for with some fantastic lighting and design work, and the presence of Lesley-Anne Down. Sadly this was more or less it from Amicus on the anthology front (late entry The Monster Club doesn’t count, on so many levels), as they moved director Kevin Connor onto The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and its moneyspinning sequels. A grand British tradition – snuffed out.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Glenn A

    February 1, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Now the scene where Donald Pleasance sells his matches I’m sure is the now demolished Broad St station as it has that look about it.

  2. Droogie

    October 30, 2020 at 12:51 am

    After falling in love with Inside No. 9, I watched all the Amicus portmanteau movies during Lockdown for a fix of creepy short horror stories. This may be my favourite of the bunch. Seeing brilliant actors like Ian Bannen and Donald Pleasance play off each other here is a treat, but Peter Cushing as the creepy antiques shop owner is a revelation. This would’ve made for a great TV spin-off.

  3. George White

    October 30, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    he always reminded me of a sinister Barry Chuckle.

  4. Droogie

    October 30, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Ha. Cushing looks even more gaunt than usual in this film. I remember when Eagle Comic returned in the 80’s they had a strip called The Collector about an antiques shop owner who’d recount a sinister tale with a twist involving his antiques that was a knock-off of this movie. The strip was weird because the bits featuring the Collector would be illustrated, but the rest would be one of those rubbish photo story strips with actors that the new Eagle overused.

  5. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 30, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    This has a great cast, and a great framing story, but the second half is a lot duller than the first half. It doesn’t really compete with Tales from the Crypt They should have got Ian Hendry (who is in Tales) to do the first story, then every customer would have been played by an Ian!

  6. Droogie

    October 30, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    Ian Hendry was a seriously underrated British actor. He was in some classics like The Hill and Get Carter, And Theatre Of Blood and Repulsion too. He’s great in Tales From The Crypt too. He deserved a longer career.

    • Sidney Balmoral James

      October 31, 2020 at 8:23 am

      Couldn’t agree more – I believe his career suffered because of his alcoholism. He’s so much better than Michael Caine.

      • Richardpd

        October 31, 2020 at 11:33 am

        I heard Ian Hendry was second choice to play Jack in Get Carter, & a bit miffed when Michael Caine signed up.

        At least Mike Hodges managed to channel this ill feeling into the character of Eric, though at the time Hendry’s drinking was making the physical parts of the role a challenge.

  7. Glenn Aylett

    October 31, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    Hendry disliked Caine to the point the hostility showed in Get Carter, which made the film more authentic, and both had a frosty relationship during the filming.

  8. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 31, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    Not surprised Hendry disliked Caine – the latter is terrible in almost everything. This country has produced a lot of great actors, but Maurice is not one of them.

    • Glenn Aylett

      October 31, 2020 at 4:49 pm

      Bit harsh, Sidney, but I will admit Jaws 3 was a lowpoint in his career. However, the much derided The Swarm is much better than the critics thought as killer bees do exist in Texas and has some frightening moments such as the boy in the Ford Mustang being bombarded by the bees. Also Maurice needed some money sharpish as he left England with not a lot left after a series of supertax demands.

      • Sidney Balmoral James

        October 31, 2020 at 7:41 pm

        The Swarm seemed effective enough when I was ten. Actually, he’s not too bad in that. But his record in the 70s, 80s, and 90s is pretty dismal overall – not always his fault of course – I don’t hold him personally responsible for the abomination that is Bullseye.

  9. Droogie

    October 31, 2020 at 11:56 pm

    The Swarm is a hilarious piece of trash! Hilariously bad dialogue said by Caine sleepwalking through the movie thinking of his pay cheque and wearing a camp safari suit throughout too. My favourite dumb line is “ I never dreamed that it would turn out to be the bees. They’ve always been our friends!” Bullseye however is irredeemably bad. Any movie whose climax is a bad freeze frame of all the cast laughing uproariously ( like the end of each Police Squad episode but without the irony) is poor even for a Michael Winner movie.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    November 1, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    The Swarm was OK, but certainly not in the same league as Get Carter. and Caine admitted a few of his early American films were easy money to set him up comfortably. However, I don’t think he was ever that suited to American films as he was so English and his return to British films with Educating Rita was far better.

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