Great Amicus collection.
Puzzle box | Kuwait | 11/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great place to start of your Amicus collection, if your a fan of classic British horror then you'll probably love this set, and what makes this set even better is that all three films star Peter Cushing. This collection has some of Amicus' best along with one really bad film but it shows the type of films that were being made by this great film company. From the early 60's through the mid 70's, 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 still entertaining and very stylish. Amicus were well known for making Anthology type horror films, although the studio certainly didn't limit itself to just anthologies. Amicus films covered a little bit of everything from sci-fi to horror, psychological thrillers and fantasies and the reason for Amicus' success was the fact that they employed fantastic writers, directors and actors/actresses and part of the reason that Amicus may be considered a rival to Hammer horror is that 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. Here's a synopsis for each film:
Asylum was directed by Roy Ward Baker and was written by Robert Bloch who also wrote Psycho and some other Amicus films, the film has four stories which are told by a different patient that lives in the Asylum and they are played by an all star british cast that you may recognize that includes Peter Cushing, Brit Aklend, Herbert Lom etc. This film has got to be the best anthology horror I have ever seen, it's not gory but it had one of the best format storylines. The four stories are woven together with a clever framing device the story begins as a psychiatrist applying for a position at an English insane asylum and it seems like the previous director of the institution has gone mad and has become one of the patients. Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee) tells him that he must pass a test in order to be hired which is to find out who the director is and it all ends in a surprise I'm not going to ruin it.
The first story is about a young woman whose boyfriend cut his wife into little pieces and put the parts in the freezer but it soon turns out to be a tale of revenge when the pieces start moving, this part was very cheesy and hilarious but it still worked and was effective cause it was the best storyline.
The second story is about Bruno the tailor who is hired by Peter Cushing to design a magical suit for his son. It was a bit predictable but still great because of the performances from the actors.
The third story is about a woman named Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) who had been in a mental institute before, when she arrives back home she finds her friend played by Britt Eklend who causes alot of trouble by murdering people and might send Barbara back to the institute.
The final story is about Bryan (Herbert Lom) who makes little robot dolls which can be controlled by his mind and are able to do anything including murder. This one has a lot of twists and turns and it all concludes with the psychiatrist trying to figure out who the real director is. The film is not scary but still fun to watch (by the way, this review was already written back in 2006 so I decided to cut and paste).
And Now The Screaming Starts was a period piece horror film, it has a great gothic atmosphere, nice sets, Peter Cushing, an experienced horror director, a severed hand and a vengeful ghost. Catherine (Stephanie Beacham) the new bride of Charles Fengriffen (Ian Ogilvy) comes to live at his old family estate. On their first night together a family curse suddenly occurs when a ghost rapes and impregnates Catherine. Dr. Pope (Peter Cushing) is brought into the mix to figure out the mess and solve the riddle of the curse.
And Now The Screaming Starts is a solid tale from the Amicus Studios. The acting is on a par with this type of film, slightly over the top and hammy but that's to be expected for this type of film. While the production value is close to the grand productions of Hammer Studios it did feel like something was lacking, while the first half establishes all the characters and starts off great with the flashback sequence and the creepy family portrait that stares at the victim, the second half kind of falls apart, but still this was a very good film and was entertaining.
The Beast Must Die, a millionaire brings an assortment of characters to his heavily secured mansion. He then tells each of the guests that they were brought for here for a reason and that one of them is a werewolf. The rest of the story goes through the paces of finding out who the beast is and what must be done with it. This film was so corny but I guess it was still enjoyable, the outfits, the hairstyles, and that awful-yet-appropriate soundtrack were outdated and had that 70's look. The cast includes alot of great and accomplished British actors like Peter Cushing, Michael Gambon and Charles Gray. I love Amicus movies, even though this film was abit rubbish, I like the mini-backgrounds and the lengths that the main character (who looks like a Shaft wanna be) was going to to catch the wolf.
And then the film simply failed to move anywhere, we got no more hints other than the film picking someone they really wanted you to think as the wolf, completely ignoring the other characters. There wasn't that much action and what they did have was so dark and grainy and the pacing was slow. Oh yeah the film also has this cheesy werewolf break towards the end to keep the audience guessing, this cheap gimmick was kind of fun it's too bad that the rest of the film wasn't. Overall this collection was great and should appeal to those who like classic British horror or Peter Cushing, enjoy.....
HAMMERING DOWN SOME AMICUS TREATS
Alan W. Petrucelli | THE ENTERTAINMENT REPORT (ALAN W. PETRUCELLI) | 11/18/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Amicus is a tad downmarket from Hammer Films, but like most underdogs, they try harder. The first film is Asylum, based on stories by Robert Bloch of Psycho fame, and boasts an admiral cast, even if most of them probably didn't work on the production for more than two days. Peter Cushing, Britt Eklund, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Charlotte Rampling and Barbara Parkins are all on display here in a collection of horror shorts concerning trying to discover the head of the Asylum who, for reasons the plot sort of explains, is hiding among the wacky patients. Next comes The Beast Must Die, a combo werewolf/blaxploitation melange with Peter Cushing, Michael Gabon and the sorely missed Calvin Lockhart. Complete with a 30-second "Werewolf Break" just before the end of the film (for the audience to pick the werewolf), it's a strange entry. Stranger still is the final offering, And Now the Screaming Starts, with Herbert Lom and Peter Cushing, and a haunted mansion, loopy doctors and even naughty spirits to scare the bejesus out of us."
Superb Horror Collection (Provides A Terrific Crash Course O
J. B. Hoyos | Chesapeake, VA | 01/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're not familiar with Amicus studios, you will be after watching the three films in this superb collection: "Asylum," "And Now the Screaming Starts!" and "The Beast Must Die." Amicus was a British film studio famous for releasing horror films in the sixties and seventies. It was Hammer studios' number one competitor. Whereas Hammer was famous for its historical gothic horror (e.g., the Frankenstein and Dracula series), Amicus was famous for its horror anthologies.
Perhaps one of the most famous of the anthologies that Amicus released is the chilling "Asylum." Based on short stories written by "Psycho" author Robert Bloch, this film begins with a young doctor applying for a position at an insane asylum. He must interview four patients; each one relates their ghastly experience that caused them to be incarcerated. Voodoo, witchcraft, and drugs bring forth some of our worst nightmares. Dismembered limbs seek revenge, a mannequin comes to life, and a man's soul is transferred into a doll that murders. A good body count, plenty of suspense, and a shocking ending make "Asylum" enjoyable viewing.
"The Beast Must Die" is contemporary horror. What distinguished this one from most of its contemporaries? The lead actor was controversially played by a black man, Calvin Lockhart. The film bordered on blaxploitation. Lockhart is Tom Newcliff, a type of "Shaft" character who is a self-made millionaire and big game hunter; he invites to his secluded home a group of strangers - one of whom is a werewolf. There is plenty of action as one by one the strangers are killed until the identity of the werewolf is revealed. There are a few shocking twists to keep everyone guessing.
"And Now the Screaming Starts!" is my personal favorite (and my reason for buying the collection) because I love historical gothic horror. I've read that this is the only one produced by Amicus. What a shame because it really is a great ghost story about a dismembered hand and an eyeless woodsman that terrorizes a wealthy couple on their wedding night. Gorgeous Stephanie Beacham is Catherine Fenngriffen who is determined to learn the curse that has been placed on her husband's family. One by one, friends and staff members die as they attempt to help her. There is a shocking climax similar to the one in "Rosemary's Baby."
Horror icon Peter Cushing co-stars in all three films. He was a big star for Hammer Studios. In fact, many of Hammer's actors and crew members worked on Amicus films. Roy Ward Baker directed "Asylum" and "And Now the Screaming Starts!" He directed many Hammer films such as "The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires," "Quartermass and the Pit," and "The Abominable Snowman." All three Amicus films were produced by Max J. Rosenberg (the money man) and Milton Subotsky (the idea man) who founded Amicus, which means "friend."
Dark Sky Films did an excellent job of packaging and releasing this collection. Each DVD has excellent commentaries, interviews, and liner notes that will explain in greater detail how Amicus studios came into existence and how each film was made. There are English subtitles for the hearing impaired. Each film can be seen in its beautiful widescreen theatrical presentation.
"The Amicus Collection" is highly recommended for those who enjoy watching gothic horror (both contemporary and historical) that was made in the early seventies. Each film is classic horror and represents a wonderful age in cinema that is long gone. Amicus, famous for its anthologies, made many that are recommended viewing such as "The Torture Garden," "The House That Dripped Blood," "From Beyond the Grave," "Tales from the Crypt," and "Vault of Horror."
Love Peter Cushing? Then You'll Love This
David M. Ballew | Burbank, CA | 11/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Peter Cushing is my favorite actor, and his presence (whether top-billed or merely as a supporting player) elevates these films beyond their humble origins to the level of solid entertainment.
The transfers for "Asylum" and "And Now..." look very good on my 720p projection screen, and while the transfer of "The Beast..." isn't quite up to par, it is a welcome improvement over the Image disc released a decade ago.
The commentaries give a nuts-and-bolts view of British film-making of the 1970s without becoming too dry or technical for the uninitiated, and for that reason are not to be missed by the true cinephile.
If you know and care who Peter Cushing and Amicus were, then don't dally-- order this at once!"