9 September 2004 | dr_foreman
immense fun with a first-rate genre cast
*contains very minor spoilers* (I'm sure the back of the box gives away more!)
Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Joss Ackland, Jon Pertwee...hey, this is one heck of a B-movie cast! All my British friends, together in the same horror anthology. Bliss. Mind you, I'm generally not too crazy about Amicus films; they're more screwed-up and cynical than their charming Hammer counterparts. But this time, Amicus got it just about right. The quality of the stories is uneven, but each has merit.
Story #1 is a pretty dull tale about a horror writer (played by Indiana Jones' buddy Denholm Elliot) who is haunted by one of his fictional creations, a strangler called Dominick. There are some interesting twists, yeah, but the characters are such stereotypes that it's hard to care much about them. And there's really nothing more tedious than writers writing about themselves! Stick with it, though, there's better stuff to come.
Story #2 is probably my favorite. The newly-retired Peter Cushing is haunted by a waxwork figure in a horror museum; it bears a striking resemblance to the late love of his life. An old friend, played by Joss Ackland (a very natural and likable performance), arrives and also falls under the wax girl's spell. I didn't really understand this story when I was ten, probably because I had not yet learned to pine for inaccessible women. However, since then I've been convinced that a wooden figure in a playground was modeled on an ex of mine, so suddenly this really resonates! A wonderfully sad, lonely tale.
Story #3 is also great. Christopher Lee gets to play a sort-of good guy, a rare treat for his fans; his daughter, as it turns out, is a little sorceress. The contrast between her sweet appearance and evil aims works rather well.
Story #4 is...ahem...rather silly, actually. It stars Jon "Doctor Who" Pertwee as a flamboyant horror film star. There's a lot of metahumor in this one; for example, Pertwee's character complains about having to star in cheap horror movies within the context of...a cheap horror movie called "The House that Dripped Blood"! "Doctor Who" was cheap, too, so one wonders if Pertwee was secretly complaining about his own career. But, apparently, he was actually spoofing Christopher Lee. The humor is this segment works, but it's strange to end such a dark movie with a goofy installment. I also don't know quite how to feel about seeing Jon get hoisted up on clearly visible wires during a "flying" segment.
After a somewhat dodgy epilogue with more Pertwee facing-making, the whole thing wraps up nicely with some cryptic remarks from an estate agent. On to the next British horror cheapie!
By their very nature, these anthology movies are mixed bags, but this is definitely one of the strongest. It's worth a look for the cast alone, and the middle two installments are definitely superior horror shorts.