Perhaps best known for the excellent anthologies Tales From the Crypt (1972) and The Vault of Horror (1973), Milt Subotsky and Max Rosenberg's Amicus Productions was most often compared to the more prestigious Hammer Films. But while Hammer is best known for their gothic-drenched retellings of Universal's classic monster films, Amicus specialized in "modern day" (read: lower budget) anthology tales. The aforementioned two are probably the best of the bunch (the former of which inspired the '90s television show of the same name), but a very interesting curio that was released the same year as The Vault of Horror is definitely worth a watch to get things started in this season of the witch.
From Beyond the Grave centres around the mysterious and slightly malevolent back-alley antique and oddments shop Temptations Ltd (Offers You Cannot Resist) and its vaguely sinister
proprietor (played with a wonderful mix of affected ignorance and wily
menace by the superb Peter Cushing). Each of the four tales in the film
are kickstarted by that story's main character entering the shop and,
by some less-than-honest means, acquiring an obscure object of desire.
From there, each of the four tales follows roughly the same story arc -
the dishonest antique hunter slowly begins to notice that something is
amiss and after a series of increasingly traumatic events, they all get
their grisly comeuppance (save for the couple in "The Door" - though
they do go through their fair share of horror - for reasons that are
explained at the end of the story).
As with most
anthology films, not all the stories in From Beyond the Grave are
created equal; in fact, the two bookending chapters, "The Gatecrasher"
and "The Door", are essentially the same story of a centuries old spirit
trying to break on through from the other side, just wrapped up in
different details. The most touching yarn (as well as the most
chilling) is "An Act of Kindness" in which a frustrated man (Ian Bannen)
trapped in an unfulfilling marriage happens upon a street vendor
(Donald Pleasance) and the two strike up a friendship based on their
military history (though Bannen is lying about his). After increased
meetings at Pleasance's home and a growing familiarity with his creepy
semi-lobotomized daughter (an effectively eerie turn by Donald's
real-life daughter, Angela), things take a dark turn and, needless to
say, it doesn't end well for ol' Bannen (or his wife).
other three tales are wonderfully frightful, and a special mention must
go to Margaret Leighton's grandiose medium Madame Orloff in "The
Elemental". The best performance - and one of the main reasons for
watching - belongs to Cushing, whose sly, knowing proprietor is at once
bumbling and malefic.
Low production values are
well-hidden, and like I mentioned, staging the tales in the present day
allows for much budget-shortfall overcoming. Overall, a worthy
anthology, and if you are a fan of the format, you'll certainly find
lots to tempt you in here. Come in, come in...