Overall | The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959) | Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) | The House That Dripped Blood (1970) | Asylum (1972) | And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) | The Beast Must Die (1974)

Amicus Collection (1959)

Amicus Collection (1959)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

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Overall Package

    Amicus was a production company set up in the late 1950s for two Americans to produce educational films in Britain. Soon they branched into feature films of the rock'n'roll variety, but from the mid-1960s onwards they specialised in horror films.

    The two Americans were Milton Subotsky, a film buff and lover of ghost stories, and Max Rosenberg, the money man. After a start being a production partner in The City of the Dead in 1960, the company went full swing into horror films in 1965. For a time they rivalled Hammer as a producer of genre films, often sharing the same personnel - especially Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Their films were different from Hammer though, in that they were more genteel and there was less gore and no nudity. Amicus also specialised in portmanteau films, short subjects joined together by a framing story to create a feature. This reflected Subotsky's experience in editing feature films down to short TV timeslots and his passion for short horror and ghost stories. In fact, at least nine of the company's films were in this style, out of a total of about 27.

    Like Hammer, the company's fortunes began to fade in the 1970s, much as the fortunes of the British film industry nosedived. After The Beast Must Die and Madhouse in 1974, Amicus would make no more horror films. The partnership dissolved and while Subotsky made some more horror films, Amicus would disappear from the screen by the end of the decade.

    Subotsky regained ownership of Amicus in the 1980s, but died in 1991. Rosenberg lived on, dying in 2004 aged 89.

    The present box set seems to have been taken from the Region 2 releases by Anchor Bay. Their box set, or more accurately coffin set given the shape of the box, contains five of the six films in the Region 4 set. The City of the Dead is omitted. This is an excellent set for British horror aficionados, featuring many stars in large and small roles, some nicely chilling or amusing stories and nearly all in their original aspect ratio or close enough to it to make no difference. While it doesn't have the faux surround audio of the Region 2, at under $80 for the set and with an extra film it represents very good value for money.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, April 08, 2005
Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959) | Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) | The House That Dripped Blood (1970) | Asylum (1972) | And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) | The Beast Must Die (1974)

The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959)

The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Amicus Collection
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 77:58 (Case: 76)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Llewellyn Moxey
Studio
Distributor
Britannia Films
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Patricia Jessel
Dennis Lotis
Christopher Lee
Tom Naylor
Betta St. John
Venetia Stevenson
Valentine Dyall
Ann Beach
Norman Macowan
Fred Johnson
Maxine Holden
William Abney
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $19.95 Music Douglas Gamley
Kenneth V. Jones


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel), a witch, is burned in the tiny New England village of Whitewood in 1692. As she dies, she swears to wreak a horrible revenge on the village and its inhabitants, as does her partner in Satanism (Valentine Dyall).

    In 1959, student Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) heads to Whitewood to research witchcraft in the region, egged on by Professor Driscoll (Christopher Lee). Once in the town, Nan takes lodgings at the local inn run by Mrs Newlis (Patricia Jessel). The inn is built on the spot when Elizabeth Selwyn was burned. Nan also meets Patricia (Betta St John), a local bookstore owner who loans her a book on witchcraft, and Patricia's grandfather, a blind and curmudgeonly priest. Something mysterious is going on in this spooky little town, and soon Nan is in the thick of it.

    This is an atmospheric little black and white supernatural thriller from the production team that later became Amicus, and is included in a six-DVD set called The Amicus Collection, but is not available separately. While Christopher Lee is the drawcard here, he is not top-billed (singer Dennis Lotis as Nan's brother is), and he plays what amounts to a supporting role. Nevertheless, with an uncomplicated story told with style by John Llewellyn Moxey and evocative photography from Desmond Dickinson, The City of the Dead is entertaining and well worth seeing. While set in America, it is an English production with a mostly British cast putting on American accents, and none too successfully. Venetia Stevenson is the exception, probably due to being raised in America. She was the daughter of film star Anna Lee and director Robert Stevenson. Her screen career was short, lasting four years before retiring at 23, though she worked in production later in life. Her appearance in some outlandish underwear in one scene is totally gratuitous.

    It should also be noted that the film was released in the US cut slightly and renamed Horror Hotel.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is quite a good transfer. The image is a little dark at times but the contrast is good. Detail is reasonable although the shallow focus means that only objects in the foreground have anything resembling fine detail. Shadow detail is not very good, mainly due to much of the film being shot in low light levels. The black and white cinematography is a little dull and flat looking.

    There are some minor compression artefacts noticeable as macro-blocking in the foggy scenes, though these are quite small and you would need to be looking for them to notice them. There is some telecine wobble as well, but otherwise the transfer is quite good. There are a number of film artefacts, ranging from faint scratches to hairs, dirt and white flecks.

    The film comes on a single-layer disc and there are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is quite clear throughout. The audio is a little thin in the upper frequencies, with a slight harshness and a lot of sibilance. The music, by Douglas Gamley, is quite atmospheric and is used well to suggest a sense of weirdness to the proceedings. The music tends to come over better sound-wise than the dialogue. There is also some jazz music by Ken Jones.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    This consists of a loud scream followed by the Dies Irae and some mediaeval chants.

Theatrical Trailer (1:33)

    This is described as an original US release trailer although the title is the original British one. It features a sepulchral narration and looks a lot worse than the feature, being in widescreen but not 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer-The Amicus Collection (1:55)

    This submenu has the City of the Dead theatrical trailer again, or at least another way of navigating to it, plus trailers for The Beast Must Die and And Now The Screaming Starts. The former trailer looks horrible, as if it was taken from a low-grade VHS copy. The latter looks a lot better and is 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The film has previously been released by MRA in Region 4 under the US release title Horror Hotel. I have a copy of this DVD which I had not gotten around to watching when I received the review copy of the new release, so my comparison is based on a brief audition of the earlier release. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.72:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced, and runs 75:57. Extras amount to two pages of text about the film and two pages of biographical material about Christopher Lee. The transfer is quite poor in contrast, very blurry and washed out. The Umbrella edition is certainly an improvement on the older release.

    The film has also been released in the US in two Region 1 editions. Elite Entertainment released a transfer of a 16mm print in an aspect ratio of 1.75:1, which I believe was not 16x9 enhanced.

    VCI have released the film in Region 1 under the original British title. This edition is 16x9 enhanced in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1. It contains the following extras:

    Reviews indicate that the transfer is of the same quality as the Region 4, though perhaps cleaned up more. The interviews total about 90 minutes, half of which is devoted to Lee. Opinions vary on the quality of the commentaries, but Moxey's appears to be more concerned with artistic choices and has frequent pauses, while Lee spends a lot of time describing the on-screen action in between anecdotes about the cast and horror films in general.

    As noted above, this disc comes as part of a set devoted to Amicus. The UK Region 2 Amicus Collection contains five of the six films in this set, but not this one.

    Based on the copious extras, the Region 1 seems to be the best version, but I doubt whether anyone would be disappointed with the Region 4, particularly as you get 5 more horror films into the bargain. It does cost a bit more though.

Summary

    A nice little thriller, well presented here. The only extras are a few trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959) | Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) | The House That Dripped Blood (1970) | Asylum (1972) | And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) | The Beast Must Die (1974)

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Freddie Francis (Director)
Audio Commentary-Allan Bryce (Darkside Magazine Editor)
Trailer-The Amicus Collection
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1965
Running Time 94:15 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Freddie Francis
Studio
Distributor
Amicus Productions
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Christopher Lee
Max Adrian
Ann Bell
Michael Gough
Jennifer Jayne
Neil McCallum
Bernard Lee
Roy Castle
Peter Cushing
Alan Freeman
Peter Madden
Kenny Lynch
Jeremy Kemp
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $24.95 Music Elisabeth Lutyens
Tubby Hayes
Kenny Lynch


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Dr Terror's House of Horrors is a portmanteau film consisting of five stories with a linking story. Five men enter a train carriage in London bound for Bradley, and are joined by a sixth, the mysterious Doctor Schreck (Peter Cushing wearing a beard and false eyebrows). Schreck is the German word for terror, hence the title of the film. It was also the surname of the actor who played the title character in the vampire classic Nosferatu in 1922.

    During the journey, the good doctor breaks open his pack of Tarot cards and proceeds to reveal the destinies of each of the travellers. This provides the framework to tell five horror stories.

    The first story concerns an architect, Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum), who travels to a Scottish island to alter the house of Mrs Biddulph (Ursula Howells). By coincidence, this house was previously owned by Dawson's ancestors. Venturing down into the cellar, he finds a fake wall behind which is the coffin of Count Valdemar. Valdemar had sworn a curse against the descendants of the Dawson clan and to reclaim the house stolen from him. The coffin has sculptures of the heads of wolves on it, and soon Dawson realises that lycanthropy is involved...

    The second story has Bill Rogers (Australian-born disc jockey and original Top of the Pops host Alan Freeman) and his family returning from vacation to discover a fast-growing vine has installed itself in the garden. When the plant seems to respond violently to attempts to cut it down, Rogers goes to the Ministry, where he gets advice from a couple of boffins (played by Bernard Lee and Jeremy Kemp). It soon turns out that the plant has read The Day of the Triffids and harbours homicidal tendencies towards any threats to its existence.

    Story three is the intentionally humorous one. Biff Bailey (Roy Castle - a low grade Tommy Steele, if such a thing is possible) is a jazz musician who accepts a gig in the West Indies, and foolishly steals a tune from a local voodoo ceremony. When he tries to use the tune as a melody in a jazz tune back in London, there are dire consequences. Mainly for the viewer. Castle was a last-minute replacement for Acker Bilk, who had suffered a heart attack, but who ironically has survived Castle by more than a decade - must have been that voodoo stuff.

    Next up is the tale of Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee), an art critic who seems more concerned with his own devastating wit than art itself. Eric Landor (Michael Gough) bears the brunt of one of Marsh's tirades, but gets even by humiliating the critic publicly. When Landor takes it too far, Marsh responds in violent fashion causing Landor to lose one of his hands. Marsh is then tormented by the disembodied hand, which seems immune to fire as well as possessing the skills of Houdini.

    Lastly, Dr Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) returns to his home in America with his new French bride Nicolle (Jennifer Jayne). Soon there is evidence that a vampire is on the loose, and Carroll seeks the aid of his colleague Dr Blake (Max Adrian).

    The multi-story horror film generally traces its roots back to a British film called Dead of Night, made in 1945, but still further back there were such films in the silent era, notably Waxworks (1924). The horror tale had also flourished in the short story form, mainly in American pulp magazines like Weird Tales (1923-1954) and Strange Stories (1939-1940). By the late 1950s such stories had again become sufficiently popular in Britain for several long-running series of paperback books to be devoted to them, including The Pan Book of Horror Stories (30 volumes) and The Fontana Books of Great Ghost (20 volumes) and Great Horror Stories (17 volumes). There were numerous other series and single anthologies into the mid-1980s, showing that horror in the short form was quite popular in Britain.

    Portmanteau films, those containing multiple complete stories often by different directors, appeared regularly during the 1950s. Never particularly popular in the US (O. Henry's Full House being one exception in this period), this type of film gained some prominence in England with a series of Somerset Maugham adaptations and especially in Italy, where many such films were made during the next two decades, often with directors of the ilk of Fellini, Visconti, Antonioni and De Sica. The portmanteau horror movie was resurrected in America in 1962 by Roger Corman (Tales of Terror) and in Italy in 1963 by Mario Bava (Black Sabbath), both films linked by the presence of Boris Karloff. This effort from Britain's Amicus was their first of this type, and they followed it with numerous similar films. And it remains one of their best, even if not all of the stories are of consistent quality. The best episodes are those with the werewolf and crawling hand, the former because of the spooky atmosphere it develops and the latter because of the excellent performance by the star and fast pacing of the story. The one with the rogue plant is a little silly and does not really have an ending, though the supporting cast helps keep it going. The vampire story has a daft ending while the voodoo tale is the worst of the lot, with an annoying lead and not much substance. The framing story is pretty obvious too, though anything with Cushing in it has some value.

    The stories were written by Milton Subotsky, one of the two partners in the Amicus company. He was something of a horror aficionado and was very hands-on in the filmmaking process, something which will be obvious from the director's commentary. The film was directed by Freddie Francis, who made a number of horror films for both Amicus and Hammer, but whose talents lay in cinematography for which he won two Academy Awards. His direction here is pretty good, and he manages in some of the stories to generate suspense. In others he is defeated by the script or the low production budget. It says something for the art director (Bill Constable) that he was able to make a virtue out of necessity, with some spooky settings built at the studio.

    In more recent times, inspired by the successes of slasher films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, the horror genre has been associated with blood, gore and the building up and releasing of tension through sudden shocks. While this is no classic, Dr Terror provides an hour and a half of horror entertainment of the old-fashioned thoughtful and atmospheric kind that this reviewer prefers. Good on Umbrella Entertainment for making these movies available in Region 4, though if you want this film you will have to buy the 6-disc Amicus Collection set that it comes in. A special note that this film should not be confused with a 1943 compilation of the same name, nor with Dr Horror's Erotic House of Idiots.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, close to the original 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is taken from a German print, which has the title Die Todeskarten des Dr. Schreck and the English title below. The director is credited as "Freddy Francis". The end credits either did not exist on this print, or were in German, as end credits from what looks like a VHS edition of the film have been inserted. They look terrible, quite fuzzy and unclear, having been zoomed in to match the aspect ratio of the feature.

    Otherwise, this is a pretty good transfer of the print material. It is quite sharp and there is a good level of detail in close-ups. Perhaps in long distance shots there is a lack of detail, but there are not too many of these. The contrast is very good, with details revealed in dark areas of the image when the general lighting is bright. However, in darker sequences shadow detail drops away significantly.

    Colour is quite good, but seems to lack something. Perhaps the print material is slightly faded, as the colours are generally realistic but not especially vibrant or lively. Flesh tones seem to be well represented though.

    Blacks are spoiled by low level noise, a particularly bad example being at 15:52. There is some minor aliasing at times, and diagonal straight edges suffer from a faint jaggedness. Some edge enhancement has been applied as well, though this is only noticeable against light backdrops.

    There are numerous film artefacts, in the form of minor print damage, dirt and dust. At the very top of the frame, three-quarters of the way to the right, there seems to be a tiny white mark that changes shape during the film, possibly a result of a hair in the gate when the print was made. It is noticeable and therefore a little annoying.

    Despite all of the above, the film probably hasn't looked this good on any video format before.

    There are no subtitles. The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed at 65:23. It is somewhat poorly placed in the middle of a scene, though there is no movement or sound on screen at the time and so it could have been more disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The default audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The only other audio tracks are commentaries.

    I had no trouble understanding any of the dialogue. The audio sounds very mono, with little in the way of dynamic range and is lacking in the finer tonal qualities in the upper range. It also tends to be a little boomy during some of the louder sequences. That being said, it is perfectly acceptable for a film of this vintage.

    The music score is by Elizabeth Luytens, and effectively adds the required atmosphere to the film through the use of some portentous orchestral music, often a little too loud for my liking. Some jazz music is included in the voodoo segment, supplied by Tubby Hayes, with songs by Kenny Lynch, both of whom also appear in this segment.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The film comes with not one but two commentaries, both of which were recorded for the 2003 Region 2 release from Anchor Bay.

Main Menu Audio

    Some of Elizabeth Luytens' music for the film is heard when the main menu is displayed.

Audio Commentary-Freddie Francis (Director) and Jonathon Sothcott (Journalist)

    This commentary is moderated by Sothcott, who seems to know a lot about British horror films and has obviously done his research thoroughly. It should be remembered though that Francis was about 84 when the commentary was recorded in 2001. His most frequent answer to Sothcott's questions is "I don't remember", which gets annoying very quickly. Still, there is a reasonable amount of interesting information here, despite the occasional pauses. Note that the commentary continues for a few seconds with a dark screen after the film has ended.

Audio Commentary-Allan Bryce (Darkside Magazine Editor)

    Allan Bryce is the author of a book on Amicus and obviously knows a lot about the subject, even if the book has been criticised for a lack of depth. He is enthusiastic and delivers his material in something other than a drone, so the commentary is an easy listen. He admits that this is his first such effort, and perhaps in future he should learn to temper his witticisms.

Trailer-The Amicus Collection (3:28)

    Trailers for The City of the Dead, The Beast Must Die and And Now The Screaming Starts. The first two are letterboxed and look quite poor, especially the second, while the last is 16x9 enhanced and looks a lot better in comparison.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This material was released in Region 2 in the UK in 2003, also in a set devoted to Amicus, though this set was a 5 film set (omitting The City of the Dead). It is also available separately. In comparison to the Region 2, the Region 4 misses out on:

    By contrast, the Region 2 misses out on just the theatrical trailers.

    Given that the original presentation of the film was in monaural sound, I don't see anything to be gained by having the surround remixes. The other extras would have been nice to have in Region 4, but otherwise I cannot imagine anyone being displeased with the new release.

Summary

    A pretty good compilation horror film with some entertainment value.

    The video quality is quite good most of the time.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    Two audio commentaries are welcome extras, almost over the top for this sort of material.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, March 21, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
German print and surround remixes -
Dr Horror's WHAT? -
(Forgot to mention) - subtitles -
Thank you for mentioning our film "Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots"! -

Overall | The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959) | Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) | The House That Dripped Blood (1970) | Asylum (1972) | And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) | The Beast Must Die (1974)

The House That Dripped Blood (1970)

The House That Dripped Blood (1970)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Peter Duffell (Director)
Featurette-Interviews With Director Peter Duffell And Cast Members
Trailer-The Amicus Collection
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 97:12 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Duffell
Studio
Distributor
Amicus Productions
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring John Bryans
John Bennett
John Malcolm
Denholm Elliott
Joanna Dunham
Robert Lang
Tom Adams
Peter Cushing
Joss Ackland
Wolfe Morris
Christopher Lee
Chloe Franks
Nyree Dawn Porter
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $24.95 Music Michael Dress


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Amicus were the kings of multi-story horror films. One third of their total output of twenty-seven productions were in this form. The House That Dripped Blood was the third, and the second written by prolific American pulp writer Robert Bloch after 1967's Torture Garden.

    This film contains four stories (based on short stories previously published by Bloch) linked by a framing story into which the last story dovetails. An actor has gone missing, and a Scotland Yard policeman (John Bennett) is called in to investigate. The local bobby tells him tales about the previous owners of the house, as does the real estate agent, one A. J. Stoker (the A surely stands for Abraham).

    In the first story, a horror story writer, Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott), moves into the house with his wife, Alice (Joanna Dunham). Hillyer needs quiet to finish his book, but his creation, Dominic (Tom Adams wearing Boris Karloff's makeup from The Old Dark House), an insane murderer, soon begins to haunt him. Seeking the aid of a psychiatrist (Robert Lang), Hillyer continues to have visions of Dominic, leading him to think he is going mad - but is he? This episode is based on Bloch's story Method For Murder, first published in the magazine Fury in 1962. The film follows the story quite closely.

    The second tale features Peter Cushing as Philip Grayson, who retires to the house to live his lonely existence, comforted only by his photo of his lost love, his cravats and his recording of Death and the Maiden. While wandering through the town one day he comes across a wax museum, in which the figure of Salome bears a strong resemblance to the woman he loved. Then into his life comes old friend Neville (Joss Ackland), also a cravat fancier, who loved the same woman (now deceased). He becomes obsessed by the waxwork, leading to unfortunate results. This story is based on Waxworks, first published in the pages of Weird Tales in 1939. In the story, the character of Neville does not appear and the owner of the wax museum has a much larger role. The ending is also quite different. Apparently producer Milton Subotsky rewrote the screenplay considerably, much to the chagrin of Bloch.

    Next up the uptight John Reid (Christopher Lee) moves into the house with his young daughter, Jane (Chloe Franks). Reid refuses to send Jane to school, and instead engages a private tutor, Ann (Nyree Dawn Porter), to look after her education. Ann soon learns that Jane is no ordinary child, and that Reid has a dark secret about his dead wife. The original story, Sweets to the Sweet, comes from Weird Tales in 1947, and is slightly different from the film, in that the character of Ann does not appear and the denouement is even more shocking.

    Finally, a comic tale about the missing actor. Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee) rents the house while making yet another of the schlock horror films for which he is famous. The cheesy film has ultra-low production values, and Henderson does not find the cloak he is expected to wear sufficiently authentic-looking. This leads him to seek his own, and he stumbles into the costumery of Theo von Hartmann (Geoffrey Bayldon, made up to look like Ernest Thesiger in Bride of Frankenstein). Hartmann supplies Henderson with a cloak which has a certain effect on him when he wears it, as his leading lady Carla (Ingrid Pitt) soon finds out. Bloch's The Cloak first saw the light of day in Unknown in 1939. In the original, Henderson acquires the cloak to take to a fancy dress party, with much the same result.

    In the end, our intrepid and sceptical inspector heads off to the house in question. Big mistake.

    As these sort of films go, this isn't a bad effort, much better in fact than Torture Garden. Apart from having an excellent cast, with stand-out performances by Cushing, Lee and Franks, the stories are all better written. Bloch's trademark twists in the tail and sardonic humour make this quite enjoyable. The last story would have been a lot better had the original choice to play the ageing horror-meister, Vincent Price, been available. He was keen to do the film but was unable to do so due to contractual arrangements. Pertwee is okay but goes a little over the top. The second story has some unfortunate resonances, as Cushing's wife was terminally ill at the time and he was reluctant to appear in the film at all.

    All of the episodes are well directed by Peter Duffell, especially the middle two. Good use is made of the interiors of the house, with no two episodes filmed in the same rooms. While this movie does not deliver any real shocks, it does create some atmosphere and disquiet, in the style of older horror flicks. Well worth seeking out, though it is only available as part of the six-disc Amicus Collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not too dissimilar to the original 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer afforded to the film is quite good in many respects. The level of detail is very good, with a sharp image virtually throughout. Contrast is good, and the video is nice and bright without being washed out. Because of the film stock used during that era (which can also be seen on Hammer films for example), it does not have the vividness and clarity of earlier colour footage, looking little different from TV material.

    There are a number of film artefacts. Throughout there are frequent white flecks and dark specks, plus occasional faint scratches and bits of fluff. Otherwise there are no significant artefacts.

    No subtitles are provided.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer break positioned at 76:25, just as Henderson heads off to buy his cloak. As it is placed at a cut, it is not very disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    This is a satisfactory soundtrack that does the job required. While dialogue is slightly sibilant at times, it is clear and I had no trouble understanding any of it. The sound is thin at times but there is sufficient body and bass to make it a reasonable listen. Effects and music come across well.

    The music score is by Michael Dress. It is somewhat dissonant and quite eerie at times, for example the clanging bells and clockwork sounds in the first story. Quite a good effort as far as this sort of film is concerned.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu features some of the soundtrack music.

Audio Commentary-Peter Duffell (Director)

    Jonathon Rigby moderates this interview with the director of the film. Rigby seems to know a lot about Amicus, the production of this film and the cast, and Duffell's recollections of the film are clear and interesting. This is an enjoyable and revealing commentary.

Featurette-Interviews With Director Peter Duffell And Cast Members (17:03)

    This is slightly less interesting than the commentary, but we do get to see how Ingrid Pitt, Geoffrey Bayldon and Chloe Franks look today. My player was unable to read the time-coding on this item, but my DVD-ROM drive had no problem.

Trailer-The Amicus Collection (3:28)

    Trailers for The City of the Dead, The Beast Must Die and And Now The Screaming Starts. The first two are letterboxed and look quite poor, especially the second, while the last is 16x9 enhanced and looks a lot better in comparison. These trailers seem to be the same on every one of the discs in this set.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 is nearly identical to the UK Region 2 release, which likewise is available as part of a set called The Amicus Collection and separately. The Region 2 set has only the five films, omitting The City of the Dead.

    The major difference is in the audio section, with the Region 2 having two surround mixes, in DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as the authentic monaural soundtrack. Extras in addition to those on the Region 4 are cast and director biographies, some production note and extracts from contemporary reviews, and a photo gallery.

    The US Region 1 release seems to emanate from the same transfer as the Region 2, but the sole extra is a short interview with Amicus managing director Max Rosenberg.

    The Region 2 looks to have the edge in terms of extra material, but if that does not interest you, the Region 4 is perfectly acceptable. If you really only want this film and none of the others, the choice is the Region 2.

Summary

    An entertaining series of stories linked by a house that does not drip blood.

    The video and audio quality are quite good for a film of this type.

    The commentary is a very good extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, March 28, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959) | Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) | The House That Dripped Blood (1970) | Asylum (1972) | And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) | The Beast Must Die (1974)

Asylum (1972)

Asylum (1972)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Roy Ward Baker (Director) And Neil Binney (Cameraman)
Featurette-Inside The Fear Factory
Trailer-The Amicus Collection
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 88:55
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:16) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Roy Ward Baker
Studio
Distributor
Harbor Productions
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Peter Cushing
Britt Ekland
Herbert Lom
Patrick Magee
Barry Morse
Barbara Parkins
Robert Powell
Charlotte Rampling
Sylvia Syms
Richard Todd
James Villiers
Geoffrey Bayldon
Anne Firbank
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $24.95 Music Douglas Gamley


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is yet another portmanteau horror film from Amicus, again from a screenplay by Robert Bloch based on his short fiction. In this one, Doctor Martin (Robert Powell) arrives at an asylum where the wheelchair-bound director Doctor Rutherford (Patrick Magee) sets him a task to prove that he is up to the job: determine which one of the inmates is Doctor Starr, who has recently gone mad and whom Martin is expected to replace. Of course, this is how interviews are conducted in all asylums, isn't it?

    The first story concerns Walter (Richard Todd), who seeks to do away with his wife Ruth (Sylvia Syms), so that he can take up with his mistress Bonnie (Barbara Parkins). Walter cuts Ruth into pieces and puts her into the freezer after wrapping her dismembered bits in brown paper. However, he fails to take into account the fact that Ruth has been seeing a voodoo teacher, with dire consequences. This story is based on Frozen Fear, a Bloch story that first saw the light of day in Weird Tales in 1946, though in that story the wife is trying to kill her husband by voodoo, so she is not as blameless as in the film version.

    The next inmate is Bruno (Barry Morse), who was a tailor. About to be convicted, he is commissioned by Mr Smith (Peter Cushing) to make a suit for his son, out of a weird fabric and only between the hours of midnight and dawn. When Mr Smith fails to pay, there are dire consequences for everyone. The original story, The Weird Tailor (Weird Tales again, in 1944), had the Bruno character as deserving of his fate. There was use of a refrigerator in this story in much the same manner as the previous tale in the film, so this part had to be changed to avoid repetition.

    Third up is Barbara (Charlotte Rampling), who returns home from hospital with her brother George (James Villiers). A nurse (Megs Jenkins) is engaged to take care of her, but none of them have counted on the resourcefulness of Barbara's "friend" Lucy (Britt Ekland). This story is based on Lucy Comes to Stay (Weird Tales, 1952), and is quite in keeping with the original story.

    The fourth and last tale is integrated with the framing story, as Byron (Herbert Lom) makes small dolls with heads made up to look like real people. He seeks revenge on Doctor Rutherford. The tale is based on Mannikins of Horror, which appeared in the pages of Weird Tales in 1939, and in which the Doctor Starr of the framing story appeared.

    This is slightly better than it should be. Some of the stories are a little silly, and the sight of dismembered body parts wrapped in brown paper wreaking their horrible vengeance is more funny than scary. The film has an excellent cast, also including Geoffrey Bayldon as the orderly Reynolds. Barbara Parkins is quite poor in her role, Morse overacts (but then he almost always does), while Cushing looks as if he has just been bereaved, which he was, his wife having died the previous year. He gives a fine albeit brief performance nonetheless. Ekland is unusually convincing, while Rampling had yet to learn to act with her eyes - in any case she looks about 18. Roy Ward Baker directs quite well apart from the dismembered limbs sequence. Overall this is enjoyable enough without being a classic.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not far from the original 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer afforded to the film is quite good in most respects. The level of detail is very good, with a sharp image virtually throughout. Contrast is good, and the video is nice and bright. Colour is a little on the overdone side, with flesh tones a little too ruddy and the red part of the spectrum a little too intense.

    Dot crawl is visible on the opening yellow credits, while the grille of George's Jaguar/Daimler in the second story shows aliasing. There are a number of film artefacts, with frequent white flecks and dark spots, plus occasional faint scratches. Otherwise there are no significant artefacts, and this is a quite good transfer, despite a lot of grain.

    No subtitles are provided.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer break positioned at 57:16, when Barbara goes into her bathroom. While the screen is dark, the music is interrupted by the layer change, as is therefore the viewer. It could have been better placed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    This is a satisfactory soundtrack that does the job required. While dialogue is slightly sibilant at times, it is clear and I had no trouble understanding any of it. The sound is thin at times but there is sufficient body and bass to make it a reasonable listen. Effects and music come across well.

    A loud music score by Douglas Gamley graces this disc. While it is effective at times, the repeated use of familiar music by Mussorgsky detracts from the overall effect. The opening credits have Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestration of A Night on Bald Mountain, while throughout the film there are snippets from Ravel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition. Neither are credited.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu features some of the soundtrack music.

Audio Commentary-Roy Ward Baker (Director) and Neil Binney (Cameraman)

    Marcus Hearn moderates this interview with the director of the film and its cameraman (Denys Coop was the DOP). Baker is quite forthcoming about the film and his career, and between the three of them a lot about the film is revealed. This is almost a model of a good commentary, let down only by regular gaps lasting up to a minute or so. The menu renames the director Barker.

Featurette-Inside the Fear Factory (17:03)

    A feast of octogenarians, as Amicus money-man Max Rosenberg (now deceased), Baker and Freddie Francis reminisce about Amicus - though the interviews were conducted separately. Interesting stuff, though the two directors disagree with Rosenberg over the latter's contribution to the film.

Trailer-The Amicus Collection (3:28)

    Trailers for The City of the Dead, The Beast Must Die and And Now The Screaming Starts. The first two are letterboxed and look quite poor, especially the second, while the last is 16x9 enhanced and looks a lot better in comparison. These trailers seem to be the same on every one of the discs in this set.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 is nearly identical to the UK Region 2 release, which likewise is available as part of a set called The Amicus Collection but not separately. The Region 2 set has only the five films omitting The City of the Dead.

    The major difference is in the audio section, with the Region 2 having two surround mixes, in DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as the authentic monaural soundtrack.

    The US Region 1 release from Image is in 1.33:1 and has no extras, so there is no need to consider it as an alternative.

    There appears to be no difference between the Region 2 and Region 4 editions of this film, but as neither are available separately you would need to purchase the box set, and the Region 4 has the edge as it contains an extra film.

Summary

    An entertaining anthology, but not the best of its type.

    The video and audio quality are good..

    There are some worthwhile extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959) | Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) | The House That Dripped Blood (1970) | Asylum (1972) | And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) | The Beast Must Die (1974)

And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)

And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Roy Ward Baker (Director) And Stephanie Beacham (Actress)
Audio Commentary-Ian Ogilvy (Actor)
Trailer-The Amicus Collection
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 90:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Roy Ward Baker
Studio
Distributor
Harbor Productions
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Peter Cushing
Herbert Lom
Patrick Magee
Stephanie Beacham
Ian Ogilvy
Geoffrey Whitehead
Guy Rolfe
Rosalie Crutchley
Gillian Lind
Sally Harrison
Janet Key
John Sharp
Norman Mitchell
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $24.95 Music Douglas Gamley


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    And Now The Screaming Starts is a Gothic supernatural story set in England in 1795. Something is wrong in the house of Fengriffen. The lord of the manor, Sir Charles (Ian Ogilvy), brings his virgin bride, Catherine (Stephanie Beacham), back to the manor and a seemingly idyllic country life. But almost immediately strange things occur. A bloodied hand thrusts itself out from a painting of Charles' grandfather Henry. She also sees a vision of a man with a bloodied stump instead of a hand, with both his eyes missing. Anyone who tries to tell Catherine about the history of the house or to take her away dies mysteriously. A woodsman who lives on the grounds seems to be hiding some secret. When the modern-thinking Dr Pope (Peter Cushing) arrives, he tries to work out what is happening, from a rational point of view of course. But something irrational is happening.

    Based on a Gothic story by David Case, the film was originally to be called The Bride of Fengriffen, until moneyman Max Rosenberg intervened with his commercially-minded title. There certainly is a lot of screaming, but the new name seems to have been unpopular with cast and crew. Whatever the name, this is not the best film Amicus produced. In fact, it is quite dull and ponderous, especially in the first half. This is, however, one case where the extras help one's appreciation of the result. After listening to both commentaries I had a number of insights into what the filmmakers were trying to achieve, even if the film remains one I would not watch again in a hurry.

    Not that the movie lacks compensations. Stephanie Beacham is extremely easy on the eye, and gives a full-blooded performance. There's no winking at the audience here: you believe that she really believes in the character and gives it her all. Ian Ogilvy is slightly bland as Charles, though he is really just a supporting character. Peter Cushing is as usual worth seeing, and the film improves once he comes on the scene. There are also some fine actors in support, such as Patrick Magee, Guy Rolfe and Rosalie Crutchley. Herbert Lom appears in a brief flashback as the wicked Henry.

    Roy Ward Baker's direction is a little pedestrian, and some of the acting in minor parts could have been better. The production design is good, but seems to me to be a little flat. Perhaps the lighting illuminates too much of the set. I would have preferred a lot of dark shadows to give the inside of the house more character. In the end it looks not unlike a television production, like one of those lush but shallow period dramas the BBC turns out from time to time. Amicus's animated hand technology has also moved on considerably since Dr Terror's House of Horrors.

    While the film is really just a bland and only occasionally compelling horror film, it is worthwhile listening to one or both of the audio commentaries, which are very good. The film comes as part of the Amicus Collection box set, and is not available separately at the time of writing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a good transfer with sufficient detail to make viewing easy. It is very much on a par with other releases in this series. Detail level in daylight scenes is much better than in the darker sequences. The latter are often murky and some low level noise is visible. Contrast is good for the most part. Colour is more variable. Some sequences are just as one would expect in the cinema, but in others the colour seems skewed to the red part of the spectrum. Flesh tones suffer most, with the actors sometimes looking as if they had just come back from a holiday in Majorca, rather than looking like typical Eighteenth Century gentry.

    There are no serious compression artefacts. There is a lot of telecine wobble throughout the film. Most of the time this is not noticeable unless you are looking for it. There are a lot of film artefacts, mainly white flecks indicating print damage. There are occasional faint scratches and some dirt is evident.

    No subtitles are provided. The film is squeezed onto a single-layer disc, so there is no layer change to report.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The soundtrack is typical for this series. The audio is slightly thin in the upper frequencies, possible a result of the original mono recording, though I suspect that the digital transfer has also affected it. The dialogue often sounds more sibilant than it should be. Otherwise the audio is workmanlike, and the frequent screams of the female star are well rendered.

    Douglas Gamley contributed the music score. This is quite an effective score, with a lush TV-style opening theme suggesting the film might just be a historical romance, which it turns out not to be. There are some effective eerie moments, though it all sounds derivative.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu features some of the soundtrack music.

Audio Commentary-Roy Ward Baker (Director) and Stephanie Beacham (Actress)

    Marcus Hearn moderates this interview with the director of the film and its star. This is a fine and interesting commentary, with Baker's measured observations and recollections complemented by Beacham's enthusiasm for the film. There are a lot of illuminating comments about the lighting, costumes and sets. Like the Asylum disc, the menu has the director's surname as Barker.

Audio Commentary-Ian Ogilvy (Actor)

    Film historian Darren Gross hosts this commentary. I had some misgivings about this commentary, not expecting Ogilvy to be such a good choice as a commentator. Unlike most of the commentaries in the Amicus Collection, there are almost no dead spots. Ogilvy not only remembers this film and his career with enthusiasm (how many other actors worked with Cushing, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price?), but does so without any ego getting in the way. He seems quite chuffed that the house used for the exterior shots was also used for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a favourite film of his step-children. While he hadn't seen the film in almost thirty years, he still has memories of the people and the era which make this commentary highly enjoyable. I wish all commentaries were to this standard.

Trailer-The Amicus Collection (3:28)

    Trailers for The City of the Dead, The Beast Must Die and And Now The Screaming Starts. The first two are letterboxed and look quite poor, especially the second, while the last is 16x9 enhanced and looks a lot better in comparison. These same trailers seem to be on every one of the discs in this set.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 is nearly identical to the UK Region 2 release, which likewise is available as part of a set called The Amicus Collection but not separately. The Region 2 set has only the five films omitting The City of the Dead.

    The major difference is in the audio section, with the Region 2 having two surround mixes, in DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as the authentic monaural soundtrack. The Region 2 also has some additional extras, being a TV spot, a phot gallery, some production notes and cast biographies.

    The US Region 1 release from Image is in 1.85:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced. It has a photo gallery and a trailer as extras.

    There appears to be no substantial difference between the Region 2 and Region 4 editions of this film, but as neither are available separately you would need to purchase the box set, and the Region 4 has the edge as it contains an extra film.

Summary

    A slightly dull but well made Gothic thriller.

    The video quality and audio quality are very good.

    Two excellent commentaries for extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) (1959) | Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) | The House That Dripped Blood (1970) | Asylum (1972) | And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) | The Beast Must Die (1974)

The Beast Must Die (1974)

The Beast Must Die (1974)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Paul Annett (Director)
Interviews-Crew-Directing The Beast
Trailer-The Amicus Collection
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 88:58 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Paul Annett
Studio
Distributor
Amicus Productions
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Calvin Lockhart
Peter Cushing
Marlene Clark
Anton Diffring
Charles Gray
Ciaran Madden
Tom Chadbon
Michael Gambon
Sam Mansary
Andrew Lodge
Eric Carte
Carl Bohen
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $19.95 Music Douglas Gamley


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A millionaire invites a group of disparate individuals to his estate in Scotland, where he reveals that one of them is a werewolf whom he is going to uncover and kill. His estate has been equipped with the latest surveillance equipment, plus wolf bane (in a pot labelled "wolf bane") and silver candlesticks of course. The full moon is tonight, and the beast must die! Of course, the beast is going to take a few of the guests with him/her.

    This is a very silly adaptation of the James Blish novella There Shall Be No Darkness, and represents the last horror film made by Amicus in which co-founder Milton Subotsky was involved. It was one of three films Amicus made simultaneously at Shepparton Studios and was helmed by TV veteran Paul Annett. The result is a horror film without any shocks that looks like a TV movie. Well, there is one shock, but it has nothing to do with the werewolf.

    The plot of this film has more gaping holes than the throats of the werewolf's victims. Why these people agreed to come to the remote Scottish estate in the first place is one, and why the millionaire big-game hunter ventures out at night without any weapons is another. The way in which everybody immediately accepts that there is a werewolf amongst them is a third.

    Assembled for this evening's entertainment are a motley assortment of actors. Bahamian Calvin Lockhart, who had appeared in some American blaxploitation flicks, is the determined millionaire. His performance is a little weak - the producers might have done much better with a more charismatic lead actor - but there is a novelty value in having a black actor in a leading role in a British horror opus. His wife is played by American actress Marlene Clark, whom Lockhart apparently insisted be cast in the role so that he had someone familiar to work with. A pity, as she is mostly awful. A solid cast of British actors are the suspects: Peter Cushing sports an unusual Swedish accent as the werewolf expert Lundstrom, while Charles Gray has little to do but spout pithy and cutting remarks as a UN delegate (of all things). Michael Gambon plays a Polish pianist who looks more upset by the circumstances he finds himself in than Adrien Brody did in The Pianist. Perhaps he was wishing that he had not been talked into appearing. Anton Diffring gets a brief run as a security expert before he runs afoul of the beast.

    The werewolf is played by a dog dressed up in furs rather than a man dressed up in furs. Unfortunately the dog they chose was too friendly, and spends much of his screen time with his tongue hanging out. There are a few effective moments with the werewolf being tracked through the estate by helicopter. Otherwise the film is very undistinguished, with some laughable dialogue and far too little suspense. There's also the "werewolf break", inserted by Subotsky without Annett's prior knowledge. Towards the end of the film there is a pause, wherein the sepulchral tones of Valentine Dyall invite the audience to guess who the werewolf is, while an on-screen clock counts down. This is the sort of gimmickry normally associated with William Castle, and really adds nothing to the final product.

    This is the last chronologically of the six films in the Amicus Collection box set, and at the time of writing it is not available separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. Theatrically the film was shown at 1.66:1. According to one review this transfer is an open-matte version of the original, so while the original framing is lost no visual information is missing.

    This is a disappointing transfer in several respects. It looks like it may have come from an analogue source, as it looks slightly less sharp than the original material might have been. Not that it isn't sharp and detailed much of the time, it just has that video master look to it. The transfer is reasonably bright, and colours look less vivid than they should be. Flesh tones are a little on the red side. Blacks are not solid, with some low level noise evident and little in the way of shadow detail.

    The transfer to DVD has some problems. There is an annoying tendency for the image to shake, and often it seems to squeeze slightly as though the picture is warped. It is as if the film was not entirely flat or taut when passed through the telecine machine, though this is just a guess on my part. There is some minor edge enhancement, but a lot of film artefacts. There are white flecks, dirt, splice marks, reel change markings and so on. This looks very much like a TV print.

    No subtitles are provided. The film comes on an RSDL-formatted disc, with the layer change placed at 61:26 at a cut. I did not find it disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    This is a disappointing soundtrack. Dialogue is clear, but the audio is strident, with the upper frequencies sounding distorted, especially in louder passages. There are occasional crackles and some sibilance.

    Douglas Gamley contributed the music score. The opening music sounds as though it was inspired by the theme to Shaft, and there is a very 1970s brassy feel to it. Not the finest hour of British film music, but it does not sound as generic as Gamley's other work in this set.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu features some of the soundtrack music.

Audio Commentary-Paul Annett (Director)

    Jonathon Sothcott moderates this interview with the director of the film. While this isn't the best commentary in this set, it is not uninteresting. Annett has a higher opinion of the film than most critics (of course), and points out the film's strengths, mainly technical ones, with enthusiasm. Sothcott adds some pertinent background and there are few dead spots in the commentary.

Directing the Beast: Interview with Director Paul Annett (13:00)

    This is mainly excerpts from the film interspersed with the reminiscences of the director. He makes a pleasing screen presence and this interview seems to be over quite quickly. It is in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer-The Amicus Collection (3:28)

    Trailers for The City of the Dead, The Beast Must Die and And Now The Screaming Starts. The first two are letterboxed and look quite poor, especially the second, while the last is 16x9 enhanced and looks a lot better in comparison. These same trailers seem to be on every one of the discs in this set.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 is nearly identical to the UK Region 2 release, which likewise is available as part of a set called The Amicus Collection but not separately. The Region 2 set has only the five films, omitting The City of the Dead.

    The major difference is in the audio section, with the Region 2 having two surround mixes, in DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as the authentic monaural soundtrack. The Region 2 also has some additional extras, being a TV spot, a photo gallery, some production notes and cast biographies.

    The US Region 1 release is in 1.66:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced. It has no extras. The transfer is reported to be not very good.

    There appears to be no substantial difference between the Region 2 and Region 4 editions of this film, but as neither are available separately you would need to purchase the box set, and the Region 4 has the edge as it contains an extra film.

Summary

    A ludicrous werewolf story, which is never boring but delivers no real meat to chew on.

    The video quality and audio quality are poor.

    There are more extras than the film deserves.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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