From Beyond The Grave (1974 Britain)

A four part story film with more resonance than its predecessors. The success of this Amicus portmanteau is the unusually strong and well-integrated story, with a Yorkshire – voiced Peter Cushing enjoying himself as the sinister proprietor of ‘Temptations Antiques.’ Situated between a cemetery and a nearby demolition contractor this is a most curious of curiosity shops. Cushing’s duffel coat and cloth cap appearance seems like just another part of the shop’s antiquated décor. But mind how you treat him if you want to buy some of his object d art. Even the one honest customer who goes in has to endure a highly unpleasant experience!

I knew I was going to be scared from the get go: the camera takes us on a tour of Highgate Cemetery while Douglas Gamley’s creepy score enhances the misty visuals. The maniacal voices that keep popping up, like inmates from some asylum, did nothing to calm my nerves either. The first tale is unusally gruesome by Amicus standards, maybe due to the influence of first time director Kevin Connor. David Warner glimpses a parallel universe through the mirror he purchases from ‘Temptations Antiques.’ Mr Warner is quickly degraded to serial killer depravity by the bloodthirsty demands of a ghostly face in the glass. When materialized, this demonic being serenely explains that “We are Legion, we sit in high places and fan discord.” ( Sounds a bit like a Bilderberg meeting at Davos or one of those AIPAC gatherings where US presidential hopefuls drop to their knees, vowing to serve Israel before America )

Back to the film. This opening story packs a punch and we all feel drenched in blood to the degree that it is a relief to see it finish. Top marks to the writer though. It ends on one of those “let’s have a séance” declarations by an enthusiastic group of nice people. Where would we be without a bit of dark irony? On to segment number two. Scotsman Ian Bannen turns in a wonderfully real performance of a man named Lowe, trying to break free of a loveless marriage (to the formidable Diana Dors) by stealing a DSO medal to which he isn’t entitled. Meanwhile, Donald Pleasence is an unsettling old coot selling matches nearby, his every utterance a cringe-inducing military cliché. Lowe takes pity on the match seller, who inveigles the medal thief into a weird extra-marital relationship with his ultra creepy daughter. Its a hypnotically powerful yet embarrassing story that is well acted by everyone involved.

The third tale, a very black comedy spoof of the Exorcist novel, had me cowering behind my landlady’s sofa with the cat. In “The Elemental”, carefree customer Reginald Warren (Ian Carmichael) meets a crazy old lady on a train (portrayed with memorable scene stealing gusto by Margaret Leighton with the moniker Madam Orloff) who tells him that he’s got an “elemental” on his shoulder. An elemental being some sort of hostile spirit. Warren’s initial self satisfied skepticism turns to mind numbing belief when his wife Susan (Nyree Dawn Porter) is assaulted by something unseen. Enter Madam Orloff to work her magic. This segment is truly delightful, a combination of humour and excitement. The quaint comedy exorcism in this episode tells you all you need to know about the demise of British horror when you consider this film was on release in the UK at the same time as The Exorcist.

Finally, in “The Door”, William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy) buys an elaborate door for his abode. But when he sets it up, he finds that it’s capable of transporting him to a different time and place, where an evil spectre (Jack Watson) is looking for sacrifices. The art direction and set decoration are superb in this portion of the film, and Watson makes for a suitably depraved villain. Ogilvy finds himself cornered in a ghostly ‘blue room’ by the powerful necromancer from centuries ago, bent on “the entrapment of those yet to be born.” This cobwebbed domain is beautifully visualized by designer Maurice Carter; a golden disc of light pulses strangely through the mullioned windows, reminiscent of “the entire orb of the satellite” which oversees the fall of Poe’s House of Usher. Is that all? No. The knockout punch is delivered by Peter Cushing having a surprise in store for a man who means to rob him. Magic stuff.  🙂

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Comments

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this review, this film is FANTASTIC and an absolute must for any self-respecting horror fan! Amicus and Peter Cushing, need I say more? 😈

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you. 🙂

    Like

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