Friday, September 17, 2021


Never Turn Your Back on a Patient

Of the seven films that make up Amicus Productions' complete catalog of horror anthologies—films released between the years 1965 and 1976—Asylum is my hands-down, all-time favorite. An opinion formed in my early teens based on then having only seen the five entries released in the 1970s: The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972), Vault of Horror (1973), and From Beyond the Grave (1975). Now, many decades later and thanks to streaming services, it's an opinion reinforced and reaffirmed after finally getting to see those heretofore elusive first two titles in the Amicus anthology canon: Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) and Torture Garden (1967). 
Asylum, the 5th film in the series, is a creepy, clever chiller featuring four tantalizingly taut tales of terror written by veteran horror-meister Robert Bloch (Psycho, Strait-Jacket) from his own short stories first published in volumes of Weird Tales Magazine (one dating back as far as 1936).

Directed by Roy Ward Baker (who guided Marilyn Monroe through one of her earliest dramatic roles in Don't Bother to Knock - 1952) and evocatively lensed by British New Wave cinematographer Denys Coop (A Kind of Loving, Billy Liar), Asylum remains an engagingly written, intriguingly well-cast, ceaselessly entertaining example of the portmanteau horror film at the peak of its form. These modestly-budgeted films, made on the quick and slated for quick playoffs at Drive-Ins and on horror show double-bills, vary, as they must, in quality (Asylum took all of 24 days to film, and was the second of two Amicus anthologies rapidly released in the same year). But for my money, of the entire Amicus septet, there isn’t a clunker in the bunch.     
You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Mind
Britain’s Amicus Productions (which, until very recently, I always confused with UK's then-reigning studio of gothic horror, Hammer Films) majored in the omnibus, multi-story horror film. These stories-within-a-story journeys into the macabre followed a standard format, presenting four or five unconnected tales of the weird and unexpected…some darkly comic, but always incorporating violence, the occult, or the supernatural… within a unifying framework that itself offered some kind of final revelation or surprise payoff.

The root of my attraction to these Amicus anthologies can be directly traced to my older sister. Her healthy taste for the macabre gave her a love of the cartoons of Charles Addams, which led to my being introduced to the works of Edward Gorey and the word “ennui” via her copy of The Gashlycrumb Tinies, and fostered a pretty impressive horror comic book collection. With titles like The Witching Hour and Weird Mystery Tales, these magazines often scared the daylights out of me (a story about a little girl whose parents refuse to believe there’s a “thing” hiding in her close, had me sleeping with covers over my head for years), but that didn’t stop me from making a pest of myself asking to be the first in line to borrow it whenever she brought a new issue into the house.
It may sound weird that I enjoyed scaring myself like I did, but I think adults sometimes forget how boring childhood and adolescence can be. The regimentation of school, homework, chores, and the constancy of babysitting (sittee to sitter in a flash of an eye) fuels a hunger for “safe” sensation. Whether in the form of playground requests to be pushed higher or spun faster, laugh-screaming at home from startled by siblings jumping out at you from dark rooms, or watching one of the many horror anthology programs running on TV at the time (The Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond, Journey to the Unknown, etc.)…the objective is surprise and excitement. Being scared is just one mode of getting there. And as any kid can tell you, being intermittently frightened can be the most fun a kid can have without getting into trouble.
Many horror films today, finding revulsion far easier to elicit than genuine fear, wind up leaving no impression on me at all with their impotent gore and lazy jump cuts. By contrast, the Amicus anthologies were supremely adept at creating spooky horror without being disturbing or gross. No matter how grisly things got, dastardly deeds were more often suggested than depicted. Sure, most of the scares were tame even by ‘70s standards, but these movies stayed in my mind for a lifetime because the filmmakers understood the elemental entertainment value of a really good scare.
In the ‘70s, when antiheroes and unsettlingly tragic endings in movies were virtually compulsory, the Amicus anthologies, which operated on the moral code of fables and fairy tales, appealed to my youthful sense of fair play. In narratives that pivoted on revenge or comeuppance arriving in the form of an unforeseen twist…ironic or karmic…at fadeout, evil was always punished. Fate would take its cue from Gilbert and Sullivan and mete out gruesome punishments to fit the various crimes. While the movies were playing, the unimaginable and horrific had a field day. But by the closing credits, the world of order had been safely righted again. 

The Dunsmoor Asylum for the Incurably Insane

Perhaps because as a teenager I found real life to be plenty terrifying as it is, thank you, I never really went in for the gothic horror of vampires, werewolves, or Frankenstein’s monsters. I could relate to the fantasy, but the worlds these films took place in were at such a remove, I was never engaged enough to be scared. 

What appealed to me about the Amicus anthologies was that they were set in the present day, featured a kind of vibrant color photography I usually associated with musicals, and tended to reference gothic horror traditions through a contemporary, ofttimes wry, prism (“The Cloak” episode of The House That Dripped Blood). The narratives were marvels of storytelling economy, the best of them incorporating my favorite “modern gothic” trope: the collision of the worlds of intellect and the supernatural/occult (a la Rosemary’s Baby). I’m peculiarly intrigued by stories wherein pragmatic "There’s a logical explanation for that!” types are forced to confront the possibility that there may be things that exist beyond the borders of science and reason. 
Asylum's wraparound story has a reasoned, methodical doctor armed with unwavering certainty that the damaged psyche is a frontier that can be tamed, coming face-to-face with a situation not covered in psychiatric journals. My kind of movie.
Robert Powell as Dr. Martin
In a nice subversion of the gothic tradition, Asylum opens not on a dark and stormy night with a horse-drawn carriage arriving at the gates of a dilapidated castle, but in the daylight with a sleek, red sports car speeding through a rainstorm to the gates of a contemporary mental facility that looks more like a menacing Victorian manor. Before the opening credits are over Asylum has visually established its central conflict: Modern medical science, in the form of nattily-dressed, university-educated, compassionately humorless Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) vs the insensible ancient sciences long-familiar to horror movies—aka the paranormal and That-Which-Cannot-Be-Explained.
Patrick Magee as Dr. Lionel Rutherford
Applying for a position at the remote asylum, Dr. Martin is challenged to an unorthodox test by the current chief of staff Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee): identify which of the institution's patients is the former head of the institution, Dr. B. Starr. Two days prior, Dr. Starr suffered a violent mental breakdown and now exists in a hysterical fugue…identity absorbed into a new personality, name, and personal history. If Dr. Martin can ascertain which patient, male or female, was once Dunsmoor’s head psychopathologist, the job is his.
Geoffrey Bayldon as Max Reynolds
This intriguing trial sets up three of the film's vignettes as unreliably-narrated flashback tales told by the possible Dr. Starr candidates detailing how they came to be committed. The fourth story is interwoven with the film's wraparound narrative and unfolds in the present time.

The use of music is one way a horror film can tip its hand that it’s not taking itself all that seriously (the use of a harpsichord in Hammer’s Die, Die, My Darling, for example). Asylum’s use of two stentorious orchestral pieces by 19th-century classical composer Modest Mussorgsky (“A Night on Bald Mountain” and “Pictures at an Exhibition”) work effectively in lending the film an appropriately ominous tone of chaotic dread wholly in keeping with the broad-strokes weirdness of the collected stories.

Will the real Dr. B. Starr please stand up?
The Four Bs: Bonnie, Barbara, Bruno, and Byron
Thanks to the internet (again), I finally had the opportunity to read the original Robert Bloch short stories that inspired these episodes. Bloch's adaptations for the screen are nicely updated while remaining faithful to the tone and themes. 

FROZEN FEAR    (Weird Tales - May 1946)   
Barbara Parkins as Bonnie

Richard Todd as Walter

Sylvia Syms as Ruth
Lots of people would do anything to be with the beautiful, and here, psychopathically self-enchanted, Barbara Parkins (my first time seeing her since Valley of the Dolls when I was eleven), but older, foppish, and very-married Richard Todd resorts to murdering voodoo-affiliated wife Sylvia Syms, chopping her to pieces, then storing the butcher-wrapped parts in a deep freeze in the basement. As grotesque as this scenario sounds, the whole “Till Murder Do Us Part” trope of spouses killing spouses was so overworked on TV by this time (every 3rd episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents it seemed) that this sequence had the most familiar feel to it. 
But the supernatural twist of those frozen body parts reanimating to exact murderous revenge tips this delightfully demented horror escapade into mini-classic territory. Silent for nearly half of its running time, it's a virtuoso display of how tension and suspense can be created by wholly visual means. And something about those primitive special effects warms my chilly heart.

THE WEIRD TAILOR     (Weird Tales - July 1950)
Barry Morse as Bruno

Peter Cushing as Mr. Smith
Impoverished tailor Morse is commissioned to make a suit out of a mysterious fabric by sad-eyed gentleman Cushing. The conditions of its manufacture are so peculiar and exacting one knows no good can come of it…and it doesn’t. An eerie atmosphere and fine acting propel this sequence which we learn from the DVD commentary was the segment Bloch was least happy with, owing to the extensive rewriting by producer Milton Subotsky that changed the tailor (a pretty reprehensible man in Bloch’s original story) into a sympathetic victim. A suspenseful mood piece that was not particularly scary to me even as a kid, it was my introduction to Peter Cushing. Was there ever such a class act? The expressiveness of his eyes is heartbreaking. The acting in this vignette is very strong, helping to gloss over my feeling that if anyone should have been driven insane by the events of the story, it's the tailor's wife, Anna (Ann Firbank). 

LUCY COMES TO STAY   (Weird Tales - January 1950)
Charlotte Rampling as Barbara

Britt Ekland as Lucy
My weakness for “Le femmes au Cinéma” is well-documented, so it’s likely to come as a surprise to absolutely no one that this is my favorite of Asylum’s four vignettes. Not just because of the rarity of having two women protagonists, but because of the particular women in question. We’re not talking Stefanie Powers and Donna Mills in a TV Movie-of-the-Week, folks…this is full-tilt, ‘60s iconic, international sex symbol/movie star talent & glamour courtesy of Charlotte Rampling AND Britt Ekland!! In the same movie! Together on the same screen! Seriously, only the pairing of Paul Newman & Robert Redford rivals these two in gorgeousness. This being my first time seeing either actress in a film, this segment fairly put me in a swoon back in 1972, but the story’s a kick as well.

Rampling returns home after a stint in a mental institution only to discover her mischievous friend Ekland is there to stir the pot of suspicion that Rampling’s superficially solicitous brother is actually angling to send her back to the institution for good so he can inherit the family home. When this Lucy says “I have a plan” I can assure you can bet it’s nothing like Lucy Ricardo ever thought up. The performances in this sequence are all first-rate, and the story (which took me totally by surprise) checks all the boxes of what I gravitate to in female-centric melodramas: 3 Women (1977), Mortal Thoughts  (1991), Single White Female (1992), and Images (1974).

MANNIKINS OF HORROR   (Weird Tales - December 1939)
Herbert Lom as Dr. Byron
Asylum’s final tale, about a demented (or is he?) former surgeon who constructs dolls in his own likeness that he insists he can bring to life with his mind, integrates with the film’s wraparound narrative of Dr. Martin making his final guess as to the identity of the real Dr. Starr. This sequence creeped me out because the nightmare fantasy of malevolent toys coming to life was one I harbored when I was very young and had one of those marching robots that ran on batteries. The film winds up with a nice twist that I’d actually forgotten when I rewatched this recently, so it’s nice to report that it’s effective as ever.
For reasons having as much to do with nostalgia as with the film's craftsmanship and irresistibly entertaining execution, Asylum for me still stands (and likely ever after remain) as one of the best if not THE best of the Amicus horror anthologies. It scarcely makes a false tiny step.

The film most widely credited with popularizing the anthology horror film is 1945's Dead of Night from Britain's Ealing Studios.
Dead of Night (1945)
Five horror stories helmed by four different directors, this classic omnibus film is best remembered for the segment starring Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist who comes to believe his dummy, Hugo, is villainously alive.

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965)
Amicus Productions' first anthology film was Dr. Terror's House of Horrors directed by Freddie Francis. Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Max Adrian, and a young Donald Sutherland.

Tales from the Hood (1995)
The sharpest and perhaps my personal favorite of the contemporary horror anthologies is this inspired, Afrocentric update of the genre which effectively blends horror, comedy, and cutting social critique. Directed by Rusty Cundieff, Tales from the Hood's four stories are a supernatural/occult take on the very real horrors of police brutality, white supremacy, child abuse, and gang violence. The framing device used is an eccentric funeral parlor director played with sinister glee by Clarence Williams III.

Bloch Party
In 1961 Robert Bloch wrote a more faithful adaptation of his 1950 short story "The Weird Tailor" for an episode of the horror anthology TV series Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff. Henry Jones starred as the tailor. Episode available for viewing HERE.

click on image to enlarge
One of the things I miss in this post-Blockbuster Video world is the I-can-smell-the-desperation artwork VHS/DVD covers resorted to in order to catch the consumer eye on overcrowded shelves in overlit outlets. With no time for nuance, the cover art relied on overstatement, exaggeration, and misdirection. House of Crazies (center) was the artlessly blunt title selected when Asylum was released on VHS in 1979. Not only does the artwork contain a major spoiler, but it appears Barbara Parkins didn't give permission to have her likeness reproduced, 'cause who in the hell is that woman at the top?
The German DVD release (right) went all gonzo and decided to be as misleading as fuck. First, by giving Asylum the nonsensical title: The House on the Strand. Then contributing random artwork that looks like a grown-up Patty MacCormack holding a scythe. Worse still, the top figure on the right is that insane Santa Claus from Tales from the Crypt.

Copyright © Ken Anderson  2009 - 2021


  1. I saw this for the first time just a few months ago and enjoyed it a lot! I thought I'd never end up seeing it. Had been on the lookout for it here and there ever since seeing a photo of Barbara Parkins with her hair being held out (as on the poster) in a book about movie stars many years ago. I loved the way you discussed childhood longing to be thrilled/scared and how (though few people realize it) childhood can indeed be boring at times! I was pretty much an only child and, thus, had to create most of my own fun - which sparked an overactive imagination. I never sought a great degree of thrills, but was more into playing with various figures (from Fisher-Price Little People to Mego to Adventure People to action figures once they came out!) and creating all sorts of scenarios. But I do love watching these thrillers now. They give you the chills without being gross. There was one, with Patrick Magee, about a bunch of blind men building an elaborate trap for the head of their facility/establishment. That one was really creepy! I first went looking for them for the presence of Joan Collins, who was an early obsession of mine. And it's always awesome to see a variety of stars in these movies. Kim Novak (!) was in one as a last minute replacement for somebody. One last thing: The fact that they were usually/always contemporary means that we now get to take in all those groovy clothes and hairdos from the era when watching them! Added fun. Thanks.

    1. Hello Jon! Such a great coincidence to see your comment. A coincidence because last night, when I got stuck on a particular section of this piece, I cleared my head by paying a visit to your site and read one of your fun posts featuring vintage fan magazines.

      I love that you only just saw ASYLUM so recently. The film is nearly 50 years old and some of its stories are 70 years old, so I don’t know if a new viewer finds it too predictable, too bloodless, or does it come off as a time-piece? (As you say, the unexpected benefit of these films being set in the then present-day is that they reward us with a time-tunnel visit to ‘70s fashions, hairdos, and décor (cue Barbara Parkins’ ultra-modern, ultra orange apartment.)

      The anthology film you mention that features both Joan Collins episode and that Patrick Magee sequence is 1972s TALES FROM THE CRYPT, my second favorite of the Hammer omnibus movies. It’s the one many people list as their favorite, and in a way, it stole a bit of ASYLUM’s thunder in 1972 by being the first one released that year and ASYLUM arriving on the scene mere months later.

      When you mention how you had a vivid imagination as a kid, I think you hit on my the PG-rated movies were often so popular and memorable…they often relied on the allowed the viewer to use their imaginations to supply the horror, and excitable kids like myself ran with it. Scaring myself far more effectively than any filmmaker could.

      Lastly, thanks for bringing up that Kim Novak movie, TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS (1973) While not an Amicus film, it’s a big favorite of mine, too. OLIVER!’s original Nancy, Georgia Brown appears in that one. That movie game my younger sister a night of bad dreams. And yes, Novak she stepped in for an ailing Rita Hayworth. According to Wiki, it was Novak’s first film in four years.
      Good to hear from you, Jon. Thank you so much for commenting!

  2. LOVED these horror anthologies of the 60's/70's. I tell you, when those butcher paper-wrapped body parts started crawling across the cellar floor, pandemonium broke out in the theater. There was screaming, squealing, hysterical laughter... you'd swear we were really in an asylum. So much fun.

    1. Ha! That's very much the experience my sisters and I had when we saw this. THE EXORCIST was released about a year later, and proved to be a game changer (horror movies were DEAD serious and scares were so deep-rooted they were almost existential) so ASYLUM was one of the last "fun" horror movies I can remember.
      You describe perfectly what it was like seeing that FROZEN FEAR segment with a youngish audience. Big reactions all around, and lots of laughter...not at the move, but at how strongly we were all being freaked out.
      In retrospect it's surprising too think how effectively that sequence got under everyone's skin. For weeks after we would scare each other around the house...grabbing shoulders, using scarves to run across sleeping faces, grabbing ankles from under tables. The perfect example of the entertaining side of being scared witless.

  3. Hey Ken,

    I got into a batch of Hammer and Amicus horror films last fall; and not that we're at that time of year again "Asylum" makes for a pretty good return to this genre. My favorites were the "devil cult" Hammer films like "The Witches" and "The Devil Rides Out," but I saw a few of the Amicus series as well such as "Tales from the Crypt," "Torture Garden" and "Madhouse."

    It was fun to see Robert Powell (looking very Jon Finch-like) as our main character a couple of years before he was "Mahler." My favorite segment was the Charlotte and Britt one. As I'm a veteran of movies like "Sisters" the twist wasn't a shock, but it was clever how it was handled. And has James Villiers (The Ruling Class, Half a Sixpence, etc.) ever played a guy who's not a toffee-nosed Brit-twit? I don't think so!

    I like the clever use of Mussorgsky's dramatic music (in their orchestrated/rearranged versions, as usual.) "Asylum" is one of the better entries, although one wishes what these anthologies would be like if they had Polanski, Hitchcock, Michael Powell, Ken Russell, and other genius directors of the day each take a whack at a segment!

    1. Hello Mark!
      I've been on a bit of a Hammer kick, myself, revisiting the anthology films. Although I haven't seen the films you mentioned (I'd forgotten all about MADHOUSE), my preference for present-day horror (circa'70s) got me to check out the totally bonkers TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER.
      One of the more rewarding things about seeing these Hammer films now is appreciating the casts. When I was young I was under the impression they were largely cast with unknowns merely because they were UK actors unfamiliar to me. Now seeing Robert Powell, James Villiers (love your spot-on observation!), and Megs Jenkins in this, not only have I a wealth of other roles to associate them with, but I'm so impressed by the level of talent these sometimes silly films attracted.

      I really like your idea of a horror anthology being done by some of the masters of the genre of suspense. A film with contributions by the likes of Polanski, Hitchcock, Michael Powell, Ken Russell (maybe Chabrol!) would have put me over the moon. That it never happened is almost too painful to think about. Just imagine!
      I know there were a slew of romantic and comic anthologies from Italy in the '60s (Boccaccio 70, The Witches). The only horror one I can recall is 1969's Edgar Allan Poe-based SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, which I liked a lot, but almost no one else did.
      Well, as we near the Halloween season, perhaps I'll take another stab at some of the gothic entries in the Hammer catalog. It's great that so many are now being released in collections.
      Thanks very much for commenting, Mark. Good to hear from you!

  4. I love Asylum, Ken, but for my money, the same year’s Tales From the Crypt is much more frightening, and with great visuals: the terrific black-contact-lensed makeup on Peter Cushing’s corpse when he is raised from that dry-ice graveyard and about to go rip out someone’s heart with his bare hands; the eerie shot of that Angel-of-Death motorcyclist’s skull-face caught in the rear view mirror of that doomed motorist’s car in another sequence; and one of the great claustrophobic horror visuals of all time, that horribly narrow space lined with the hundreds of Gillette razor blades that that evil nursing home director is forced into by those elderly patients who are finally taking out their revenge for his cruelty to them over the years. Plus possibly the one E..C horror narrative whose ingenious revenge plot almost rises to the level of Greek literature, that Christmastime-in-Hell classic, And All Through the House, but with none other than a pre-Dynasty Joan Collins herself in the lead!

    Honorable mention: Margaret Leighton in her very best role, as the wacky clairvoyant in From Beyond the Grave: “There’s an elemental on your shoulder!” They could have spun off an entire Harry Potter franchise from her character alone.

    By the way this is Rick Steven D Ken I’m having trouble adding my name from my phone

    1. Hi Rick
      I really love "Tales from the Crypt," too. It's my #2 favorite of Amicus' 7-film anthology output and it's understandably the one I think most people remember the most fondly. I never forgot the Joan Collins Christmas sequence, not that Patrick Magee episode which has a great payoff. I watched the film recently and must say I didn't appreciate Margaret Leighton's hilarious performance when I was younger. She's great. In fact, my the entirety of my revisiting these films has been characterized by a reappraisal of how well-made, well-written, and well-acted these films were.
      When I saw TALES FROM THE CRYPT again a few months back, it was my first time seeing it in decades. It holds up beautifully.
      Thanks for reading this post and sharing your memories of your favorite TFTC sequences!

  5. I'm also a fan of "Tales from the Crypt". I first saw it as a teenager at some Halloween movie event that our high school put on. I watched most of it through whitened fingers covering my face (my tolerance for even mildly scary stuff was pretty low back then). Of course, as you mentioned, what was great about these is that (for the most part) good people were harmed and even killed but bad people were punished for it. These kinds of films were very "eye for an eye" (sometimes literally). There was a series "Tales from the Crypt" on cable back in the 80's I think that followed the same pattern. A few of the episodes were cool and scary but most were formulaic in the worst sense. When you can predict PRECISELY what's going to happen to a character, a movie/series loses its power. (Plus Ralph Richardson was a better Crypt Keeper than the lame puppet they used in the series) In these original anthologies, you knew SOMETHING bad would happen but weren't sure what. P.S. I've also seen Dead of Night which, when you consider the wrap around story, is pretty grim for 1945.

    1. Hi Ron
      Yes, these PG-rated films were very well done and perfect fodder for teens. Scary, but not TOO scary. No matter how much screeching and shielding of ones eyes that went on, afterward you were left feeling as though you enjoyed the experience.
      It takes me back to a time when that's what I mostly wanted from a experience. Then it was the experience of a fun scare, after The Exorcist, horror often appeared to be primes to offer the experience of emotional scarring.
      Although I saw several, I don't have a single lasting memory of an episode of the cable TV "Tales From The Crypt." Made no impression, whatsoever. There was something artful in the way these AMICUS anthologies were successful storytellers in precisely the way you cited: "You knew SOMETHING bad would happen but weren't sure what."
      And I agree with you about the brilliant "Dead of Night" - It must have been pretty strong stuff back in 1945.
      Thanks for reading and sharing your favorite Amicus anthology with us!

  6. Ken: HOUSE OF CRAZIES was actually an alternate title used when the film was re-issued. The artwork came from the film poster used for the re-release, and wasn't created for the VHS. B.Yuen

    1. B. Yuen: Thanks very much for clearing that up!
      And for any fans out there of cinematographer Gordon Willis’ 1980 directing debut/swansong the oddball psychological thriller WINDOWS (a title reviewed on this site), I've since found out that when the ASYLM rerelease hit Los Angeles as HOUSE OF CRAZIES, it was in January of 1980 as the bottom half of a double bill with WINDOWS. This was only WINDOWS’ second week in theaters, but reviews and business was so dismal, the first-run solo release was quickly turned into a horror double-feature.

  7. Well, I've tried writing here 2 times before in another post of yours but... it looks like my comments just don't show up!

    Anyway, I wanted to show you two psychological horror films by a rookie director who is from the same studio (or producer, I don't remember) as Hereditary which are: The VVitch & The Lighthouse.

    1. Hi
      Your past comments DID did show least one of them did. Your entry about the films you mentioned appear in the comments section of "L'Innocente"...check at the very bottom of the comments list and you see your comment and my response.
      The reason you didn't see your post right away is likely due to the spam protection setting that requires I "OK" comments on posts that are more than a month old. They don't appear right away, but I receive them and when I confirm they aren't spam, they show up. I hope that helps.
      I thank you for your tenacity! I saw both of those films and liked them very much for their atmosphere and originality.

  8. Thanks for covering the Amicus anthologies. I'd always enjoyed these--and Amicus in general--over Hammer's period pieces where the costumes and sets often looked like costumes and sets. Nothing looked lived in. The Amicus movies seemed more real.

    One of my first movie memories is trying to watch as much as possible of Dr. Terror's House of Horrors as the drive-in screen shrank in the back window. We had gone to see A Shot in the Dark, and my father was a Peter Sellers fan, not a monster fan. Years later, my first exposure to EC comics was borrowing the novelization of Amicus' Tales from the Crypt from a seventh grade classmate.

    To be honest, because the individual stories in all of the anthologies are pretty much interchangeable, the defining element for these movies is the framing story, and this is probably the best, providing a bit of a character arch and a final shock beyond "they were all dead the whole time!"

    I rewatched Asylum last night--now I see these movies and get hung up on things like how short they probably had to contract some of the players. Barbara Parkins, Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom and Britt Eckland probably only got a couple days work despite getting top billing. Along with Patrick Magee, who's almost ubiquitous in these movies and always very good.

    Also, Robert Bloch--he spoke a few times how he felt ripped off by Hitchcock for Psycho, but that "by the author of Psycho" tagline got him jobs for a decade (and was money in the bank for producers who put it on the poster).

    1. Hi MDG
      Sounds like our reservations in regard to Hammer gothic films are similar. They can be entertaining and are often well-acted, but they never seemed to have the budgets to pull off the necessary period detail convincingly.

      But the Amicus films were another matter. I like how your first exposure to the anthology genre was via the back window of a retreating car at a drive-in!
      The interchangeability of the short stories in these anthologies makes it so that while everybody can name their favorite tale, few can confidently ascribe it to a particular film without looking it up. The Asylum connecting story is effectively different.
      And it IS interesting when you read about the production of these films. Asylum in particular seems to have had a speedy shooting schedule, Herbert Lom completing his work in a single day.
      Now that I have several collections of Robert Bloch's work, I look forward to checking out his work. Even PSYCHO which so many people have said is a case of Hitchcock turning dross to gold.
      Thank you for reading this post and sharing your fondness for the Amicus anthologies. Your observations are very well-considered.