passengers board a train, but just before it departs, a mysterious
sixth man appears (Peter Cushing). He drops his bag and some Tarot
cards fall out; the man introduces himself to the other travellers as
Dr. Schreck and offers to read their futures for them. Werewolf:
Jim Dawson is an architect who has been summoned by the new owner of
his old family home to help with plans to rebuild part of the property
- however, he soon discovers that something strange is buired in the
cellar. Creeping Vine:
When Bill Rogers returns from a family holiday, he discovers a strange
plant has grown up near his house that resists all efforts to cut it
down, and soon starts to trap them inside their home. Voodoo,
Bill Bailey (Roy Castle) is a jazz musician on a tour in the Carribean
who goes into the jungle to spy on a Voodoo ceremony, he writes down
the music they use, and plays it as part of his set back in Britain,
but soon finds that the Voodoo spirits are protective of their
music. Disembodied Hand -
the famous art critic Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee) and the painter
Eric Landor (Michael Gough) repeatedly clash, but when Landor
repeatedly embarrases Marsh, he gets his own back by running the
painter down, causing him to lose his hand and leading him to kill
himself - but this hand soon comes back to seek revenge. Vampire,
the doctor Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) returns home to his small
town in America with his new wife, but he soon discovers that she is in
fact one of the undead. The story ends as the men discover the real
meanings of all their fortunes....
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors
was the first of the Amicus anthology films, and set the format that
the rest would closely follow. As would usually be the case, the
stories presented range from good to bad, with some wasted
opportunities and others that simply do not work, but some that fit the
format exactly. The first story is one that could have been extended up
to a full feature length film, we get a framework story, but never any
characterisation or atmosphere - when one of the characters is killed,
it seems rather irrelevant - a real wasted opportunity. The creeping
vine is simply daft, but it is well paced for the format, and would
have made a good break between serious stories, but the next story is
also a comic relief, Voodoo
is similarly daft, but this time it is dragged out a little too long
and uses up time that could have been better used by some of the other
is doubtless the best story in the film, although probably only for the
superb acting - although the idea is interesting, creeping limbs are
too silly to ever actually 'work' in a horror film. The pacing is
pretty good, but some extra runtime would certainly not have hurt it.
The final story is a decent one, although it really could have used
some extra time to build up characterisation and atmosphere.
Fortunately it is enjoyable, with a good ending. The link stories are
often a weak point on the Amicus anthologies, but this one works pretty
well, with a very fitting conclusion.
Freddie Francis had made his name as a cinematographer, but had gained
some directing experience with Hammer's psycho-horrors, and their
misguided Evil of Frankenstein (1964). He does some good work here, some of the shots in Werewolf especially,
offer an effective gothic atmosphere, while he works well to hide the
low budget sets and small casts in the rest of the stories. Elisabeth
Lutyens provides the standard orchestral soundtrack, that sounds very
similar to some of the James Bernard Hammer scores.
big advantage of the anthology format for Amicus, was that they could
advertise several big name stars, and only need to hire them for a few
days filming - this first film is no exception. Peter Cushing and
Christopher Lee were big names by this time, boosted by a string of
Hammer Horror films (plus a number of movies shot in Europe for
Christopher Lee). Cushing plays the titular Dr. Terror with a curious
German accent, but manages to keep his performance straight faced,
despite a lot of potential for over-acting in the role. Lee is cast
opposite Hammer occasional Michael Gough and they both give superb
performances, making their story the best in the film, and one of the
best in the Amicus cycle. The entertaining Roy Castle and Neil McCalum
give fitting performances, and James Bond star Bernard Lee makes a
brief appearance. Most interesting is the casting of a young Donald
Sutherland in the lead role for the final story, he gives a good
performance in what was only his second feature film.
anthology format is always very hit and miss - here we get one 'hit',
along with two interesting titles, and two that although poor, are daft
enough to be entertaining. A strong cast means that there is
consistantly good acting, and the direction is solid throughout. An
enjoyable film, and a great introduction to the anthology format and
Amicus horror films, although it is not their best effort.
are a couple of scenes that might prove scary, but nothing much.
Who is it for?
A great place for Amicus newcomers to start, and of interest to all classic horror fans.
Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The print is very good, some minor damage and grain. End credits are from another source and low quality.
English original mono sounds good, plus rather unnecessary 5.1 and DTS remixes.
commentary with director Freddie Francis and Jonathan
Southcott - some interesting dialogue and various facts about making
commentary with Allan Bryce, author of the 'Amicus Studio that Dripped
Blood' book. Some interesting facts, but rather flat.
Photo and stills gallery, manual scrolling, runs to 33 images.
Text notes about the film, plus biographies of Francis, Lee, Cushing and Donald Sutherland.
This version only available in the Anchor Bay UK Amicus Collection boxset. The same print is available on an ABUK stand-alone disc, although this does not include the bonus features.
Region 2 (UK,
Europe) - PAL
Available on DVD in
Italy, France and Germany, the Italian and French discs have forced
subtitles while watching the English track and none include the bonus
film is missing a 30 second shot from the very end before the end
credits (fortunately this is not a plot scene, but provides some
extra music and atmosphere after the big denoument). The print used,
including the opening titles is German langauge.
Not the best Amicus anthology, but it does have one very good story, and the rest are enjoyable. Recommended.
good looking print and audio with a good selection of bonus features
(except for a trailer which is included on the German and Italian
DVDs). The presence of slight cuts is a shame, but they are only at the end and do not affect the film too badly.