Often unfairly painted as the poor relation of Hammer, Amicus Productions created some of the most memorable British horror films of the 1970s starring many legendary actors associated with the genre such as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and countless other household names. The company became chiefly known for its portmanteau or anthology films, filled with tales of terror that reflected both the fears and moral expectations of post-war British society. Despite the horrors on screen, audiences could rest assured that wrong-doers were always punished and evil rarely triumphed.
Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)
Though the ‘House’ of the title never actually makes an appearance in the film, this was the first anthology from Amicus. A curious character known as Dr Schreck (German for ‘Terror’) boards a train, and with the aid of his tarot cards gives the other passengers in his carriage disturbing revelations about their futures. A remote Scottish island is the scene of the first tale, in which an architect returns to his former family home and has a hair-raising experience with its current owners. The second story is about a fast-growing plant which covers a house harbouring malevolent intentions towards its inhabitants. Thirdly, a recently married doctor suspects that his new wife might be a vampire. In the next one, a trumpet player travels to Haiti where he witnesses a voodoo ceremony and copies the music for his band, incurring the wrath of an angry deity. Finally, a snobbish art critic deliberately runs over and kills an artist who humiliates him, but the dead man’s hand will not rest until it gets even.
Torture Garden (1967)
Fairground proprietor Dr Diablo offers a group of visitors the chance to witness the most frightening exhibit of their lives. In turn they discover what fate holds in store for them. The first tale is about a feckless young man who tries to take advantage of his dying uncle, but a fearsome feline has other plans. Secondly, a shallow ingénue finds, to her horror, that she is the most human of all among her co-stars, followed by a story about a possessed piano’s jealous attempts to keep its owner’s affections at all costs. Lastly, a collector is so desperate to possess a rare piece of Poe memorabilia that he will stop at nothing, even murder. Continue reading