Tag Archives: Peter Cushing

When The Skull Strikes You’ll Scream!

In my last post I said that normal service was being resumed, meaning regular postings. Well, that was two weeks ago, so was clearly a case of famous last words, as they say. In between has been further decorating, room moving and dog walking combined with a general lack of inspiration.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been films or albums that have connected with me – there have, not to mention two concerts attended too – just that I haven’t felt the inclination to put virtual pen to paper. Some of those things will feature in future posts.

Anyway, making no promises this time, as there is still lots to do around here, but I intend to be posting on a more regular basis than the zero posts of the past fortnight(!), kicking off with a film that I watched today.

I do enjoy discovering decent old movies, and the 1965 horror thriller directed by Freddie Francis (“Tales From The Crypt“, “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors”) for Amicus Productions titled “The Skull”.skull_poster_01

Maurice Good
Maurice Good

The film opens in the 1800s with Pierre (Maurice Good – “Quatermass & The Pit”, “Murder Most Foul”) digging up a grave. Pierre is a phrenologist and wants to study the skull of the body buried in the grave. Returning to his home he sets about removing any skin, leaving just the skull itself, but is found dead moments later.

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

In the modern day (well, the mid 1960s), Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing – “From Beyond The Grave”, “The House That Dripped Blood”), a writer and collector of occult items, is bidding for a set of figurines featuring likenesses of Lucifer, Beelzebub, Leviathan and Baal-Berith.

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

He is beaten in the auction by friend and fellow occult aficionado Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee – “The Wicker Man”, “Curse Of The Crimson Altar”) who bids a very large sum of money, without seeming to know why.

Patrick Wymark & Peter Cushing
Patrick Wymark & Peter Cushing

Later Maitland is visited at home by shady artifact dealer Marco (Patrick Wymark – “Repulsion”, “Where Eagles Dare”) who sells him a book on the life of the infamous Marquis De Sade, which is apparently bound in human skin.

Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing

When Marco returns the following evening with a skull, which he claims to be that of De Sade, Maitland isn’t so quick to part with his cash, thinking it unlikely to be genuine. When he discusses it with his friend Phillips, however, he discovers that the skull is genuine and was stolen from Phillips – who is adamant that he does not want it back and strongly advises Maitland to steer clear as it is dangerous.

However, Maitland’s curiosity has been aroused and believing that the skull cannot possibly be dangerous “…only your mind makes it so…” determines to make the purchase. That’s when his problems start…

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

I thought this was a great film. It’s very atmospheric, with long period of little of no dialogue leaving the visuals and score to do the work – which they do really well. I particularly enjoyed the use of the camera looking out through the eyes of the skull.

Baal-Berith, The Skull  The Story Of The Marquis De Sade
Baal-Berith, The Skull & The Story Of The Marquis De Sade

There is a great dream / nightmare sequence involving Maitland as well as a nice selection of occult objects and imagery scattered around his study. Cushing takes most of the screen time, and portrays his role really well, all the more so when you consider that a lot of what he has to convey must be done without speaking.

Visually the film is spot on but even more importantly it gets the story across effectively and is thoroughly entertaining. Highly recommended…Skull Lobby

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Turn The Knob, Open The Door, Step Past The Pool Of Blood, Walk Straight Ahead… And Scream Your Mind Away

Today I watched another of the Amicus Productions horror anthology films. Directed by Peter Duffell (“England Made Me”, “The Famous Five”) and dating from 1971, this one is titled “The House That Dripped Blood”.

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John Bennett
John Bennett

The connecting scenes here involve Detective Inspector Holloway (John Bennett – “Hitler : The Last Ten Days”) investigating the disappearance of a film star, last heard of renting an old country house.

John Bryans
John Bryans

Holloway meets with estate agent A.J. Stoker (John Bryans – Henry VIII And His Six Wives”) who tells him stories of some previous tenants of the house.

In the first story “Method For Murder” Charles

Denholm Elliot
Denholm Elliott

Hillyer (Denholm Elliott – “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”, “Bad Timing”), a horror story writer moves into the house to write a new book. The central character of his book is a psychopathic murderer named Dominic.

Joanna Dunham
Joanna Dunham

When Hillyer starts to see Dominic around the house he finds his wife, Alice (Joanna Dunham – “A Day At The Beach, “Scandal”), disbelieving so seeks advice from a psychiatrist. But is there more to Dominic’s appearances than meet the eye?…

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing
Joss Ackland
Joss Ackland

On a walk into the local town he visits a waxworks museum where he is captivated by the model of Salome, who the proprietor claims was a murderess. When Grayson’s friend Neville Rogers (Joss Ackland – “Lethal Weapon 2”, “Royal Flash”) visits the pair go to the museum, despite Grayson’s reservations.

It’s not long before Rogers is also captivated by Salome…

Christopher Lee & Chloe Franks
Christopher Lee & Chloe Franks

In story number three, “Sweets To The Sweet”, widower John Reid (Christopher Lee – “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors”, “Too Hot To Handle”) moves into the house with his young daughter, Jane (Chloe Franks “Escape From The Dark”).

Nyree Dawn Porter
Nyree Dawn Porter

With no mother figure around, Reid employs a private teacher, Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter – “From Beyond The Grave”, “The Cracksman”) to teach the girl at home. Norton cannot understand which Reid doesn’t allow his daughter to play with dolls, but when some candles go missing and Reid begins suffering sudden and inexplicable pains, things start to add up…

Jon Pertwee
Jon Pertwee

“The Cloak” is the final tale, where we are introduced to the film star mentioned at the beginning – Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee – “Dr. Who”, “Worzel Gummidge”). Henderson has rented the house whilst he films a vampire movie nearby. In his quest for realism and perfection he finds a cloak in a local shop.

Ingrid Pitt
Ingrid Pitt

Unfortunately, he finds the cloak beginning to affect him in an unexpected way and changing the lives of both him and his co-star Carla Lind (Ingrid Pitt – “Countess Dracula”, “The Vampire Lovers”)…

Another perfectly competent anthology film, and in all honesty probably one of my favourites, there is some genuinely talented actors on display here and the whole thing is very enjoyable…

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Frenzied Fright! Freezing Terror! Screaming Nightmare!

I have previously written about a couple of Amicus Productions horror anthology films, “Tales From The Crypt” and “From Beyond The Grave”. Yesterday I watched a third, this one from 1965 and directed by Freddie Francis (“Hysteria”, “The Creeping Flesh”) and titled “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors”.

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Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

The film opens with a group of five strangers sharing a railway carriage on a train departing London, who are joined by Dr. Schrek (Peter Cushing – “Frankenstein & The Monster From Hell”, “The Vampire Lovers”).

Dr. Schrek has a deck of tarot cards and tells the five that he can tell them their destiny by picking four cards from the deck, each scenario depicted in separate stories. A fifth card at the end of each story will then tell them how they can avoid the future foretold

Neil McCallum
Neil McCallum

In the first, “Werewolf”, architect Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum – “Catacombs”, “Quest For Love”) is requested to return to his former home on an island off the Scottish mainland by its new owner to plan some alterations.

Ursula Howells
Ursula Howells

Mrs. Biddulph (Ursula Howells – “Assignment K”, “Crossplot”), the new owner, explains that she bought the house as she wanted somewhere quiet and secluded to mourn the death of husband.

Examining the cellar, Dawson finds the coffin of Count Valdemar who owned the house hundreds of years previously before he was killed in a dispute with Dawson’s ancestors. It appears that Valdemar is taking the form of a werewolf at night but the truth may be more complex…

Alan Freeman & Bernard Lee
Alan Freeman & Bernard Lee

Story two, “Creeping Vine”, sees Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman – “Sebastian”, “Absolute Beginners”) returning from a holiday with his family to discover a rapidly spreading vine has begun to grow in his garden and resists any attempt to prune it.

Rogers seeks help from a scientist, Hopkins (Bernard Lee – “Thunderball”, “Diamonds Are Forever”), at the Ministry of Defence.

It seems that the plant has intelligence and harbours murderous intent to any threat to its continued existence…

Roy Castle
Roy Castle

“Voodoo” is the third tale, and has a definite sense of fun with obvious humour throughout. Jazz musician Biff Bailey (Roy Castle – “Carry On Up The Khyber”, “Record Breakers”) travels to the West Indies for some performances. Whilst there he witnesses a voodoo ceremony and is struck by the music used.

Despite warnings from his friend Sammy Coin (Kenny Lynch – “Carry On Loving”, “The Playbirds”) and from the locals who tell him that the music belongs to the God Dambala, Bailey decides to “borrow” the voodoo tune and use it in his shows back in London…

Christopher Lee Michael Gough
Christopher Lee & Michael Gough

In story four, titled “Disembodied Hand”, art critic Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee – “Season Of The Witch”, “The Lord Of The Rings”) is proud of his acidic reputation and happily scathing of artists’ work.

When he savages an exhibition by artist Eric Landor (Michael Gough – “Batman”, “Out Of Africa”) in front of the artist he finds himself being even more publicly humiliated in return. However, when Marsh resorts to violence things spiral out of control quickly…

Donald Sutherland
Donald Sutherland

The fifth and final tale, “Vampire”, finds Dr. Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland – “The Eagle Has Landed”, “JFK”) returning from Europe to New England with his new French wife, Nicolle (Jennifer Jayne – “They Came From Beyond Space”, “On The Beat”).

Jennifer Jayne
Jennifer Jayne

When patients start turning up with blood missing and strange marks on their necks, Carroll’s colleague Dr. Blake (Max Adrian – “The Music Lovers”, “The Devils”) suggests to Carroll that a vampire may be responsible…

Dr. Schrek then tells the five what the fifth card shows and how they can avoid the destinies that he has shown them…

This is a decent enough anthology film, especially given its age, though it’s fair to say that the fate shown on the fifth card is worse than that suffered in a couple of the stories – though really that’s irrelevant by the time you get to the twist at the end.dr-terrors-house-of-horrors.24742

Terror To Delight Worshippers Of The Macabre

I have just watched another Amicus Productions horror anthology, following on from my recent viewing of their “Tales From The Crypt”. This one, from 1974, was directed by Kevin Connor (“The Land That Time Forgot”) and titled “From Beyond The Grave”.

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Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

The film revolves around visits to an antique shop, Temptations L, where customers come across The Proprietor (Peter Cushing – “The Curse Of Frankenstein”, “The Satanic Rites Of Dracula”). An unexpected surprise awaits anyone who cheats this shopkeeper!

Each customer’s shop visit the leads into their own separate story, of which there are four contained within the film.

David Warner
David Warner

The first tale, “The Gatecrasher”, sees Edward Charlton (David Warner – “The Omen, “The Man With Two Brains”) tricking The Proprietor into selling him an antique mirror for a knockdown price, which is then pride of place in his home.

Marcel Steiner
Marcel Steiner

One night, inspired by the gothic design of the mirror, Charlton’s friends suggest holding a séance. Charlton falls into a trance-like state in which he meets a sinister figure, The Face (Marcel Steiner “Little Dorrit”), who stabs him upon which Charlton awakes from his trance. Later he sees The Face again in the mirror demanding sacrifices so that it can feed…

Ian Bannen & Diana Dors
Ian Bannen & Diana Dors

Story two is “An Act Of Kindness”. Here we find a frustrated middle manager, Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen – “Ghost Dad”), trapped in a loveless marriage with his domineering wife Mabel (Diana Dors – “Passport To Shame”).

Donald Pleasence
Donald Pleasence

Striking up a friendship with an old soldier turned match and shoelace seller, Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence – “You Only Live Twice”, “The Eagle Has Landed”), he steals a Distinguished Service Order medal from the antique shop in order to support his lie that he, too, is a decorated ex-soldier.

Angela Pleasence
Angela Pleasence

Lowe then meets Underwood’s daughter Emily (Angela Pleasence – “Symptoms”) and is seduced by her. When Emily presents Lowe wife a small doll with a likeness to his wife he agrees that she should cut it with a knife, little realising that chain of events that is about to be unleashed…

Ian Carmichael
Ian Carmichael & Margaret Leighton

“The Elemental” is the third story. Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael – “The Lady Vanishes”) switches price tags on two snuff boxes in the antique shop and pays the smaller amount for the more valuable box.

During his train journey home a seemingly mad old woman, Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton – “Lady Caroline Lamb”) disturbs his newspaper reading to inform him that he has an Elemental on his shoulder.

Nyree Dawn Porter
Nyree Dawn Porter

Warren assumes that she is slightly loopy when she offers her services, but when his dog disappears and his wife Susan (Nyree Dawn Porter – “The Protectors”) is throttled by an unseen entity he reconsiders and calls her asking for help…

Ian Ogilvy
Ian Ogilvy

The fourth and final tale, entitled “The Door”, finds writer William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy – “Return Of The Saint”) wanting to buy an ancient ornate door in the antique shop. He hasn’t enough cash to pay the full price so agrees a reduced fee with The Proprietor. When The Proprietor goes into the back of the shop he leaves the till open, and starts to count the cash therein once Seaton has left the shop.

Back at his home, Seaton attaches the door to his stationery cupboard but finds that when he opens the door he is suddenly able to see into a blue room containing notes of an occultist.

Lesley-Anne Down
Lesley-Anne Down

Before long both Seaton and his wife Rosemary (Lesley-Anne Down – “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”, “Countess Dracula”) find themselves trapped within the influence of the door…

This last story is very similar to the first, however, the major difference is in the fact that Seaton does not steal any of the money left in the open till or attempt to cheat The Proprietor in any way and thus has a different fate.

Like “Tales From The Crypt” this is a decently put together collection of stories, though the similarities in stories one and four suggest that perhaps a different tale could have replaced one of them and improved the film as a whole…

Z FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE 3C

Death Lives In The Vault Of Horror!

Last night on TV I caught an old 1972 horror anthology movie from Amicus Productions, “Tales From The Crypt”, directed by Freddie Francis (“Dracula Has Risen From The Grave”).

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Sir Ralph Richardson
Sir Ralph Richardson

Opening with a scene showing a group of people on a tour of some underground caves, five of them get separated from the main party and end up in a sealed chamber where they find the Crypt Keeper (Sir Ralph Richardson – “Time Bandits”, “Doctor Zhivago”) who instructs the five to sit.

Once seated, each is “shown” what they are supposedly planning to do later that night once they’ve left the crypt, in five separate short stories.

Joan Collins
Joan Collins

The first, “…And All Through The House” has Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins – “The Bitch”, “Dynasty”) murdering her husband on Christmas Eve whilst their daughter is upstairs awaiting Santa’s arrival.

Oliver MacGreevy
Oliver MacGreevy

Interrupting the Christmas songs, an announcement on the radio states that a homicidal maniac (Oliver MacGreevy – “The Ipcress File”) has escaped from a local hospital for the criminally insane and is on the loose, thought to be dressed up as Santa.

Joanne sees what she thinks is the killer outside her house, but is unable to call the police without risking her own crime being discovered…

Ian Hendry & Susan Blake
Ian Hendry & Susan Blake

“Reflection Of Death” is the second instalment, in which Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry – “Get Carter”) abandons his wife and children and runs off with another woman, Susan Blake (Angela Grant – “Carry On Girls”). He has a dream that they are involved in a car crash, which then actually happens.

Awaking alone in the crashed car, Carl makes his way home to find that his wife is with another man, so sets off to his lover’s home…

Robin Phillips
Robin Phillips

Story three – “Poetic Justice” – finds James Elliot (Robin Phillips – “Decline And Fall… Of A Birdwatcher”) and his father resenting their older neighbour, the recently bereaved Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing – “The Curse Of Frankenstein”, “The Satanic Rites Of Dracula”), who has a number of pet dogs and is popular with local children.

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

James and his father begin a smear campaign against Grimsdyke, get rid of his dogs and send vicious valentine cards to him, driving the old man to despair…

Richard Greene & Barbara Murray
Richard Greene & Barbara Murray

The fourth tale is titled “Wish You Were Here”. Businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene – “The Blood Of Fu Manchu”) is facing financial ruin when his wife Enid (Barbara Murray – “Up Pompeii”) discovers a Chinese figurine that will grant her three wishes.

Her first wish is for a fortune to come their way. When Ralph is killed in a car accident a large sum of insurance money comes her way. Her second wish is to restore her husband to the way he was just before the accident, but it’s her third wish that proves most problematic…

Nigel Patrick
Nigel Patrick

In the final story “Blind Alleys” we find Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick – “Battle Of Britain”) having taken charge of a home for the blind. William makes drastic financial cutbacks, reducing the level of heating and rationing the food for given to the residents whilst he and his beloved German Shepherd dog live in luxury.

Patrick Magee
Patrick Magee

When one of the residents dies as a result of William’s wilful neglect, the rest of the residents, under the leadership of George Carter (Patrick Magee – “A Clockwork Orange”) plan to exact an elaborate revenge…

The Crypt Keeper finally explains to the five why they are there…

This horror movie isn’t up there with the best of them, in my view. However, it’s nicely put together, has some decent acting performances and plot lines. Overall, this film is effective enough – particularly bearing in mind that it is now forty three years since it was released – to warrant viewing…

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