The Amicus Collection
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(Jan 16, 2018)
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Known as The Studio That Dripped Blood , the British film company Amicus Productions founded by American writer/producers Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky built a legacy of horror anthologies and twisted thrillers that remains among the very best genre movies of the 70s. In this trio of Amicus classics featuring stars that include Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Britt Ekland, Patrick Magee, Stephanie Beacham, Calvin Lockhart, Michael Gambon and Charlotte Rampling you ll discover the studio s legendary portmanteau ASYLUM, their insane gothic shocker AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS, and exclusive to this set the infamous werewolf whodunit THE BEAST MUST DIE, as well as a Bonus Disc of Amicus trailers, TV commercials, rare interviews and more all in this 4 disc box set.
Special Features Disc 1:
Two's A Company: 1972 On-set report from BBC featuring Interviews With Producer Milton Subotsky, Director Roy Ward Baker, Actors Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers, Megs Jenkins, Art Director Tony Curtis and Production Manager Teresa Bolland
David J. Schow on Robert Bloch - Featurette
Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton Subotsky - Featurette
Inside The Fear Factory Featurette with Directors Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and Producer Max J. Rosenberg
Audio Commentary with Director Roy Ward Baker and Camera Operator Neil Binney Theatrical Trailer
The Haunting Of Oakley Court - Featurette with Allan Bryce, Author of Amicus: The Friendly Face Of Fear, and David Flint, Author of Ten Years Of Terror, visit the classic horror film location
Audio Commentary with Director Roy Ward Baker and Actress Stephanie Beacham
Audio Commentary with Star Ian Ogilvy
Archive Audio Interview with Actor Peter Cushing By Denis Meikle
Horror Journalist Denis Meikle Recalls And Now The Screaming Starts - Featurette
And Then There Were Werewolves - Audio Essay By Horror Historian Troy Howarth
Audio Commentary with Director Paul Annett
Directing the Beast: Featurette with Director Paul Annett
Audio Commentary With British Horror Film Writers Kim Newman & David Flint
Phil Nutman Audio Interview with Milton Subotsky - Audio Interview With Accompanying Stills / Posters
Jonathan Sothcott Audio Interview with Max Rosenberg - Audio Interview With Accompanying Stills / Posters
Bonus Amicus TV spots
Blood and gutsiness... Amicus is the British horror studio that gave Hammer a run for its money. --The Guardian
Horror films for horror lovers... This studio carved quite a niche for themselves. If you want to be a horror completist, Amicus is a name to know. --TDYLF.com
Top-notch horror... They churned out some of the best horror films of the 70s and Amicus films continue to garner fans to this day. --HouseOfHorrors.com
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I'm giving this collection just 3 stars despite the excellent extra's. I would have added a star if the price was lower. I do not feel that the $59.99 price tag is justified for the quality of Blu-ray discs. See BLU-RAY & EXTRA'S below.
See my ratings in RECOMMENDATIONS below.
This collection includes 3 movies plus one additional disc that has many extra's. Each Blu-ray comes in it's own standard size Blu-ray case.
The 4 discs are:
2) And Now The Screaming Starts
3) The Beast Must Die
4) The Vault of Amicus - This is a disc of extra's. See BLU-RAY & EXTRA'S below.
Before viewing this collection I had previously seen each of the 3 movies but had not seen any of the extra's.
BLU-RAY & EXTRA'S: I was disappointed in this quality of the picture. For starters, for whatever reason, I have noticed that a lot of old movies that are released on Blu-ray tend to skimp on cleaning the opening credit sequences. This is definitely the case here. This leaves a bad first impression. Especially when the opening has footage related to the movie and not just some artsy graphics or stock footage. It looks as if nothing was done to the scenes with the opening credits and the quality isn't really any better than that of standard DVD with an old print that hasn't been cleaned up. 'Asylum' and 'The Beast Must Die' both have been transferred from poor prints. There doesn't seem to be much done in the way of enhancing the picture. The colors are dull and muted. There is noise prevalent throughout, though it is a lot cleaner than in the opening credit sequences.'And the Screaming Starts' was slightly better than the other two movies. The colors were a bit stronger and I didn't notice as many imperfections during the opening credits. Of the 3, this appears to have the best print.
The Extra's for each movie are as follows:
- Audio commentary with Director Roy Ward Baker and Neil Binney. I did not listen to this as of the time of this review.
- Two's A Company - This is a documentary that is contemporary with the making of the movie. It features many of the people involved in the making of the movie. It seems to have been made during the filming of the 3rd story, 'Lucy comes to Stay.'
- David J. Schow on Robert Bloch - This is a biography made in 2017 that is narrated by David J. Schow. He was at first a fan of Bloch's and then worked with him.
- Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton Subotsky - This is a featurette with the wife of Milton. She reminisces about their days together at Amicus.
- Inside the Fear Factory - This is a featurette with Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and Max J. Rosenberg
- Theatrical Trailer
AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS:
- The Haunting of Oakley Court - This is a short documentary on Oakley Court. This house has been used for numerous movies. It was close to Shepperton studios and used many times by Hammer Productions and Amicus Productions and others.
- Audio Commentary with Roy Ward Baker and Stephanie Beacham
- Audio Commentary with Ian Ogilvy
- Archive Audio Interview with Peter Cushing
- Featurette with Journalist Denis Meikle on 'And Now the Screaming Starts.'
- Radio Spot
THE BEAST MUST DIE:
- Audio Commentary with Director Paul Annett. I did not listen to this but I listened to the featurette with the director.
- And Then There Were Werewolves - This is narrated by film historian Troy Howarth. He goes through the history of 'And Then There Were None' by Agatha Christie. He tells us about all the different movies that were made based on this novel. 'The Beast Must Die' was one of them, though obviously very loosely based. The original title was 'Ten Little Indians.'
(The real original title had a very racist title)
- Directing the Beast - This is a featurette with Director Paul Annett. He tells about his experiences with the movie and how he became the director (his first movie).
THE VAULT OF AMICUS:
- There are trailers for 27 movies by Amicus starting with Horror Hotel in 1960 and ending with The Monster Club in 1981.
- Philip Nutman Interview with Milton Subotsky - This is an edited 3 hour interview with Milton Subotsky. It was intended for a book on Amicus that never came to be.
- Audio Notes of Max J. Rosenberg - this is about 47 minutes of recollections by Rosenberg. This was used as a basis for a book on Amicus
PLOT/SUMMARY: A synopsis of each movie is as follows:
ASYLUM: This is an anthology movie that is broken in to 4 parts (sort of) with a framing story. The fourth part is incorporated into the framing story while the first 3 parts have a person telling a story.
Dr. Martin arrives at an asylum. He is there for a job interview. He has come looking for Dr. Starr, head of the asylum. When he arrives, Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee) tells him that Dr. Starr is now one of the patients. He says that Dr. Starr attacked him and that is the reason he is now in a wheelchair. Dr. Rutherford tells Dr. Martin that pressing a button on his desk is the only way to get into or out of the area where the
patients are kept. Both doctors agree that some people in this world so convincingly change their identities that it becomes very difficult to tell the difference from their real identity. This seems to be the case with Dr. Starr. He tells Dr. Martin that he will be hired if he can figure out which of the patients that are in the cell block is Dr. Starr. Dr. Martin agrees to the challenge. He sends Dr. Martin up to the cell area and instructs the orderly to give absolutely no information about the patients to Dr. Martin. Dr. Martin attempts to pull information out of him but the orderly is of no help. Dr. Martin visits 4 patients and there stories are as follows:
1) Frozen Fear: Bonnie is the mistress of Walter. Walter has married into wealth and the two have conspired to kill Walter's wife, Ruth.
2) The Weird Taylor: Bruno is an old tailor and is about to be evicted from his store for non-payment of rent. A mysterious customer (Peter Cushing) comes into his store with very specific instructions on how to make the suit and brings his own material. The instructions allow for the tailor to make the suit only in the late evening hours. He offers a large sum of money, more than enough for Bruno to pay his rent.
3) Lucy Comes to Stay: Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) is returning home from an asylum. She was sent away because of a drug addiction that caused her to hallucinate and create an imaginary friend, Lucy (Britt Ekland). Upon returning home she seeks out her hidden drugs and takes them.
4) Mannikins of Horror: This story takes place in the room of Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom). He makes mini-robots with the faces of people he knows. He tells Dr. Martin that they are alive and have the souls of the people they depict.
After his fourth interview, Dr. Martin heads downstairs and tells Dr. Rutherford that he is disgusted with the conditions of the asylum. Dr. Rutheford asks Dr. Martin for his choice.
AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS: In the 1700's, Charles Fengriffin (Ian Ogilvy) brings home his new bride, Catherine (Stephaine Beacham).
She immediately begins having visions of a bloody hand and an eyeless head. She gets pregnant shortly thereafter. Dr. Whittle (Patrick Magee) wants them to move away. Charles refuses. We don't know it yet but there has been a curse placed on the family by a woodsman. Silas is the son of another woodsman also named Silas. Silas has inherited the land from Charles' grandfather. Despite her efforts, nobody in the house will reveal to Catherine their reservations. People start dying and Catherine is losing her mind. She is afraid for her unborn child. She knows there is something amiss with Silas. Charles attempts to buy out Silas but he refuses. Charles calls for a psychiatrist, Dr.Pope (Peter Cushing). Cushing attempts to help Catherine but is stifled by the house servants and Charles himself. Finally, after Dr. Whittle's death, Charles relents and tells Dr. Pope about why Silas is on the land and refuses to leave. Catherine is due shortly to have their child.
THE BEAST MUST DIE: The movie opens with a black man, Tom Newcliffe being chased through woods (or a jungle). He appears to be being hunted by white men dressed in black outfits. We see a helicopter following him and we see camera's and microphones throughout the woods. Several times, Tom is caught but released. Finally he comes upon a mansion with a tea party going on outside. Tom is then shot by soldiers in front of the guests. They come rushing to his aid. Tom is in fact, not dead. He is a wealthy person who has contracted a company to build him a top notch
security system that surrounds his property. He was merely testing the system. He has invited 5 guests to stay with him and his wife Caroline for a few days to figure out who is a werewolf. He is a hunter looking for the ultimate prize. Tom believes he has the 3 days of the full moon to figure out who is the werewolf.
The 5 guests are:
1) Arthur Bennington - a diplomat
2,3) Jan and Davina - A pianist and his wife
4) Paul Foote - an artist
5 ) Professor Lundgren (Peter Cushing) - an archaeologist who knows a lot about werewolves.
Also there is Pavel (Anton Diffring), head of the security team.
They all join for dinner and Professor Lundgren gives a scientific explanation for werewolves along with the reason for silver being harmful.
The hunt is on. Near the end of the movie, there is a break in which you have to decide who you think is the werewolf. I didn't get it right.
ASYLUM: This is my favorite of the 3 movies. I did not guess the identity of Dr. Starr.
"Asylum" is written by famous author and screenwriter Robert Bloch of "Psycho" fame.
'Asylum' is also know as 'House of Crazies.'
The opening and end credits use the famous classical music, 'Night on Bald Mountain.'
All 4 patients had names starting with the letter 'B'(Barbara, Bruno, Bonnie, Byron). I'm not sure if this had any significance.
AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS: This was possibly the most expensive movie that Amicus ever made.
I felt that it is well done and felt that it was decent. It felt like a 'Hammer' movie to me. The ending was interesting but overall the movie was a bit sluggish. I thought that they waited too long to tell the story of the 'curse'.
Peter Cushing gets top billing but doesn't show up until the second half of the movie. Herbert Lom is in basically one scene and gets second billing. Third star Patrick Magee is only in the first half of the movie. The main stars Stephanie Beacham and Ian Oglivy only get fourth billing! This was in keeping with Amicus' practice of hiring name stars for a short period of time.
Oakley House, the mansion used in this movie was used many times by Hammer productions.
THE BEAST MUST DIE: This movie moves quite slowly at times. I found it lacking.
The movie does not seem to have budgeted much for special effects. While viewing the extra's, I learned that one of the producers, Milton Subotsky, decided to spend more money on 'name' actors. He felt paying more for a good actor for a few days was more beneficial to his movies than anything else. The werewolf itself doesn't use any real make up. It is simply a dog with some fur thrown on it. According to the director he felt sorry for the dog because it was so friendly and his trainer was trying hard to get him riled up.
The open of the movie invites you to try and figure out who is the werewolf. This adds a bit of interest and was clearly inspired by the marketing gimmicks of William Castle. The director was not thrilled with this. Milton Subotsky felt that this was a very poor movie and added the gimmick to try and save the movie.
I wasn't quite sure how Tom knew that one of his guests were a werewolf. He gives his reasons for each guest as to why they could be a werewolf. Why couldn't there be more than 1 be a werewolf? How did he get them to come to his house? These questions may have been answered, I just didn't pick up on it.
The movie attempts to give a scientific reason for the existence of werewolves. It even tries to give an explanation for 'silver' being fatal to werewoves. This is merely a trope that was invented by the writer of Universal's 'The Werewolf' and not a legendary device that has been passed down through the ages.
Robert Quarry (Count Yorga) was initially considered for the part of 'Tom' but was under contract to AIP. They decided to go with Calvin Lockhart, a black actor who was known for 'Blaxploitation' films. As a result this movie has also been released as 'Black Werewolf' but without the break to decide who is werewolf.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Whether or not you purchase this collection depends a lot upon whether you are a fan of the time period and the price.
This collection is obviously meant for fans of Amicus films who most likely are fans of Hammer Productions. There are numerous extra's that focus on the productions at Amicus.
My ratings for each of the plots of the movies are as follows, Asylum - 4 stars, The Beast Must Die, 2 1/2 stars, And Now the Screaming Starts, 3 1/2 stars. I am giving the print quality for the Blu-ray's just 2 stars. They can do a lot better but I've seen worse too. The extra's are 5 stars. The collection if pricey, $59.99 at the time of this review.
Keep in mind that one of the movies is considered by the producers of Amicus to be the worst movie they made (The Beast Must Die).
Overall I'm giving it 3 stars.