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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

From Beyond the Grave

From Beyond the Grave
1973 (2007) - Warner Bros.

Any horror fan worth his, her or its weight in fake blood is familiar with Hammer Films, the British production company responsible for Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein and many others. It's only been relatively recently, however, that Hammer's rival, Amicus Productions, has begun to develop its own cult following. Many fans may have thought the two studios were interchangeable, given the fact that both employed much of the same talent both in front of (Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, for example) and behind the camera (Freddie Francis).

While Hammer specialized in period reimaginings of classic monster mythologies, Amicus found its niche in the horror anthology.

For several years, they produced a number of portmanteau films including Tales from The Crypt, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors and The House That Dripped Blood. One of the most consistently enjoyable of these anthologies is 1973's From Beyond the Grave, a fun fake-cobwebs and spooky-organ-music flick that played extremely well on late night TV to youngsters like me back in the day.

Peter Cushing stars as the proprietor of an antique store that links the stories. His curiosities inevitably bring a bad end to those foolish enough to cheat him. In the first story, he sells a haunted mirror to David Warner, who is compelled to kill and kill again at the behest of the spirit in the glass. In the second tale, hen-pecked Ian Bannen shoplifts a distinguished service medal to impress peddler Donald Pleasence, who in turn introduces him to his docile daughter (Angela Pleasence). In the third, Ian Carmichael discovers he has an invisible, homicidal Elemental perched on his shoulder that only spiritualist Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) can remove. And in the fourth, Ian Ogilvy buys an ornate antique door that transforms his closet into a portal into a dark blue room haunted by a collector of souls.

From Beyond the Grave does not start promisingly, with the mirror segment chock-full of silly effects and spooky music that would only frighten the most timid four-year-old. It finds its groove with the next two stories. Bannen and both Donald and Angela Pleasence are delightful in the second story, thoroughly entertaining and fleshing out a wicked and amusing yarn that just gets better as it goes along. The third is laugh-out-loud funny with Leighton chewing the scenery like it was made of chocolate. The fourth segment isn't quite as good but it is fun and Lesley-Anne Down makes for a sexy and sympathetic heroine. Framing the stories is the incomparable Peter Cushing, puffing on a pipe and calmly leading the characters to their doom with his quiet Northern accent.

Warner's disc looks and sounds just fine, although you shouldn't expect any frills. Extras are limited to the original, ridiculous trailer, which is hardly a shocker.

From Beyond the Grave isn't going to scare anybody and I'm reasonably confident that it never did. As such, it's the odd man out in Warner's Twisted Terror Collection. It's the oldest and gentlest of the set. But it's also one of the most entertaining. It won't necessarily appeal to gorehounds but if you're a fan of British horror and/or comedy, you should check it out.

Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/D

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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