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Two classic Amicus horror anthologies, The House That Dripped Blood & Asylum, get a limited edition UK Blu-ray release

On 29 July 2019, Second Sight Films will release Limited Edition UK Blu-ray releases of the Amicus horror anthologies – The House That Dripped Blood and Asylum. Each release will be presented in a stunning box set featuring original artwork from Graham Humphreys alongside a host of special features, including essays from horror aficionados and a collector’s booklet.

Written by Robert Bloch, 1971’s The House That Dripped Blood sees Denholm Elliott, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt taking centre stage in four tales of terror that unfold as a Scotland Yard’s Inspector Holloway investigates a mysterious mansion with a ghoulish history and a chilling fate for its occupants…

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby
• Audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth
• Interview with Second Assistant director Mike Higgins
A Rated Horror Film: Vintage featurette featuring interviews with director Peter Duffell and 
actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks
• Theatrical Trailers
• Radio Spots
• Stills Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork

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Directed by Roy Ward Baker from another scare-tastic screenplay from Robert Bloch, 1972’s Asylum sees Robert Powell playing a young doctor attending a job interview at a secluded asylum for the incurably insane, where he hears the macabre stories of four inmates to determine which is the former head of the asylum. The all-star cast includes Peter Cushing, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Barbara Parkins and Patrick Magee.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary with director Roy Ward Baker and camera operator Neil Binney
Two’s a Company: 1972 On-set BBC report 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
• Screenwriter David J Schow on Robert Bloch
• Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton
Inside The Fear Factory: Featurette with directors Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and 
producer Max J Rosenberg
• Theatrical Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM AMAZON

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS FOR EACH RELEASE
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
• 40 page booklet with new essays by Allan Bryce, Jon Towlson and Kat Ellinger
• Reversible poster featuring new and original artwork

 

Vault of Horror (1973) | Amicus’ final EC Comics homage is a neat job indeed

Vault of Horror (1973)

Below the Crypt lies Death’s waiting-room – The . . . Vault of Horror
Having already mined EC Comics for 1972’s Tales from the Crypt, Milton Subotsky drew on five more tales for the following year’s Vault of Horror, Amicus’ penultimate entry in their horror anthology cycle. Asylum director Roy Ward Baker was called in after original choice Freddie Francis (who helmed the first four entries) declined to oversee a mixed bag of horror and humour, which upped the horror quota, and boasted a starry line-up that, surprisingly, didn’t include Amicus’ two big names, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, but did include cameos from Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies, who were well-known in the UK as doctors Duncan Waring and Dick Stuart-Clark in London Weekend Television’s popular Doctor in the House sitcom series.

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The wraparound story sees five men entering an elevator in London’s Millbank Tower (which celebrated its 10th-anniversary the year the film came out), where they descend to an underground vault designed like a gentlemen’s club. Fuelled by scotch and few gins, the men take turns in describing their recurring nightmares.… only they’re not…

Midnight Mess sees Daniel Massey trying to kill his sister (Anna Massey) for her inheritance, only to find himself in a restaurant full of vampires; The Neat Job finds Glynis Johns driven mad when she fails to meet new hubby Terry-Thomas’ exacting domestic standards; This Trick’ll Kill You has an Indian rope trick snap back when its stolen by Curt Jürgens’ nasty magician; Bargain in Death puts a humorous spin on Edgar Allan Poe’s Premature Burial short story with Michael Craig waiting to be released from his interment; and Drawn and Quartered sees Tom Baker’s artist using voodoo to get his revenge on the art dealers who have swindled him.

Vault of Horror (1973)

A Neat Job! first appeared in Issue 1 of EC Comics’ Shock SuspenStories in 1952

Vault of Horror got a mixed reception when it was released in the UK and US, and the story goes that EC Comics’ publisher Bill Gaines hated the screenplay so much he refused Amicus access to any further stories. But I regard this as a fantastic entry in Amicus’ portmanteau series, with The Neat Job being the films’ standout story, thanks to Terry-Thomas’s brilliant turn at the obsessive Arthur Critchit and Glynis Johns as the downtrodden Eleanor. Those cries of ‘Can’t you do anything neatly?’ will ring in your ear long forever. The second story, in which future Time Lord Tom Baker gives quite the method performance is also a winner, and plays like a mini Theatre of Blood as Baker’s bohemian artist literally paints out his three victims, who get acid thrown in their eyes, their hands chopped off and bullet between the eyes, before meeting his own demise courtesy of some paint thinner.

Vault of Horror (1973)

Midnight Mess is based on a story that first appeared in Tales from the Crypt (Issue 35) in 1953.

For years, film fans have had to accept home entertainment releases with freeze frames in place of the gruesome denouement of the vampire story and the well-aimed hammer attack in A Neat Job. Thankfully, Final Cut’s UK Blu-ray release uses the same uncut transfer that Shout!/Scream Factory put out as part of their 2014 double bill with Tales from the Crypt. This Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific [and really showcases the film’s 1970s production design] and while it doesn’t include any extras (you have to double dip and get the Final Cut double feature get that), it’s a worthwhile addition to your Amicus anthology collection.

Vault of Horror (1973)

This photo was taken for promotional purposes only, while the film includes a great plug for Amicus’ Tales from the Crypt.

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER

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Tales from the Amicus Crypt | The Documentary

Tales from the Crypt (1972)Death Lives in the Vault of Horror!
Directed with finesse by Freddie Francis, this 1972 British creeper was the fourth horror anthology to come from Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenburg’s Amicus outfit, and it remains a classic of its kind thanks to the sterling performances of an all-star cast and the inventive and macabre collection of stories, inspired by the original EC Comics, which still have the power to chill.

For me, this is one I re-watch every Christmas, because the first story is so fittingly seasonal…

In some unidentified catacombs somewhere in Englans, five strangers meet the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who reveals how each will die…

And All Through the House After Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) kills her husband on Christmas Eve, she prepares to hide his body but hears a radio announcement stating that a homicidal maniac (Oliver MacGreevy) is on the loose.
Reflection of Death Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) abandons his family to be with Susan Blake (Angela Grant). After they drive off together, they are involved in a car accident. He wakes up in the wrecked car and attempts to hitchhike home but, no one will stop for him.
Poetic Justice Edward Elliott (David Markham) and his son James (Robin Phillips) are a snobbish pair who resent their neighbour, retired garbage man Arthur Grymsdyke (Peter Cushing) who owns a number of animals and entertains children at his house.
Wish You Were Here Businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) is close to financial ruin. His wife Enid (Barbara Murray) discovers a Chinese figurine and wishes for a fortune.
Blind Alleys Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick), the new director of a home for the blind, makes drastic financial cuts, reducing heat and rationing food for the residents, while he lives in luxury with Shane, his Belgian Malinois.

The Blu-ray of Tales from the Crypt was released in October 2015 in the UK through Final Cut Entertainment and featured a engaging 35-minute documentary directed by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn and featuring interviews with the likes of Jonathan Rigby, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Chibnall.

Here it is in full for your enjoyment…

Tales from the Amicus Crypt Documentary from Sarah Meikle on Vimeo.

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Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) | Amicus’ portmanteau blueprint still impresses on Blu-ray

Dr Terrors House of Horrors (1965)1965’s Dr Terror’s House of Horrors was the first of six horror anthologies to come from Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg’s Amicus Productions and became the blueprint for their successive entries.

Following so-so returns on their two teen musicals, the duo decided to return to the horror genre (their first being 1960’s The City of the Dead) in a bid to give Hammer (who was doing big business) a run for their money. And it was on the back of the success of this film (their first under the Amicus banner) that would turn them into leading exponents of British cult, sci-fi, fantasy and horror over the next two decades.

Armed with some old scripts written (some say appropriated) back in 1948 and inspired by the 1940s British classics Dead of Night and Train of Events, Subotsky conceived the film, and added a linking story in which five train passengers have their destinies told by the Tarot-wielding (mispronouced as Tah-row) – Dr Sandor Schreck (Peter Cushing).

‘I think there is room for one more in here’
Their stories included a Scottish estate haunted by a werewolf (Ursula Howells); am Education Officer (DJ Alan Freeman) and his family coming under attack from a homicidal vine; a jazz trumpter (Roy Castle) who steals some voodoo music; an art critic (Christopher Lee) being pursued by a severed hand of a snubbed artist (Michael Gough); and a doctor (Donald Sutherland) who suspects his wife (Jennifer Jayne) is a vampire…

Dr Terrors House of Horrors (1965)

The Fear of the Year
With the exception of the supposedly comic voodoo episode (generally known as ‘that Roy Castle one’) and the silly vampire story, this House of Horrors still impresses. Freddie Francis directs with style, the Technicolor/Techniscope cinematography from Alan Hume (The Kiss of the Vampire) is suitably atmospheric, Bill Constable’s production design evokes each stories mood, and Subotsky adds a tongue-in-cheek tone throughout.

By far the two best stories are Werewolf (in which Subotsky is suprisingly inventive with the myth) and Disembodied Hand, long regarded as a fan favourite because of Christopher Lee’s memorable turn as a pompous petulant art critic (some say he was playing a parody of himself). While its obviously ripped off from 1946’s The Beast with Five Fingers, it’s gripping (pun itended) to watch Lee being terrified by a mechanical prop (which ended up in a couple of other Amicus films), and you can watch it here (courtesy of Screenbound).

Freddie Francis (who became Amicus’ in-house director) would helm three more omnibuses – Torture Garden (1968), Tales from the Crypt (1972) and the non-Amicus Tales that Witnessed Madness (1973) – and each would feature framing stories with varying degrees of success. Given that Peter Cushing’s merchant of Death is so memorable here, it’s always puzzled me why Amicus didn’t use the character again. Cushing, whose role here is little more than a cameo, would be promoted to lead in Amicus next three features: The Skull and the two big-screen Dr Who adventures.

THE SCREENBOUND RELEASE
Following a 4k remastering at Pinewood, this is the best-looking release of the film to date (despite the limitations due to the film’s use of the cheaper Techniscope widescreen process). The limited edition (4000 copies) Steel Book also benefits from the fantastic new artwork from Graham Humphreys and the following special features…

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary from director Freddie Francis
House of Cards: Documentary, directed by Jake West, about the film’s production history, with interviews from likes of Jonathan Rigby and Reece Shearsmith (contains spoilers – but also some neat bits of trivia).
Sir Christopher Lee – British Legends of Stage & Screen (2012, 60min): From spear carrying in Olivier’s Hamlet to Dracula, Lord of the Rings and his Bafta fellowship award, Lee looks back over his career (this is a must see).
• Gallery Images: From the collection of Stephen Jones (Monsters from Hell).
• Original theatrical trailer.

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The Monster Club (1981) | Vincent Price has a very special invitation for you… on Blu-ray

The Monster Club Blu-ray UK

Three stories to shock you! Chill you! Thrill you! And make you laugh
From Amicus, the studio that dripped blood in the 1960s and 1970s with a slate of uniquely British horror fare, comes 1980’s The Monster Club – now in HD.

Taking its cues from Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes’s 1975 short story collection (which is excellent btw), this horror-comedy anthology found veteran actor Vincent Price (playing a vampire for the first and only time in his film career) and an ailing John Carradine (paying a fictionalised Chetwynd-Hayes) musing over three tales of terror while enjoying the dubious delights of a naff member’s club for supernatural creatures. But it bombed! Author Chetwynd-Hayes was struck dumb by how badly his source material was rewritten, while the great Roy Ward Baker (who’d been pulled out of retirement) directed without his usual flair. It was his final feature film, and also that of Amicus supremo, Milton Subotsky.

The Monster Club (1981)

With little to no fanfare in 1981, The Monster Club ended up on home video, where it took on a bit of a cult following. Looking at it again however the Shadmock and Humgoo stories are actually quite effective, but the club scenes (featuring the worst masks ever) and the comedic vampire story are still pants. Vincent’s great though – especially his impassioned soliloquy in the film’s climax for allowing humans into the club because they have proven time again to be the ultimate monsters.

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Network Distributing‘s UK Blu-ray restoration release comes from ITV Global and is a sparkly fresh delight (it also shows up just how bad those masks are). The special features includes the film with isolated music score – where you get to hear all of the songs featured (Barbara Kellerman and Simon Ward having breakfast while listening to a punk vampire song on the radio is hilarious), plus Douglas Gamley’s lyrical instrumental music and Alan Hawkshaw’s stirring synth score; two theatrical trailers (one textless); textless film elements, comprising the opening scene of the bookshop without sound, and the John Bolton/Dez Skinn colour promo poster (see below); promo, featuring the best bits on Blu-ray accompanied by The Viewers’ theme tune; and an image gallery, featuring UK and Spanish lobby cards, as well as lots of pictures you may not have seen before – all courtesy of Stephen Jones.

The Monster Club Promo John Bolton Dez Skinn

What is missing are the extras you get on the US Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing (October 2013), which included George Reis’ detailed production history liner notes, and two interviews with Vincent Price conducted by film historian David Del Valle (I was looking forward to those). But considering I’ve only ever had the film on DVD in French before – it came with an issue of Mad Movies – I’m not complaining.

Check out Vincent’s friendly vamp Erasmus discussing the rules of monsterdom in this clip:

The Monster Club (1981) | Ghouls, vampires, shadmocks and Vincent Price run amok in HD

The Monster Club Blu-rayDid you know that on May 27 1981 the horror anthology The Monster Club had a quiet opening in the US [*], the same day that the film’s star Vincent Price celebrated his 70th birthday. With the US Blu-ray now out, here’s a retrospective look at one my guilty pleasures…

WELCOME TO THE MONSTER CLUB
This attempt by Milton Subotsky at resuscitating the horror anthology formula that he started back in 1965 with Dr Terrors House of Horrors, but in a semi-comic vein, proved a disappointment on its release and was the final film from his Amicus outfit. But the film has since attracted a cult following.

The first story deals with a shadmock, the professor of a lethal whistle (James Laurenson), and the woman (Barbara Kellerman) who tries to steal from him. The second story is a comical autobiographical film by producer Lintom Bustosky (Anthony Steel) involving his father vampire (Richard Johnson) and the cop (Donald Pleasence) on whom he turns the tables. The final episode, which is the most effective of the three, concerns a film producer (Stuart Whitman) whose ideal horror movie location proves to be populated by real ghouls.

Vincent Price in The Monster Club

Vincent Price appears in the framing device as a vampire who inducts John Carradine’s horror writer Chetwynd-Hayes into a club for monsters, and it’s these scenes where the film is at its weakest – mainly due to the cheap make-up effects used for the club’s denizens and an embarrassing final dance scene (check out my monster mash-up on YouTube). But there are some stand-out moments, namely Kellerman’s grisly demise, the fog-shrouded town that Whitman tries to escape from, and Price’s big speech in which he declares that man is the biggest monster of them all.

The Monster Club novelThe stories are all based on the work of Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes and is directed by Hammer/Amicus veteran Roy Ward Baker. The music, which ranges from the dub sounds of UB40 and the rock of The Pretty Things (who are still rockin today), was also released on record – now quite collectable, fetching up to US$400 on e-Bay. The film also appeared in comic form in Issue 25 of the legendary UK Hammer horror fanzine Halls of Horror, which was drawn by John Bolton and David Lloyd. [*] The film played it only selected cinemas in the US, having failed to find a distributor, but it did open in cinemas in the UK on 18 April 1981.

THE US BLU-RAY RELEASE
The Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray features a HD transfer of the film, plus a 62-minute interview with Vincent Price conducted in 1987 by film historian David Del Valle, a 40-minute audio interview between Del Valle and Price, on camera interview with Del Valle, Trailer, and isolated ME track.

THE VERDICT
The Monster Club is presented here in a locked Region A anamorphic widescreen presentation which preserves the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Colors are nicely saturated, with minimal print damage. Hopefully it won’t be long until there’s a UK release.

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I Sell the Dead (2008) | This grisly comedy horror captures the spirit of classic horrors of old

i-sell-the-dead-dvd-sleeve1

If you love vintage horrors of old, then you will get a blast out of this offbeat comic horror homage to the Karloff and Lugosi 1940s classic, The Body Snatcher.

I Sell the Dead

Dominic Monaghan plays Arthur Blake, an 18th-century grave robber awaiting a death sentence, while Ron Perlman plays Father Duffy, a priest who gets to hear Blake’s life story. What follows is a horrific, but hilarious, account of Blake’s exploits with his mentor Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) as they procure corpses for the bonkers Dr Vernon Quint (Phantasm‘s Angus Scrimm in brilliant form), before hitting on a lucrative line in digging up vampires and zombies. Standing in their way, however, is the notorious Murphy family, who will stop at nothing to cash in on selling the undead to the highest bidder.

Angus Scrimm in I Sell the Dead

The grisly exploits of Blake and Grimes are shocking and funny in equal measure, though some scenes where they banter ala Hope and Crosby just don’t work. Still, I Sell the Dead is a hugely atmospheric romp, and genre fans will savour the film’s nods to Hammer horror to the classic Amicus portmanteau films.

The 2009 UK DVD and Blu-ray releases feature an audio commentary by director Glenn McQuaid, audio commentary with actors Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden, a making of featurette, and visual effects.

I Sell the Dead also screens on The Horror Channel (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freesat 138) with the next showing today (Friday 27 December) at 10.55pm.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psfPNVTZjzc%5D
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