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Amicus Collection, The

    Ian Jane

  • Amicus Collection, The

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: December 19th, 2017.
    Director: Roy Ward Baker/Roy Ward Baker/Paul Annett
    Cast: Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland, Stephanie Beacham, Ian Ogilvy, Calvin Lockhart, Marlene Clark, Charles Gray, Anton Diffring
    Year: 1972/1972/1974
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    The Movie:

    Severin Films releases three classic horror pictures from England's 'studio that dripped blood' with their four-disc Blu-ray special edition boxed set release of The Amicus Collection. Here's a look at the three feature films contained within…


    When Asylum begins, a young doctor named Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) arrives at a mental hospital where he's supposed to have an interview with Dr. Starr. He is instead greeted by a Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee) who explains to him that Starr went off his rocker and now resides in the hospital not as an employee but as a patient. Rutherford goes on to explain that if Martin wants the job, he'll need to interview each of the four patients who live in the hospital and correctly identify which one is Dr. Starr. This nicely sets up the four short stories that make up the meat of the film.

    The first interviewee is Bonnie (Barbara Perkins), who explains to him how the plot she and her lover, Walter (Richard Todd), came up with to do away with his wife (Sylvia Syms) and make off with her fortune failed thanks to the wife's involvement with voodoo. While Walter was successful in his attempt to dismember her corpse, he wasn't counting on the involvement of the supernatural.

    From there, Martin interviews Bruno (Barry Morse), a man who sits inside his padded cell pretending to sew. It seems that Bruno was a tailor all his life and that he and his wife almost found themselves out on the street until one day a well to do man named Mr. Smith (Hammer legend Peter Cushing) asked him to make a special suit for his son out of some strange, alien fabric. When Mr. Smith is unable to pay for Bruno's services, the tailor becomes angry as he's promised the rent money to his landlord and he has to resort to drastic measures which of course leads to murder.

    When Martin makes his way to the next cell he meets Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) who appears to suffer from multiple personality disorder. Her alter ego, Lucy (Britt Ekland), seem to be in cahoots with her brother, or so she believes. Her paranoia becomes more intense and soon she has to do something to defend herself from those conspiring against her.

    Last but not least, Martin makes the acquaintance of Byron (Herbert Lom), a man who used to live life as a gifted inventor of sorts who thought it might be fun to build tiny robot versions of people he knew. When he decided to build a robotic version of himself, he soon found ample reason to lose his mind.

    Of course, once the four short stories (all of which were penned by Robert Bloch of Psycho fame who had previously written The House That Dripped Blood for the same studio) are over with we return to Martin's plight as he finally learns the truth about Dr. Starr and what really happened to him or her. There's a very thick streak of dark comedy running throughout the entire thing and much of it is successfully played with tongue firmly in cheek. Performances range from over the top to nicely subdued and Baker's direction is strong throughout. The movie has plenty of atmosphere, making great use of its sets and locations as well as the interesting cast of performers assembled for the project.

    As far as pacing goes, the film moves along pretty quickly. Seeing as it is the four short stories that make up most of the movie there really isn't time for superfluous characterizations or drawn out stretches of dialogue and instead we've got a movie that gets right to each of its four points pretty quickly. All of this is set to a sufficiently ominous sounding score and some slick photography that makes Asylum a well-polished gem of a film and one of the best of Amicus' many anthology films.

    And Now The Screaming Starts:

    The second film in the set takes place in the England of the late 1700's where a man named Charles Fengriffin (Ian Ogilvy) accompanies his blushing new bride Catherine (Stephanie Beacham) to his massive old family estate out in the charming English countryside. Catharine is almost instantly uncomfortable in the creaky old abode, unnerved by a rather macabre looking painting of Sir Henry Fengriffin (Herbert Lom) that hangs in one of the hallways on the upper floor of the creaky old home.

    Regardless, she does her best to settle in. However, it doesn't take long for her fears to be proven completely understandable as a rather dead looking hand, detached from its body, appears in the home and Catherine herself is accosted in the middle of the night by a horrifying specter. She tells Charles about her experience but he doesn't believe her - and neither does anyone else - despite the fact that the servants in the home have recently had similar experiences themselves. As Catherine's behavior becomes increasingly manic, Charles requests the help of one Doctor Whittle (Patrick Magee) and after that Doctor Pope (Peter Cushing) in hopes of getting to the bottom of all of this. But of course, Catherine, in reality, isn't as crazy as her new husband might believe her to be… something strange really is going on in the Fengriffin home and it's tied into the family's dark past.

    “Ghosts galore. Headless horsemen, horseless headsmen, everything.”

    And Now The Screaming Starts isn't the best of Amcius' horror output but it is a pretty entertaining picture in its own right thanks to a few memorable set pieces and a great cast. Any film that features a disembodied hand puttering about wreaking havoc is a film worth seeing and once you throw in some wonky ghost rape, a creepy portrait of Herbert Lom and other bizarre ghostly activity, well, the film is pretty entertaining even if the script is occasionally a bit goofy and the story a bit predictable.

    But again, that cast. Roy Ward Baker had worked with Peter Cushing a few times before they collaborated on this picture, not just on Asylum made the same year but also on Hammer's The Vampire Lovers in 1970. He gets a really solid performance out of him, though to be fair, Cushing was typically great in everything he appeared in - the man could commit! Supporting work from a reasonably restrained Magee and an enjoyable manic Herbert Lom help to up the film's ante while Ogilvy and pretty Ms. Beacham do just fine as the leads. Production values are decent, the film makes great use of some atmospheric locations and is ripe with melodramatic gothic atmosphere. Add to this a generally strong score, better than average photography and a strong twist ending and this picture holds up quite well, even if it's doomed for forever live in the shadow of Amicus' more revered anthology horror pictures.

    The Beast Must Die:

    Last but not least… what do you get when you mix Agatha Christie's 10 Little Indians with Peter Cushing, the criminologist from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and bad werewolf effects? Why, Amicus Studios' The Beast Must Die of course!

    When the film begins we see a man named Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) running through the woods testing out his new high tech security system. Why has he had this installed? Because he takes hunting very seriously and intends to make sure he runs into no snags catching his latest prey, a werewolf! Good thing he's got his trusty friend Pavel (Anton Diffring) to watch over all the surveillance cameras for him - these things cover the entire width of his property inside and out.

    But before he can start the hunt, he's got to figure out who exactly is the werewolf. He's narrowed it down to six people, seven if you include his lovely wife Caroline (Marlene Clark of Beware The Blob!): a Scandinavian occult expert named Dr. Lundgren (Peter Cushing, a man who needs no introduction around here), a wealthy and shifty heavy set dude named Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray), the lovely Davina Gilmore (Ciaran Madden), a chap named Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon) or, finally, Jan Jarmokowski (Michael Gambon). In order to weed out who the real werewolf is, Newcliffe has them all over to his home for a dinner party.

    Of course, as the evening progresses, someone invariably does shape shift and soon a werewolf (or at least a really big fuzzy dog) is on the loose killing off the odd piece of hired help here and there. Will Newcliffe be able to figure out who is the culprit before it's too late or will he himself wind up a midnight snack for a hungry lycanthropic beast?

    Far less of a horror movie and much more of a traditional 'who dunnit' in the guise of a 'who issit,' The Beast Must Die is good fun even if it's hardly a good movie. The acting is a little on the hammy side in spots, Lockhart in particular giving an oddly 'too cool' performance and Cushing struggling with his Scandinavian character's accent at times. The effects, what little there are, mostly consist of a big shaggy dog mauling people in place of an actual werewolf, which adds some unintentionally funny moments to the movie that are almost immediately hit over the head with some grisly after effects shots.

    The most ridiculous part of the movie is the gimmick aspect that the producers forced on the film. An opening narration and text shot tells us that the movie we're about to watch is a mystery in which we, the audience go to try and figure out who the werewolf is. It further advises us to watch out for the break in which we can reveal our answers. Sure enough, towards the end of the film that same narrator pops back up on the soundtrack and asks us to take a guess, giving us thirty ticking seconds in which a clock moves over some stills of the suspects to make our guess. Silly stuff, but a whole lot of fun.


    All three films in the set are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Asylum, on a 50GB disc (with the feature taking up just under 26GBs of space), is framed at 1.78.1 and it looks quite good. Some soft focus is employed here and there and during those scenes detail is understandably less than stellar, but by and large this is a nice picture that shows good depth, texture and detail. Colors are reproduced pretty accurately, black levels are solid and while some minor print damage shows up in the form of small white specs, this is a natural and film-like presentation. Severin touts this one as 'remastered from vault elements.'

    And Now The Screaming Starts (also on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up roughly 27GBs of space) looks similar. It's a bit rough during the opening credits, not as clean as you might want, but you can blame the optical effects for that. Once we get out of opening credits territory the transfer quality improves considerably. There's still white specks here and there but nothing so serious as to pull you out of the film at all. Again, detail, depth and texture show nice improvement over previous DVD editions. Black levels are solid and there's good shadow detail here too. Interestingly enough, this movie is the only one of the three noted as 'remastered in 4k.'

    The Beast Must Die (presented on a 25GB disc with the feature taking up just under 21GBs of real estate) and the compression on this one leaves something to be desired, as visible artifacts are present throughout the film. Detail isn't as strong as it is on the other two features, and some of the dark scenes are murky. Still, it rises above DVD even if it does leave plenty of room for improvement. It's a grainier looking film than the other two pictures as well, though the image is free of all but minor print damage. Those who have seen the film before will recall that it has never looked as sharp or detailed as the other two pictures in this set, and that hasn't changed now that we get to see it in high definition. This one is also noted as being 'restored from vault elements.'

    The screen caps below show a strange anomaly on the left side of each grab wherein some white lines are visible. While this was obvious in VLC Media Player while doing the screen caps for this review, those lines also appeared on my television when watching the feature - very strange and a little distracting.

    Each film in the set gets the English language DTS-HD Mono treatment with removable English subtitles provided. Asylum and And Now The Screaming Stars also include Spanish language Dolby Digital Mono tracks. The Beast Must Die includes a Spanish language track in DTS-HD Mono.

    Extras are spread across the four discs that make up this collection as follows:


    Ported over from the previous Region 2 PAL release from Anchor Bay UK is the commentary track with director Roy Ward Baker, camera man Neil Binney and moderator Marcus Hearn. This is a pretty amicable chat as the three men cover casting and shooting locations and provide a good overview of the making of the film in general. Baker seems fairly proud of the work he did on the movie but still shows that he has a sense of humor about some of the material and talks about what it was like to worth with a few of the participants involved in the production.

    Also ported over from the R2 disc is a documentary entitled Inside The Fear Factory, which clocks in at just under twenty minutes in length. This is a pretty interesting look at the history of Amicus studios through interviews with Max Rosenberg, Roy Ward Baker, and Freddie Francis. Through these chats, spiced up with some great pictures and film clips, we learn how Rosenberg and Subotsky came to form Amicus, how they got a lot of the talent involved in the studio and what it was like working for the studio that dripped blood!

    Appearing for the first time on home video is the eighteen-minute Two's A Company, an onset report made by the BBC in 1972 that features interviews with producer Milton Subotsky, director Roy Ward Baker and cast members Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers and Megs Jenkins as well as art director Tony Curtis and production manager Teresa Bolland. In addition to the interview clips we also get some nice behind the scenes footage shot on set during the production and a quick history of Amicus - great stuff.

    Also new to this disc is a twenty-one-minute featurette called David J. Schow On Robert Bloch. Here Schow gives us a brief history of Bloch's work as a writer before delving fairly deep into what made his writing interesting and effective be it for the printed page, film or television. Block, despite his fame for writing Psycho, remains a genuinely underrated author making this piece quite appreciated. A third new supplement appears in the form of Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton Subotsky, a ten-minute segment in which the producer's widow offers some warm memories of her late husband both in terms of what he was like as a businessman and as a person. There's lots of talk here of his passion for filmmaking, it's a nice segment worth checking out.

    Outside of that we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus, chapter selection and reversible cover art.

    And Now The Screaming Starts:

    Carried over from past editions are two audio commentary tracks, the first with director Roy Ward Baker and actress Stephanie Beacham. The second commentary features actor Ian Ogilvy moderated by Darren Gross. These are both worthwhile if you haven't heard them before, covering a lot of ground. Baker talks about working with the key cast members and his thoughts on working for Amicus while Ogilvy talks up his experiences alongside some of his older, more established co-stars, Roy Ward Baker's direction, his thoughts on the picture and more.

    From there we move on to some new material, starting with a fifteen-minute featurette entitled The Haunting Of Oakley Court in which authors Allan Bryce and David Flint visit the primary location used for the feature. We'll keep our personal opinions of Bryce out of this. As to the featurette? It's a interesting look at a genuinely iconic location used not just for this film but for quite a few other British horror pictures made before and after.

    Up next is a twelve-minute archival audio interview with Peter Cushing conducted by Denis Meikle. It's quite interesting as it features Cushing, always the consummate gentleman, talking not only about his work for Amicus but also about his friendship and working relationship with Christopher Lee and some of the Hammer pictures they appeared in together and separately. We also get a four-minute interview with horror journalist Denis Meikle in which he explains his feelings on the picture's success (or lack thereof!), Cushing's involvement in the film and how his personal life at the time affected it and the source material that was adapted into the feature.

    Again, we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, a radio spot, menus and chapter selection.

    The Beast Must Die:

    The main supplements both involve director Paul Annett, and both have been ported over from the aforementioned Anchor Bay UK DVD release. The first is the commentary track in which he explains a lot of trivia behind the shoot, such as how the cast was assembled, how Amicus put the project together and what it was like working with the ensemble assembled for the production. He speaks kindly of pretty much everyone involved in the film and does a good job of basically giving the listener a crash course history lesson in his work at Amicus Studios.

    The second supplement to involve Annett is a featurette entitled Directing The Beast. This is a great little documentary that covers how the project came to be, how Michael Winder adopted James Blish's original story into a screen play, how Lockhart was cast in the lead and more. Annett is very down to Earth about the movie, not taking himself too seriously as he tells us some fun stories about his interaction with the two studio heads who bankrolled all of this.

    New to this release is And Then There Were Werewolves, an audio essay by Troy Howarth that clocks in at just over eighteen minutes. Here Howarth speaks about the history of the film overtop a selection of images from the film, talking up the influence of Agatha Christie and its cinematic legacy, British werewolf films and this picture's place in that category, how Amicus came to make this film in the first place, the James Blish story that the script was based on and the film's Blaxploitation elements.

    And yes, once more, we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    The Vault Of Amicus:

    The boxed set release also includes a fourth bonus disc entitled The Vault Of Amicus that contains a nice selection of additional bonus material starting with Dr. Terror's House Of Trailers. As the title suggests, this is a sixty-five-minute-long trailer collection that compiles promos spots for every one of Amicus' productions:

    City Of The Dead / Ring-A-Ding Rhythm / Dr. Terror's House Of Horrors / Doctor Who And The Daleks / The Skull / Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. / The Psychopath / The Deadly Bees / Torture Garden / Danger Route / They Came From Beyond Space / The Terrornauts / The Birthday Party / Thank You All Very Much / The Mind Of Mr. Soames / Scream And Scream Again / The House That Dripped Blood / I, Monster / What Became Of Jack And Jill? / Asylum / Tales From The Crypt / The Vault Of Horror / And Now The Screaming Starts / From Beyond The Grave / Madhouse / The Beast Must Die / The Land That Time Forgot / At The Earth's Core / The People That Time Forgot / The Uncanny / The Monster Club.

    You can choose a specific trailer from the menus or watch via a 'play all' option (or skip through them using your remote control). These are all presented in high definition but not so surprisingly, quality varies quite a bit from one trailer to the next. Still, there's a lot of great material included here and this is a nice compliment to the three features included in the set. Dr. Terror's House Of Trailers is available to watch with an optional commentary track from film critics Kim Newman and David Flint. These guys know their stuff and are a lot of fun to listen to as they deliver a genuinely lively track that's packed with trivia about the movies featured in the trailers.

    Also found on the disc is a section made up of alternate trailers and TV spots. Here you'll find promos for The Creatures (an alternate title for From Beyond The Grave), Torture Garden, The Vault Of Horror, The Skull and Tales From The Crypt.

    This fourth disc also includes two audio interviews. The first of these is with Milton Subotsky and was conducted by Phil Nutman. It runs as MASSIVE three hours in length and it covers his history in the film business, the origins of Amicus and many of the productions the he helped to spearhead over the years. The second interview is with Max Rosenberg and is conducted by Jonathan Sothcott. It runs forty-seven minutes and again contains lots of stories about his work for Amicus, his background, how he and Subotsky got into the horror game and loads more. Both of these interviews play out with a selection of photos, poster art, stills and other ephemera behind it, so we've got something to look at while listening to all of this!

    The Final Word:

    Severin's Blu-ray release of The Amicus Collection is solid, transfer quirks on the third film notwithstanding. Asylum as well as And Now The Screaming Starts both look pretty nice here and the addition of some next extras alongside all of the archival material makes this a treat for fans. Throw in that fourth disc and for Amicus buffs, this set proves hard to resist.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    • John Bernhard
      John Bernhard
      Senior Member
      John Bernhard commented
      Editing a comment
      Recycled old scans look so meh on blu.

    • Gary Banks
      Gary Banks
      Senior Member
      Gary Banks commented
      Editing a comment
      I like all three films and have the dvds. Still on the fence about picking this up though.

    • C.D. Workman
      C.D. Workman
      Senior Member
      C.D. Workman commented
      Editing a comment
      I've got this ordered (Amazon is now listing it as coming out on January 16), but I'm a little less excited after reading the review and seeing the screen caps for THE BEAST MUST DIE, the film I was most looking forward to upgrading.
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