One of my favorite types of horror movie is the anthology film. They offer a chance for shorter horror stories to shine without needing to be padded out to a feature length and the wraparounds are generally fun too. One of the finest producers of this type of movie was Amicus Productions. VAULT OF HORROR and TALES FROM THE CRYPT were two of their more famous productions and based on the EC Comics of the same name. FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE was the last anthology film they produced and was based upon the stories of R. Chetwynd-Hayes and features Peter Cushing as the proprietor of an antique shop who sells items that result in the death of those who swindle him during purchase. Unsurprisingly, this seems to happen quite a bit and results in some fantastic tales.
In “The Gatecrasher”, Edward Charlton (David Warner) purchases a mirror after tricking the proprietor and convincing him it wasn’t a real antique. After holding a seance in front of the mirror, a sinister figure starts appearing in it to Edward, beckoning him to do his bidding and feed him souls so that he might finally be free.
“An Act of Kindness” finds a frustrated man trapped in a marriage with a woman who doesn’t like him and a son that doesn’t respect him striking up a friendship with an old soldier (Donald Pleasance) who sells matches and shoe laces. To impress him, Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen) steals a Distinguished Service Order medal from the proprietor. The soldier introduces him to his daughter and the two begin an affair. But does this new woman have an ulterior motive and what does it bode for the wife, and Christopher himself?
“The Elemental” is probably the funniest of the group of tales, where Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael) switches the prices on two snuff boxes so he can buy the one he likes from the proprietor at a cheaper price and then ends up with an elemental on his shoulder. Of course, he can’t see the creature, but the loony psychic Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) can and tell him about it on the train. He dismisses her at first but when the invisible fiend starts attacking Reggie’s wife, he calls to see if she can rid him of the creature before it kills the both of them.
“The Door” is the last of the tales and finds William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy) buying a door from the proprietor for less than full price. It’s a monstrous looking thing that he puts in his office on the office supply closet. However, it seems this door connects to someplace much scarier at times and worse, the thing inside is hungry for souls.
All four tales are pretty great, though if I had to pick a favorite it would have to be “The Elemental” just for the manic energy of it. It almost could have been a sitcom at times but with a fun horror vibe to it. The casts in each segment are fantastic and really one of the draws to the anthology films as they tended to pull out all the stops in terms of stars. None of the segments overstay their welcome either, which is always a risk you run in anthologies. They get in and our pretty quickly. The only downside is that we really don’t get enough Peter Cushing though he shines in the brief moments he gets in the wraparound story.
Definitely worth adding to your Halloween season watchlist. Check it out.