From Beyond The Grave (1974) [31 Days of British Horror Review]

Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January and the “31 Days of British Horror” in March , Jules is at it again in May, treating us to the continuation of his chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.

Starring: Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasance, Ian Ogilvy, Ian Bannen, Ian Carmichael
Director: Kevin Connor

After cornering the market with a format that would be synonymous with their name forever more, Amicus brought their run of portmanteaus to a close with From Beyond The Grave.

Thankfully, they ended on a high with a glorious framing sequence with Peter Cushing and a strong batch of stories spinning out of it, each based on the work of R. Chetwynd Hayes no less.

Temptations Limited is an antiques shop whose motto is “Offers You Cannot Resist”, it’s mysterious, pipe-smoking proprietor only too willing to give his patrons the opportunity to try and cheat him, thereby dooming themselves to a terrible fate…

It opens in terrific style with The Gatecrasher, Edward Charlton (David Warner) purchases an antique mirror for a knockdown price, having tricked the Proprietor into believing it is a reproduction. Enacting a seance in front of it later that night at a dinner party, he comes into contact with a a sinister figure (Marcel Steiner) who appears to live in the mirror and demands human sacrifices to allow him to escape. This one is absolute gold. Simple, but wonderfully atmospheric and a great central concept. It’s not just a ghost in the mirror, it’s the last owner and the cycle of horror will never end…

An Act Of Kindness is low on scares and actual horror, but makes up for it with a decidedly awkward and disturbing edge. Ian Bannen is a depressed Reggie Perrin-type office worker trapped in a loveless marriage with Mabel (Diana Dors), who clearly hates him, as does their young son. Forming a friendship with Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence) an old soldier now selling shoelaces and matches on the street, he ends up stealing an army medal to back up his lies about being ex-army himself. Lured in by Underwood and his daughter Emily (Angela Pleasence), he begins an affair with the younger woman who is only too willing to use witchcraft to deal with Mabel, as long as she is commanded to do it…

You can’t go wrong with Donald Pleasance when he’s turning on the creepy, but team him up with his real-life daughter and you’re talking maximum unease. The pair are just so good at saying one thing, seemingly nice, charming and polite, but delivering with an undercurrent of…wrongness. It’s marvellous stuff and it’s only a shame we didn’t more of this pairing in horror, as they’re made for it.

The Elemental has a nice idea at its core, but is definitely the weakest link in this collection. After swindling The Proprietor by switching the price tags on two snuff boxes (“I hope you enjoy snuffing it”), Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael) comes home with a demonic presence on his shoulder. The eccentric clairvoyant/white witch, Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) who he met on the train attempts to exorcise the presence, but it’s not going to be that easy…Average. That’s the only way to describe this one. There’s just very little to it, but both Carmichael and Leighton give it plenty, so it’s passable. Not bad, but not particularly good either.

Luckily things improve massively for The Door. William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy) is a writer who purchases an antique and very ornate door from the Proprietor. Unlike the other “customers” he haggles a lower price fairly and doesn’t try to steal his money back when it’s left out as bait.  The Door is, unsurprisingly, possessed by the spirit of Sir Michael Sinclair (Jack Watson), an evil occultist who created the door as a lure to trap anyone who entered through it, so that he can take their souls and live forever. Both Seaton and his wife Rosemary (Lesley-Anne Down) soon find themselves trapped in the dimension behind the door in a fight for their lives..

This is much more like it, an effective morality play (he plays fair, thereby standing at least a chance of avoiding his doom), wrapped in a hallucinatory, twisted and very otherworldly nightmare. Ogilvy is his usual heroic self and Lesley-Anne Down more than convinces.

There’s a lovely little coda to the framing sequence when the shady character we’ve seen casing the shop makes his move and deeply, deeply regrets it (you’ve got to love a bulletproof, possibly Mephistophelean Peter Cushing, no?), leaving From Beyond The Grave in the hands of its finest talent.

Amicus would go on to make no more portmanteaux, which is a real shame, but at the very least, with this one, they went out on a high.

Rating: 4/5.

JULESAVThe Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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