Second Sight has made my year with the Limited Edition releases of two Amicus horror anthology classics. Both Asylum and The House That Dripped Blood get a stunning Blu-ray release packed with extra features.
Amicus Productions might not have lasted as long as Hammer (the two are frequently confused), but for almost 15 years they forged a legacy that has endured the decades. The House That Dripped Blood was one of my first experiences with Amicus, catching it late one night when we had but five TV channels, and I should have been fast asleep this devilishly chilling anthology has something for every horror fan.
Our framework (or wraparound if you prefer) story sees a Scotland Yard Detective (John Bennett) investigating the disappearance of horror actor Paul Henderson who recently rented a seemingly charming country house. The case leads him to question the estate agent, who has three shocking tales about the history of this house and its previous residents. Method For Murder finds horror writer Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott) and his wife moving into the house so he can complete his latest book. However, his latest fictional creation, Dominic, begins to haunt their waking lives.
Waxworks stars horror legend Peter Cushing who along with his old friend (Joss Ackland) slowly becomes obsessed with a rundown waxwork museum. The main attraction is the model of a woman who bears a striking resemblance to someone they knew many years ago. I think we’ve all been on THAT seaside holiday as kids where a worn-out Waxwork museum freaked us out on a rainy afternoon.
Next, we have another titan of terror, Christopher Lee starring in Sweets to the Sweet. Lee stars as a recent widower who has hired a private teacher to educate his young daughter. His detachment towards his daughter causes concern for the teacher, but it turns out his distance was well-founded. Dripping in psychological atmosphere, Sweets to the Sweet is the story I remembered vividly from my first watch, and it is as unsettling as ever.
The third Doctor, aka Jon Pertwee, leads the cast in The Cloak as the previously mentioned missing actor Paul Henderson. His latest production sees him portraying a vampire, and he is determined to look the part. Treating himself to a lavish black clock to round off his costume (from an overly creepy shopkeeper), Paul discovers the cloak holds an extraordinary power when he wears it, one that will add extra authenticity to his performance. Co-starring Ingrid Pitt, The Cloak takes a somewhat silly idea and runs with it, the ever watchable Pertwee has a ball playing Henderson and injects the same energy that he brought to Doctor Who.
As a format, the anthology has made a comeback over the last decade with Black Mirror, American Horror Story, The Twilight Zone revival, and the sinfully good Inside No.9. However, it was widely used in the film industry to temp A-list talent with a big payday for a limited amount of their time. Few people understood this approach better than Amicus Productions co-founder Milton Subotsky. On a side note, one of Milton Subotsky’s final films as a producer was the 90s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man. 1970s
The UK was struggling with recession, and Amicus Productions managed to endure during difficult economic times. There’s something about the make them cheap, stack the frights (and stars) high, made efficiently with second takes being a luxury. A typical Amicus production would go from being written, shot, edited, and released in around 15 weeks, not even four months to will a film into existence. Sadly, Milton Subotsky left Amicus shortly after The Land That Time Forgot was released, but he remained credited as a producer for At The Earth’s Core which arrived in 1976. Co-founder Max Rosenberg kept Amicus alive for a couple of years, ultimately it folded, but Rosenberg went on to produce films well into his 80s.
The transfer here is phenomenal, much like Asylum, Second Sight Films have released another flawless Blu-ray with special features to match. Naturally, I would be only too happy to sit through a three-hour documentary on Amicus, but sadly that has yet to become a reality. Perhaps the only complaint about a film that’s titled The House That Dripped Blood, at no time does the House in question drip blood.