Plot: What’s it about?
One of the all time great horror studios, Amicus was best known for the anthologies it produced. These films would contain several short stories, each horrific and all the tales were bound by a common thread, sheer terror. But Amicus made more than the anthologies, as evidenced here, in The Amicus Collection. Dark Sky Films has collected three of the studio’s most chilling pictures and offered them in this collectible release. You’ll see stars like Peter Cushing, Michael Gambon, Stephanie Beacham, Patrick Magee, and Robert Powell, in these twisted stories of the darker side of the world. The world that includes eerie phantoms and ghosts, severed hands, mad doctors in disguise, and yes, even a werewolf lurks within this collection. So sit back and prepared to be scared, as The Amicus Collection has been unleashed. I have included a brief synopsis for each movie below.
1. And Now the Screaming Starts- Charles Fengriffin (Ian Ogilvy) and his new bride Catherine (Stephanie Beacham) should be on their honeymoon, but their marital bliss has turned into a living hell. The couple moved into Charles’ family mansion once they were wed, to make a home for themselves. But what should have been the start of a blissful life together, instead turned dark, as an evil spirit dwells within the mansion. On the first night of marriage, Catherine is assaulted by a sinister force, raped and left a terrified wreck. But this is just the start of the haunting visitations, as Catherine is plagued by the spirits. Is there a way for her to escape, or is she doomed be tortured by the evil presence forever?
2. Asylum- Dr. Martin (Peter Cushing) is being considered for a position at the Dunsmoor Asylum, home to the insane who have no chance of recovery. When he arrives at the bleak asylum, he is greeted by Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee), not Dr. Starr, the asylum’s director. As it turns out, Dr. Starr had a mental breakdown of his own and now, he is on the other side of Dunsmoor, as a patient instead of a doctor. Dr. Rutherford poses a challenge to Dr. Martin, to find out which patient is the real Dr. Starr and if he succeeds, the position is his. But is there more than meets the eye in this eerie asylum?
3. The Beast Must Die- Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) is a very wealthy man who loves to hunt and while he has bagged almost every creature known, there is one big game animal he has yet to defeat. As such, he invites six guests to his lavish estate and in a weekend, he plans to take down his final conquest. The six guests all have a string of murders behind them and with the evidence at hand, Newcliffe is sure one of them is a werewolf and that’s the kind of animal he wishes to hunt. He informs them that they are to remain on his estate for the weekend and sooner or later, the werewolf will be found out and when that happens, he plans to put it down for good.
Video: How does it look?
The Beast Must Die is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, while Asylum and And Now the Screaming Starts are shown in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. These movies look good, but still leave room for improvement. I found detail to be soft, but acceptable, while the prints used look clean for the most part. The contrast is murky, so detail is sometimes obscured, while color is decent, but not up to the level it should be. While this is a solid presentation of the three films, these are not the deluxe new visual efforts fans had hoped to see here.
Audio: How does it sound?
All three films featured basic, but acceptable mono soundtracks. Not much to talk about here, as the audio covers the bases, but it never offers much more. This is to be expected however, as these are films from the early ’70s and I doubt much would be enhanced with a new surround sound mix. The music sounds as good as mono allows, while the sound effects are also well presented, but limited at times. No real complaints with dialogue however, as vocals seem smooth and easy to understand at all times. Not remarkable, but more than acceptable soundtracks.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The Beast Must Die offers some nice extras, such as director Paul Annett’s audio comments. He is talkative and relays a lot of production information, especially in regard to stories about the cast members. He is kept on track by a moderator, so he rarely quiets down or veers off course, giving us a more than solid session. This disc also includes an interview with Annett, some still photos & lobby cards, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Asylum features an insightful commentary track, as director Roy Ward Baker and camera operator Neil Binney share their memories of the production. The track is a bit technical, but still interesting and there are some anecdotes, so the balance is there. Inside the Fear Factory is a twenty minute featurette that examines the legacy of Amicus, focused on these three films. The piece is good, but this is just an excerpt from a more extensive piece available in an import Amicus collection. This disc also includes still photos & lobby cards, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.
And Now the Screaming Starts has two audio commentary sessions, one with director Roy Ward Baker and star Stephanie Beacham, the other with star Ian Ogilvy. As expected, the first track is more focused and less time is filled with silence, but Ogilvy does have some worthwhile comments. I do think both tracks could have been combined into one to maximize the value of time, but in any case, both have some good information. This disc also includes still photos & lobby cards, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.