‘From Beyond The Grave’ was released in 1974 by Amicus Productions. It is a British horror film anthology directed by Kevin Connor and produced by Milton Subotsky. The film is primarily based on stories by R. Chetwynd-Hayes. It was originally titled ‘The Undead’ and depending upon where you are in the world, you may recognise it as ‘The Creatures’, ‘Tales from Beyond The Grave’, and ‘Tales From The Beyond’.
Amicus was well known for its portmanteau horror film anthologies which typically featured four or five short horror stories, linked by an overarching plot, usually featuring a narrator or commentator. Over the years they have developed a bit of a cult following. ‘From Beyond the Grave’ was the last of their anthologies, being preceded by ‘Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors’ (1965), ‘Torture Garden’ (1967), ‘The House That Dripped Blood’ (1970), ‘Asylum’ (1972), ‘Tales From The Crypt’ (1972) and ‘The Vault Of Horror’ (1973).. ..all of which we will be looking at in due course.
The stories (contains spoilers)
Temptations Limited is an ‘out of the way’ antiques shop run by a rather creepy proprietor whose name remains undisclosed (excellently played by Peter Cushing). The strap-line for the shop, as seen on the door, is “offers you cannot resist”. However, as we shall see, a nasty fate awaits those who steal from or cheat Cushing’s character.
The Gatecrasher – Edward Charlton (played by David Warner) appears to be an up-and-coming young man who enters the shop and is immediately taken with an antique mirror. He purchases the mirror, but at a bargain price.. ..he assures the proprietor that it is not actually an antique, but a reproduction; knowing this to be a lie. He takes it home to his rather swanky flat and places it in prime position over the fire place. Later he holds a party, where he discloses his dishonesty in acquiring the mirror to friends and they collectively discuss its age.. ..it is at this point that someone suggests they hold a séance. Upon doing so he falls into a trance and finds himself in a misty, wooded ‘netherworld’ where he is approached by a sinister stranger (Marcel Steiner), dressed in antique attire. The stranger appears to stab him, and Charlton awakes screaming. Later, whilst alone in his flat the figure appears in the mirror and orders Charlton to kill so that he can “feed”. Charlton then proceeds to bring young girls back to his flat and murders them. At first it seems that he is unaware that he is doing this, but the extent of his butchery is revealed when his downstairs neighbour complains about the stains on his ceiling and the smell. Eventually, Charlton murders enough people for the apparition to be able to manifest itself outside of the mirror.. ..seemingly becoming younger and more healthy with each killing. He explains that Charlton must do one more thing before the stranger can walk freely among the living. Saying he will take Charlton “beyond the ultimate“, he persuades Charlton to kill himself by impaling himself on his knife. We are then left with workmen decorating the flat and removing traces of Charlton’s grisly past, the mirror staying on the wall.. ..it seems to stay there for years after his death, with other owners/tenants coming and going. That is until the latest owner also decides to hold a séance. Once the séance starts, Charlton’s hungry spectre appears in the mirror.
You can’t fail to notice that there are a lot of similarities between this story and ‘The Hellbound Heart’, with the box replacing the mirror. Now don’t get me wrong, Barker’s story is more well-rounded, eloquent and there is sense made of why the Cenobites are taking their captives; similarities which are not revealed in the above story.. ..but Barker must have surely got some inspiration from this story.. ..or is there another earlier story that both are influenced by?
An Act of Kindness – Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen) is a frustrated middle management drone who is trapped in a loveless marriage to Mabel (Diana Dors). Humiliated and abused by his wife, a laughing stock to his son, he befriends Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence); an old soldier who he sees regularly on his way to work. Underwood ekes out a living selling matches and shoe laces. To regain some dignity, Lowe makes an effort to impress Underwood; telling him that he is a also decorated soldier. To back up this lie, he enters ‘Temptations’ and tries to persuade the proprietor to sell him a Distinguished Service Order medal. When the proprietor asks Lowe to provide certification to prove he had previously been awarded the medal, he obviously cannot.. ..instead he steals the medal, when the proprietors back is turned. The next day on his way to work he shows Underwood the medal, who is duly impressed, stating that not many gentlemen received such a high commendation. Underwood reflects that Lowe has been very good to him, buying his wares etc. and that he would be honoured if he would come to his house for tea. Once at Underwood’s house he meets, and is obviously taken with, his rather creepy daughter, Emily (played by Angela Pleasence, Donald Pleasence’s actual daughter). Emily waits on Lowe, hand and foot, and over time he is seduced by her and they start an affair.. ..even though she seems constantly distracted and distant. Emily becomes weirder and weirder and eventually produces a miniature doll of Mabel, proceeding to hold a knife to it. She asks Lowe to order her to do his will. Lowe agrees that she should cut the doll, if it pleases her.. ..to which she replies, “no, if it pleases you!”. When she cuts into the doll, a drop of blood dribbles from it. A disturbed Lowe then races home to find Mabel dead.
Underwood and Emily then appear at Lowe’s home, and walk in to the sound of the ‘Wedding March‘. Later, Emily and Lowe are married; Lowe’s son (played by future writer John O’Farrell) and Jim Underwood attend the wedding. When the time comes to cut the cake, Emily asks all present whether they wish her to. They all agree and Emily brings the knife down, but rather than cut the cake, she cuts into the head of the groom. Blood pours out of it, and Lowe then falls on to the table, dead, blood spilling from his head. Underwood and Emily explain to Lowe’s son that they always answer the prayers of a child “in one way or another“.
The Elemental – Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael) is an affluent, somewhat pompous, business man who enters ‘Temptations’. Although clearly able to afford it, he puts the price tag of a cheaper snuff box in a more expensive one he wants to buy, whilst out of sight of the Proprietor. Cushing sells him the box at the altered price, bidding him farewell with a cheery “I hope you enjoy snuffing it“. On the train home, an apparently batty old white witch, come clairvoyant, named Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) interrupts him whilst he is reading his paper. She persistently advises him that he has an nasty ‘elemental’ on his shoulder. Warren dismisses her, but eventually accepts her business card, mainly to placate her. However, when he gets home his shoulder starts to itch, his dog disappears and his wife Susan (Nyree Dawn Porter) is attacked and choked half to death by an unseen force.. ..he is also surrounded by an unpleasant odour. As such he has cause to call on Madame Orloff’s services; she promptly arrives and seemingly successfully (and somewhat humorously) exorcises the ‘elemental’ from the Warrens’ home.. ..even their dog returns. Later though, the Warrens hear strange noises up stairs, and Reggie heads up to investigate. He is soon knocked out and falls to the foot of the stairs, unconscious. When he comes round, he finds Susan, who has somehow become possessed by the ‘elemental’, manically staring at him.. ..she/it informs him that he “tried to deny her life” and promptly kills him.
The Door – William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy) is a writer who purchases an ancient and very ornate door from the proprietor of ‘Temptations’. He is unable to meet the proprietor’s asking price, but agrees on a reduced price with him. When the proprietor goes out of sight to note down Seaton’s delivery details, he purposely leaves the till open. After Seaton leaves, the proprietor starts counting the money in the till and the scene fades out.
Arriving home Seaton discusses with his wife, Rosemary (Lesley-Anne Down), where they should place the door.. ..she thinks it is too grand to lead simply to stationery cupboard, as he had suggested. In addition, when Rosemary touches the door she seems to be able to see what originally lay behind it. The door begins to exert a strange fascination over Seaton and he finds that when he opens it a mysterious blue room lies beyond. In the room he finds the notes of a Sir Michael Sinclair (Jack Watson), an evil occultist who created the door as a means to trap those who entered through it.. ..so that he could capture their souls and live forever. Seaton escapes, but when he tries to leave his house he finds that the door’s influence has widened.. ..he and Rosemary seem trapped. In a trance, Rosemary is unable to stop herself from opening the door and entering the room, where she is immediately incapacitated by Sinclair. Sinclair carries her through the doorway, mocking Seaton by asking him to follow, as two souls are better than one. Seaton attempts to destroy the door with an axe.. ..as he starts to smash the door, the room and Sinclair start to crumble. Seaton the tries desperately to rescue Rosemary, but is attacked by Sinclair. Seaton tells Rosemary to continue smashing the door with the axe.. ..he then manages to break free. They continue to destroy the door and in turn the blue room.. ..Sinclair is simultaneously reduced to a skeleton and then dust when they break the door from its hinges.
We then return to the shop.. ..the proprietor finishes counting the money Seaton gave him and seems surprised to find that it is all present and correct.
Between each of the stories, a criminal (Ben Howard) is seen to be casing the shop. At the end of the film, he enters ‘Temptations’ and persuades the proprietor to hand him two loaded antique pistols. He then tries to rob the proprietor, who refuses to hand him any money and walks relentlessly towards him. The thief then shoots the proprietor, but the bullets have no effect on him. Terrified, the thief staggers back, crashing into a skeleton.. ..this causes him to trip and fall into what appears to be a combination of an iron maiden and a coffin.. ..consequently, he is spiked to death. “Nasty“, the Proprietor says. The proprietor then breaks the fourth wall and welcomes the viewer as his next customer, and explains he caters for all tastes, and that each purchase comes with “a big novelty surprise“.
I love these old Amicus films and this is one of the best; the cinematography, acting and creepy soundtrack are excellent, as are most of the short stories.. ..definitely worth watching – occasionally it even appears on the Free View channels. If not, it is very easy to find the DVD cheap on the bay.