Sunday, 31 March 2013

Amicus: House of Horrors | Celebrating the history of the legendary UK film company

Did you know that Vincent Price went to a football match with the crew of Scream and Scream Again; that he was given saucy sex toys as a joke during the Madhouse wrap party, and that while filming The Monster Club he entertained the producer’s children wearing vampire fangs?

Well, these and many other anecdotes form the basis of AMICUS: HOUSE OF HORRORS, a two-part celebration of the British film company that was Hammer’s rival in the late 1960s and 1970s. The name, Amicus, may not be memorable, but the film titles most certainly are - especially the portmanteau films that the company excelled at, like Tales from the Crypt, Asylum and From Beyond the Grave.

Founded in the early 1960s by maverick American producers Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg, Amicus made around 30 films in 20 years, turning out eight a year at their peak, and drew together a wealth of British talent, including directors Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker, writers Robert Bloch (of Psycho fame) and actors such as Peter Cushing, Diana Dors and Donald Pleasance, to create some of the most memorable homegrown horrors.

This documentary features interviews with a vast array of people who worked behind the scenes – from directors Peter Duffell (House that Dripped Blood) and Kevin Connor (The Land That Time Forgot), art director Tony Curtis (who shows off his personal collection of sketch designs) and producer John Dark, to the make-up assistants and supporting actors who all share some amazing stories.

While Vincent Price appeared in just three Amicus films, Peter Cushing starred in 15, and gave some of his most memorable performances, especially in Doctor Who and the Daleks and Tales from the Crypt. Included as an extra on this release is a never-before-seen 1983 interview with Cushing, conducted by a young 20-year-old fan at the star’s home in Kent, and a wonderful 1990 interview (filmed just four years before his death) in which Cushing talks about his love for his late wife Helen (who died in 1971), and shares memories of his childhood, his beliefs and his love of art. This being the year of Cushing’s centenary makes these bonus items especially poignant.

Amicus: House of Horror has been a labor of love for life-long fan Derek Pykett, who so deserves his Best Documentary nomination for a 2013 Rondo Award. It may not be slickly edited and the quality variable, but the anecdotes contained here are priceless. The DVD is currently only available (region free) in the US, but I highly recommend seeking it out. Click here to order from Amazon in the UK, or here if you are in the US.

If you'd like to nominate Amicus: House of Horror for a Rondo Award, click here to find out how.

To coincide with Cushing's centenary, Peveril Publishing will be bringing out The Peter Cushing Scrapbook this Spring. Click here to view some sample pages. 

Below, you can watch the trailer for Scream and Scream Again, and some vintage UK TV reports on Madhouse and The Monster Club:

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