From Beyond the Grave
From Beyond the Grave – 1973 | 97 mins | Horror | Colour
Although a vast improvement on the derisory Vault of Horror, this seventh and penultimate Amicus horror omnibus, using a quartet of stories by Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes, suffers from much the same faults as its immediate predecessors. Debut director Kevin Connor discovered the source anthology of horror stories whilst waiting in an airport, and bought first the book, then the rights to the stories. Connor was planning to adapt them as a television series, but Milton Subotsky invited me to turn them into a film.
From Beyond the Grave is predictably uneven, with episodes two and three a bit more successful than the first and last one. The first and last episodes are closely modelled on the Haunted Mirror story from Dead of Night, so much so that the final segment seems to be a virtual remake of the first. But both of them are creepily effective in conjuring the parallel universes. The second is a miserable chronicle of suburban marriage, until the unhappily married clerk at the centre of the story enters into a weird extra-marital relationship with a spooky, dirge-humming daughter. The third tale of demonic possession boasts an enjoyably outrageous turn from Margaret Leighton.
Situated between a cemetery and a nearby demolition contractor in the East End of London is the small ‘Temptations Antiques’ shop, a most curious old curiosity shop. The old proprietor (Peter Cushing) promises a surprise with every purchase. Of four customers, three cheat the enigmatic proprietor while a fourth plays fair with him; the first three pay with their lives and even the fourth has a highly unpleasant experience.
The first tale, The Gate Crasher, is unusually gruesome by Amicus standards. Following a séance, Edward Charlton (David Warner) is possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper after purchasing an antique mirror. His flat is soon awash with blood as Charlton is degraded to genuinely disquieting depths by the bloodthirsty demands of a ghostly face in the glass, which, when materialised, serenely explains that “We are Legion; we sit in high places and fan discord.”
The second, An Act of Kindness, features retired army officer Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen), who wishes to acquire a measure of self-esteem through a DSO medal to which he isn’t entitled. Dominated by his wife (Diana Dors), a chance encounter with ex-service man and match seller Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence) results the unhappily married Lowe commencing a love affair with Underwood’s daughter Emily (Angela Pleasence). In an effort to shake free of his loveless marriage, Emily uses voodoo to dispose of his wife.
The third story, The Elemental, follows Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael), whose bland, commuter-belt self-satisfaction is invaded by an invisible ‘elemental’ roosting on his shoulder. As the demon takes up residence, Warren’s disgruntled Surrey housewife (Nyree Dawn Porter) becomes tormented by the invisible demon. Warren calls on medium Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton) to perform an exorcism and despite all initially appearing well, there’s a demonic twist.
And the fourth story, The Door, concerns William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy), who purchases an antique door and installs it in his house, only to find that it opens into the ghostly ‘blue room’ home of its original owner – a man who lived for the pursuit of evil and was given to performing human sacrifices. Seaton finds himself cornered by raddled Restoration necromancer Sir Michael Sinclair (Jack Watson), a grimly powerful figure bent on “the entrapment of those yet to be born.”
Watching the customers as they go in and out of the antique shop, a petty criminal sees the old proprietor as an easy mark. But when he attempts to rob and kill the old proprietor, he finds a chest filled with vicious Iron Maiden spikes. As the lid descends upon the robber, the shop bell rings. “Ah, another customer,” says the proprietor benevolently. “Come in…”
Kevin Connor: Director
Alan Hume: Cinematography
Ruth Knight: Costume and Wardrobe Departmen
John Hilling: Costume Design
John Ireland: Film Editing
Neville Smallwood: Makeup Department
Mibs Parker: Makeup Department
David Gamley: Original Music
Milton Subotsky: Produce
Max Rosenberg: Produce
Maurice Carter: Production Design
Raymond Christodoulou: Script
Robin Clarke: Script
Peter Handford: Sound Department
Peter Keen: Sound Department
Nolan Roberts: Sound Department
Peter Cushing: Antique Shop Proprietor
Ian Bannen: Christopher Lowe
Diana Dors: Mabel Lowe
Donald Pleasence: Jim Underwood
Ian Carmichael: Reggie Warren
Margaret Leighton: Madame Orloff
Nyree Dawn Porter: Susan Warren
David Warner: Edward Charlton
Wendy Allnutt: Pamela
Rosalind Ayres: Prostitute
Ian Ogilvy: William Seaton
Lesley-Anne Down: Rosemary Seaton
Jack Watson: Sir Michael Sinclair