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Dr. Terror's House of Horrors
Die Todeskarten des Dr. Schreck

UK 1965
produced by
Max J. Rosenberg & Milton Subotsky for Amicus
directed by Freddie Francis
starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Neil McCallum, Alan Freedman, Roy Castle, Donald Sutherland, Max Adrian, Michael Gough, Jennifer Jayne, Bernard Lee, Peter Madden, Katy Wild, Ann Bell, Edward Underdown, Ursula Howells, Sarah Nicholls, Jeremy Kemp, Kenny Lynch, Christopher Carlos
written by Milton Subotsky, music by Tubby Hayes

Amicus omnibus movies

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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By chance, 6 men meet in a train compartment, and to kill some time, one of them, Dr. Schreck (Peter Cushing) - which means Terror in German - lays the others their Tarot cards & tells them their future.
  • The first, architect Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum), will receive an invitation by widow Deidre (Ursula Howells) to re-arrange her home, incidently his ancestral home until he had to sell it. But instead of doing his job, he unearths the coffin of a werewolf of his ancestors has killed many centuries before & who has sworn vengeance on his family. But as if this wasn't enough, soon a werewolf seems to be free on the premises, even killing servant girl Valda (Katy Wild). Jim now does everything to keep his hostess/client to suffer the same fate - not knowing that she is actually the centuries-old widow of the werewolf, and a werewolf herself ...
  • Upon coming home from a holiday, Bill (Alan Freeman) will discover a weird climbing plant climbing up his houses walls, & every effort to cut it is mysteriously prevented by the plant. After a while it even kills the family dog, as well as a scientist trying to examine it. A fellow scientist (Bernard Lee) finds out the plant has a conscious defensive system but fears fire, so he goes to town to fetch a flamethrower - a moment too soon, as it turns out, as the plant soon learns how to extinguish fire, & prepares to seal Bill & family (Ann Bell, Sarah Nicholls) up inside their house & kill them ...
  • Jazz-trumpet player Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) will receive an invitiation to the West Indies to play at a club for 2 months. Once ther, he witnesses a voodoo ritual out of hiding & takes its music down. He is caught though & has to promise to never play the music . Neglecting his promise though, he plays it as soon as he's back to London, which immediately results in a tornado (in an indoor nightclub no less) as a first warning, & when Biff refuses to even then give up the music, the voodoo horror gets back on him ...
  • Franklyn March (Christopher Lee) is a renowned art critic who loves the sound of his own voice & takes delight in tearing down artists he doesn't like - especially Eric Landor (Michael Gough). Landor though gets back at him by presenting him with the picture of a new artist, for which March is full of praise in front of a listening public, but which turns out to have been painted by an ape ...

    & as if this wasn't humiliation enough, from now on at every social event Landor turns up with some ape-allusions, which leads to March losing his cool after a while when he even sees Landor. Thus he decides to do the only sensible thing - run Landor over with his car. Landor survives, but loses his right hand, making him useless as an artist, so he shoots himself.

    His hand though, which was never found, comes back to haunt March, until it causes a car crash that blinds March, making him useless as an art critic ...

  • Bob (Donald Sutherland) & his new wife Nicole (Jennifer Jayne) have just moved to his hometown, where he starts working as a doctor ... & soon he & his colleague Dr. Blake (Max Adrian) encounter a boy with massive bloodloss - which could be credited to a vampire, due to the marks on his neck. round the same time, Nicole starts acting a little weird, & soon Blake manages to convince Bob that she is a vampire - & he is right, too, so before long, Bob stakes his wife ... But when the police arrests him for the murder, & he claims Blake gave him the idea in the first place, Blake denies having anything to do with it.

    Why ?, you might ask.

    "This town isn't big enough for two doctors ... or two vampires." (Get it ?)

Having told his stories, Schreck mysteriously disappears ... but when the other five men get off the train at the next stop, they realize they are not in Bradley but in the Beyond ... & a newspaper article tells them they were the 5 casualties in a train crash ...

 

Despite their contributions to the British horror film, Amicus started out as an American production house called Vanguard Productions that took up production in the mid-fifties churning out mainly cheap teen- & pop-music-flicks of minor importance. The first British horror-movie by Amicus-heads Milton Subotsky and Max J.Rosenberg was 1960's The City of the Dead (a.k.a. Horror Hotel) - produced by a company called Vulcan -, but it wasn't until Doctor Terror's House of Horrors that Amicus really found its niche in horror film history - & it also pretty much set the tone for all their omnibus-movies to come - a mysterious stranger tells some (usually 5 macabre) stories to & about his listeners, which eventually leads to some twist ending, usually they find out they are all dead.

Amicus did come to England by the way because British laws would allow big tax cuts on locally produced film-production, & once there they decided to jump the bandwagon of the horror boom created by Hammer, & did so by hiring recognized (& recognizable) Hammer talent (e.g. Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Freddie Francis).

The movie itself, arguably the best of the many Amicus omnibus movies, is neither a milestone in subtlety nor originality, but the stories are quite entertaining, tightly directed & competently acted, making this a rather enjoyable experience.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD