The horror-loving folks at Severin Films bring Asylum, And Now the Screaming Starts, and The Beast Must Die to Blu-ray in a beautiful new box-set!
Hammer Film Productions is the studio most frequently mentioned when the topic of UK genre films from the 50s through the 70s is raised, but Amicus Productions delivered more than a few horror gems during the period too. They produced several feature tales of terror, but they’re perhaps best remembered for a series of anthology films — three of which were written by the legendary Robert Bloch (Psycho).
Three of the studio’s classics have now been given new life on Blu-ray from Severin Films, and they’ve been collected in a box set (available from Amazon) which also includes a fourth disc — “The Vault of Amicus” — loaded with trailers and audio interviews.
Keep reading for a review of The Amicus Collection, and then start hoping a second volume will be heading our way soon.
A young doctor (Robert Powell, The Survivor) arrives at the Dunsmoor Asylum for the Incurably Insane to accept a job, but the new head of the institute has one last challenge for him. He has to listen to the stories of four patients and determine which of them is the old chief who recently went bonkers. Each tale unfolds treating viewers to vengeance from beyond the grave, supernatural shenanigans, utter madness, and more.
Four of Bloch’s tales are at the heart of the film with one of them bleeding into the wraparound connecting them into a singular psychotic narrative. They’re an entertaining mix of murder and mayhem, and the tale as a whole leads to a fun denouement that has since been riffed on elsewhere but remains a good time at the nuthouse. One of the thrills here is the cast which includes wily vets and memorable newcomers alike including Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Britt Ekland, Charlotte Rampling, and more.
Severin’s new Blu-ray features a newly remastered picture from original vault elements, a theatrical trailer, and a commentary from director Roy Ward Baker. He’s a genre legend in his own right, and the track is a fun listen.
- Two’s a Company [18:18] – On-set featurette made in 1972 featuring interviews with talent both onscreen and off.
- *NEW* David J. Schow on Robert Bloch [20:55] – A terrific appreciation of Bloch’s career and talents.
- *NEW* Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton Subotsky [9:38] – The famed producer’s wife discusses his life and career.
- Inside the Fear Factory [20:28] – A fun, informative look back with Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis, and Max J. Rosenberg.
Buy Asylum on Blu-ray from Amazon
And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)
It’s the end of the 18th century, and the times of ghouls and goblins has passed, but when young newlyweds arrive at a family castle they discover ghosts are still in fashion. Their wedding night is marred by a spectral visitor with a stump who assaults the young bride and injects himself into their bloodline. Is a curse to blame? The creepy groundskeeper? Or is it just wedding night jitters. They’ll know in nine months.
Director Roy Ward Baker returns, this time with a gothic chiller — a rarity for Amicus — and he fills the screen with more heaving bosoms than you can shake a dismembered hand at. It’s ultimately a pretty straightforward horror story with an act of violence that leads to the curse which in turn results in the horror of it all, but Baker infuses in with lush visuals, bloodletting, and the repeating image of an eyeless ghoul. It’s not for the kiddies, but it’s a good time.
The new Blu-ray has been remastered in 4K and includes two commentaries — one with the director and actor Stephane Beacham and a second with actor Ian Ogilvy — along with a trailer and the following extra features:
- *NEW* The Haunted History of Oakley Court [15:13] – A pair of genre experts visit the famed castle where the film was shot, and they discuss its history as a location for roughly two hundred films.
- Peter Cushing in Conversation with Denis Meikle [12:06] – Archive audio interview
- Denis Meikle Recalls And Now the Screaming Starts [4:25]
Buy And Now the Screaming Starts on Blu-ray from Amazon
The Beast Must Die (1974)
A wealthy oddball invites a group of friends and acquaintances to his remote estate for the weekend, and they’re a bit surprised to discover the reason. He believes one of them is a werewolf.
This terrifically goofy little mystery isn’t shy about its inspirations, and it also embraces its budgetary constraints without batting an eye. Most egregious of the latter is the “werewolf” itself which is just a large dog, but while it might hobble other films here it’s part of its charm. Peter Cushing, Michael Gambon, and Anton Diffring are among the guests while the marvelously over the top Calvin Lockhart takes the lead as the man on the hunt for a murderous beast. It’s a pretty fun setup, and by the time the movie pauses — it actually stops as a narrator asks viewers if they’ve identified the creature yet — you can’t help but love its werewolf nards. (I’ve written more extensively on my love for the film here.)
Severin’s new Blu-ray includes a commentary with director Paul Annett, a trailer, and the following extras:
- *NEW* And Then There Were Werewolves [18:35] – Audio essay with Troy Howarth exploring Agatha Christie’s classic novel, its various adaptations, and its ultimate inspiration towards this film.
- Directing the Beast [12:58] – Director Paul Annett talks about the production including the werewolf’s appearance — he says it’s never been done well outside of CG which I can only assume means he’s never seen The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, Silver Bullet, etc — his dealings with Amicus, the casting, his dislike of the werewolf break, and more.
The Beast Must Die is not currently available solo on Blu-ray.
Pre-order The Amicus Collection box set on Blu-ray from Amazon