Directors: Roy Ward Baker
Severin Films

Three major works of the House of Hammer's chief British horror rival Amicus are showcased in high definition in THE AMICUS COLLECTION on Blu-ray from Severin Films.

In ASYLUM, psychologist Dr. Martin (Robert Powell, MAHLER) is given a bizarre challenge by predecessor Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee, DEMENTIA 13) in his job interview as new administrator at an asylum housed in a gothic mansion in the stormy British countryside: he must identify which one of the inmates is his insane predecessor Dr. B. Starr by listening to their stories. In "Frozen Fear," Bonnie (Barbara Parkins, VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) describes how her lover Walter (Richard Todd) killed and dismembered his wife, storing the body parts in the basement freezer only for the bits and pieces to come back and terrorize them. In "The Weird Tailor" – previously adapted for the Boris Karloff-hosted television series THRILLER – Bruno (Barry Morse, TV's THE FUGITIVE) is a tailor of a failing business who is hired by Mr. Smith (Peter Cushing, THE BEAST MUST DIE) to make a suit out of material capable of reanimating the dead. In "Lucy Comes to Stay," Barbara (Charlotte Rampling, THE NIGHT PORTER) is just out of an institution and staying in the home of her brother George (James Villiers, REPULSION) with a nurse (Megs Jenkins, THE INNOCENTS) when seemingly imaginary friend Lucy (Britt Ekland, THE WICKER MAN) pops up for a little deadly fun. Finally, in "Mannikins of Horror" – adapted again later for the Richard P. Rubenstein/Laurel show MONSTERS – Byron (Herbert Lom, THE PINK PANTHER) creates little dolls that are capable of movement and murder.

The fifth of Amicus' anthology horror film including DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, and the later VAULT OF HORROR and THE UNCANNY, ASYLUM returned to the well of Robert Bloch, who had parlayed his authorship of the vastly different source novel for Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO into a screenwriter career largely drawing form his own short stories and whose work would also be adapted for Amicus' TORTURE GARDEN and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. Apart from "The Weird Tailor" which benefits from a dependably good performance from Cushing in an underwritten role and "Mannikins of Horror" for Lom's performance more so than the titular creatures, none of the stories are particularly good on their own but the film remains entertaining as a whole. The living dead limbs of "Frozen Fear" are no more convincing than the severed hand prop of DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS (which would be repurposed for AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS) but the episode is nicely claustrophobic if only for a few minutes. "Lucy Comes to Stay" is entirely predictable, yet there is immense pleasure in seeing Rampling, Villiers, Ekland, and Jenkins go through the motions. The direction of Roy Ward Baker is stalwart as usual while the photography of Amicus regular Denys Coop (INSERTS) effectively uses cool florescent lighting "Frozen Terror" and some expressionistic angles in "The Weird Tailor"). Amicus regular Douglas Gamley – whose association with Amicus extends back to CITY OF THE DEAD/HORROR HOTEL as conductor – borrows from Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" for the main titles.

Originally titled I HAVE NO MOUTH BUT I MUST SCREAM before Harlan Ellison refused to give permission for the title's use, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS is set in 1795 when Charles Fengriffen (Ian Ogilvy, WITCHFINDER GENERAL) returns to his ancestral home (Hammer's Oakley Court, of course) with new bride Catherine (Stephanie Beacham, DRACULA A.D. 1972). Immediately beset by ghostly apparitions of an eyeless corpse with a missing hand, Catherine starts to think she is going crazy until the disembodied hand proves very corporeal and attacks her more than once. The ghost bears a resemblance to one-handed woodsman Silas (Geoffrey Whitehead, WAR AND REMEMBRANCE) whose great grandfather had been wronged by Charles' ancestor Sir Henry (Herbert Lom). Things get worse when Catherine becomes pregnant. When the local doctors cannot give him any answers, Charles consults psychologist Dr. Pope (Peter Cushing) who believes there is rational explanation... or is there?

Based on the novella FENGRIFFEN by David Case, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS is a lush-looking Amicus production thanks to the photography of Coop, art direction of Tony Curtis (VENOM), and the scoring of Gamley, but it dumbs down its literary source considerably. Case's novel is about the new science of psychology coming up against an ancient family curse and the psychological explanation seems entirely reasonable until the ending stinger. Baker once again provides classy direction, and bosomy Beacham and Ogilvy – taking billing beneath supporting players Cushing, Lom, and Patrick Magee – are quite engaging, but the hauntings and the appearances of the severed hand overshadow the performances and the potential for more complex characterization befitting the film's production values. That the film remains quite watchable is perhaps more of a testament to our nostalgia for British horror than its own merits.

THE BEAST MUST DIE – taking its title from the Nicholas Blake novel earlier adapted by Claude Chabrol and titled in English THIS MAN MUST DIE – rather than James Blish's source novella "There Shall Be No Darkness" finds self-made millionaire Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart, WILD AT HEART) taking on the "most dangerous game" which is not man but werewolf. He has invited five guests with strange pasts to his isolated country house for the weekend including lycanthropy expert Dr. Lundgren (Peter Cushing, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS), pianist Jan (Michael Gambon, THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE, AND HER LOVER), disgraced medical student Paul (Tom Chadbon), former diplomat-turned-TV-host Bennington (Charles Gray, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW), and Davina (Ciaran Madden, who later co-starred with Gambon in the UK TV series version of the Maigret detective stories), a friend of Newcliffe's wife Caroline (Marlene Clark, GANJA AND HESS). With the help of security expert Pavel (Anton Diffring, SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE), Newcliffe has rigged his estate with microphones, cameras, motion detectors, and armed guards for his werewolf hunt. Can you deduce the identity of the werewolf or will the werewolf whittle down the cast before "The Werewolf Break."

While Blish's novella identified the werewolf in the first paragraph, Amicus has turned their adaptation into a TEN LITTLE INDIANS-style whodunit and – like the 1965 adaptation of the aforementioned Agatha Christie novel – THE BEAST MUST DIE stops for sixty seconds to offer the audience the opportunity to guess the identity of the werewolf before it is revealed. The problem with this approach is that characterization is once again so functionary that the revelation of the original werewolf matters little. Although not really exciting or suspenseful, THE BEAST MUST DIE features a fine cast – including a game Gray, the always professional Cushing, and the underrated Clark – a funky score by Gamley, a laughable werewolf, and feels strangely non-British despite the Shepperton Studios interiors (the studio having been built up around a real country house whose interiors will be immediately familiar to viewers).

All three films were released theatrically stateside by Cinerama Releasing – with ASYLUM reissued as HOUSE OF CRAZIES by Dynamite Entertainment (who also issued THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES as THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA and THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA as COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE in the U.S.) –and first issued on VHS by Media Home Entertainment sub-label Nostalgia Merchant followed by Prism Entertainment VHS. In the case of the AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS, the Prism source turned out to be a cut TV print that trimmed much of the hysterical climax. The footage was restored when the trio arrived on DVD from Image Entertainment as part of the Euroshock Collection but the transfers left a lot to be desired. ASYLUM was a fullscreen transfer with a video-burned title (either to replace the copyright notice or the HOUSE OF CRAZIES reissue card), THE BEAST MUST DIE was non-anamorphic 1.66:1, and the non-anamorphic letterboxed 1.85:1 edition of AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS was the only one to feature anything in the way of extras with an audio commentary by Ogilvy; however, the latter disc quickly went out of print. The extras-laden Anchor Bay UK Amicus coffin box set – which also included DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD – featured anamorphic transfers of ASYLUM and AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS but THE BEAST MUST DIE was fullscreen. Dark Sky came to the rescue with HD-mastered anamorphic 1.78:1 transfers of all three films that also carried over the Anchor Bay extras.

Severin Films' new 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray transfers are a mixed bunch. After softish, grainy, and speckly opening credits opticals, ASYLUM and AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS – the latter the only one that boasts of being a 4K remaster – improve considerably in terms of color and detail. The fine detail of ASYLUM's line drawings is free of distortion and the transfer calls attention to the "lovely light" of which camera operator Binney describes in a film that used to look rather flatly shot in earlier video transfers. AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS looks the best of the three, but that is as much due to the care that went into the original cinematography (and the sets and costumes it captured) as the element which seems to have been minimally cleaned up with some rare damage not digitally painted out. THE BEAST MUST DIE is soft and grainy in the titles and stays like that throughout, although it was obviously a considerably cheaper film and the photography rather slapdash with terrible day-for-night and night photography. All three films feature English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtracks of varying quality – although no worse than they were on DVD and VHS before – along with Spanish dubs (Dolby Digital 2.0 on ASYLUM and SCREAMING, and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 on THE BEAST MUST DIE for some reason). Optional English SDH subtitles are included, but only THE BEAST MUST DIE has them selectable from the menu.

ASYLUM's extras start off with an audio commentary by director Baker and camera operator Neil Binney which starts off on a technical bent as they discuss the use of smoke machines to add fog to punch up exteriors and lighting the dark wood of Shepperton Studio interiors, and Baker's desire to hire Hammer DP Arthur Grant (PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIE) who had fallen ill and had to withdraw three weeks before production. Moderator Marcus Hearn comments on the individual stories – including comedian Spike Milligan as Subotsky's choice for Reynolds, Bloch's dissatisfaction with the major changes Subotsky made to "The Weird Tailor" and Rosenberg changing the story order – and the performers but Baker and Binney remain concerned with the technical challenges from the electric motors and fishing line used to animate the limbs of "Frozen Fear", lighting the magic suit, and animating the "mannikins".

Not part of any of the earlier DVD releases is "Two's A Company" (18:18), the 1972 on-set report from BBC featuring interviews with producer Milton Subotsky (THE MONSTER CLUB), director Baker, actors Rampling, Villiers, Jenkins, art director Curtis, and production manager Teresa Bolland (THE SERVANT). Contrasting the economical efficiency of the company with the major studios and the slump in British filmmaking during the 1970s – an event which allowed for low budget and independent genre filmmakers to avail themselves of some of Britain's top technical talent – the featurette focuses much on Subotsky as he discusses the balance of art and commerce, the importance of good scripts, and sources of private individual and merchant banks for financing. The behind the scenes footage was shot during the production of "Lucy Comes to Stay" – both on location and on the studio with well-done painted exterior backdrop and a mockup of the house exterior – with Rampling, Villiers, Jenkins, and Baker discussing working on a relatively short schedule with longer hours while Curtis and Bolland discuss how Amicus' productivity has ensured regular employment while also allowing the opportunity to work on other productions (with Curtis only complaining about the lack of time to develop the projects adequately).

Ported over from the earlier releases is "Inside the Fear Factory" featurette (20:28) with directors Baker, Freddie Francis (THE GHOUL), and producer Max J. Rosenberg (BLOODY BIRTHDAY). Rosenberg discusses the beginnings of the company and his partnership with Subotsky – including the initial screenplay for CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN for which they were uncredited and never saw a profit other than the initial five thousand dollars for the screenplay – and DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS which also afforded cinematographer Francis his first opportunity to direct for the company. Francis confides his doubts about his ability as a director and his problems with Subotsky, particularly with the "impossible" script for THE DEADLY BEES. Rosenberg recalls THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD as the most successful of the Amicus pictures at the time, which lead to them continuing the anthology cycle with TALES FROM THE CRYPT. Baker recalls being poached from Hammer by Subotsky for ASYLUM which Rosenberg describes as being more likened to DEAD OF NIGHT than the other anthology films. AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS' source is described as a "dull, tedious novel that made a dull and tedious picture" by Rosenberg while Baker speaks more positively of it (apart from Subotsky's title change). While Baker emphasizes Subotsky's creative influence, Rosenberg asserts his involvement in running the company as managing director before his departure from the company circa THE BEAST MUST DIE.

Two new featurettes include "David J. Schow Remembers Robert Bloch" (20:55) and "Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton Subotsky" (9:38). In the former, Schow discusses Bloch's beginnings with his first book deals and his Weird Tales stories leading up to writing PSYCHO. He describes the differences between the novel and film, and also refutes the notion that Ed Gein was the primarily influence, instead suggesting Bloch had already been leaning in this direction with "Lucy Comes to Stay". While Bloch was not asked to write the script for Hitchcock's film, he got into Hollywood through television and into film through THE PSYCHOPATH and THE DEADLY BEES – following Amicus' adaptation of his novella THE SKULL OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE – before his portmanteau films for the company TORTURE GARDEN, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD and ASYLUM; the latter of which he discusses the differences between the story adaptations and their sources, not to mention the alternate THRILLER and MONSTERS adaptations of two stories, as well as the novelization which is more reflective of the original screenplay than the film itself. He also discusses Bloch's later short stories and novels (including collaborations like THE JEKYLL LEGACY with Andre Norton). In the Subotsky featurette, the producer's widow discusses his family life, cultural interests, his pursuit of screenplays and literary sources for projects, and his desire to be remembered for his non-horror projects including the musicals and artier productions like William Friedkin's THE BIRTHDAY PARTY. She also recalls some of her set visits, her friendships with the behind the scenes crew more so than the stars, and the anthology format, and her assessments of some of the films, including the "not very good" THE TERRORNAUTS for which she wrote the treatment. Two theatrical trailers (1:21 and 1:36) are included for the film, although unfortunately neither is the HOUSE OF CRAZIES reissue. Of the three films, ASYLUM is the only one to which Severin has given a reversible cover, which is fortunate since the reverse features the more familiar American poster artwork.

AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS ports over the pair of commentaries from the Dark Sky edition. On the first track, Baker and Beacham unite for the first time since the film's post-production and start off by expressing their displeasure for Rosenberg's title change from the more evocative BRIDE OF FENGRIFFEN. They discuss their earlier collaboration on THE SAINT, including Baker's discovery of her and the helpful acting advice of co-star Roger Moore, as well as Baker's later Sherlock Holmes television series with actor Whitehead which were made for Polish television and not shown in the UK. They speak well of their co-stars and make some distinctions between their approach to direction and characterization here in contrast with contemporary Hammer productions. They also recall the mechanical hand and how some shots had to be changed on the spot because of its malfunctioning (including Ogilvy having to carry Beacham up the stairs in seventeen takes in which the hand was supposed to follow them). On the Ogilvy track, moderator Darren Gross helpfully provides some discussion of the source novella while both marvel at how good the film looks for its budget (although Ogilvy also notes the annoyance of the mechanical hand delaying production constantly). Ogilvy discusses the demeanor of Baker as a director – noting his own friendship with late director Michael Reeves – as well as working with Beacham and the recently-widowed Cushing (who found and gave comfort in lengthy conversations with other bereaved people he met on the production) to whom he recalls writing a fan letter after seeing him in Hammer's CASH ON DEMAND.

In "The Haunting of Oakley Court" (15:13), authors Allan Bryce and David Flint visit the classic horror film location, discussing its heavy usage on British television and in genre film – along with THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, VAMPYRES and GIRLY – and its early history before it was leased to Hammer in the 1950s. Walking the property, they draw from their own interviews with Hammer and Amicus personnel about the state of the property at the time of shooting (it is now an expensive hotel and wedding venue). A look at the interior finds the location proud of its horror filmmaking past with framed posters and publicity photographs from various productions. An archival audio interview with actor Cushing by Denis Meikle (12:06) finds him comparing working with Amicus and Hammer – including some of the crossover directors like Baker and Freddie Francis – along with other topics like Lee tiring of playing Dracula in a series of films that increasingly marginalized his presence (including Lee's refusal to do BRIDES OF DRACULA which was meant to be a direct sequel), and at least finding his own Van Helsing and Frankenstein roles more fulfilling. Meikle also appears in a short retrospective piece on AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS (4:25) in which he frames it in the slump of the British film industry including that of Hammer, with the Amicus production an opportunity to move in on the rival studio's territory (the gothic actually being quite unfamiliar to Amicus' horror production apart from THE SKULL) as well as the production's drawbacks including the overfamiliarity of its plotting and visual elements (including the cast and the Oakley Court location). Also included is the film's theatrical trailer (0:58) – for the first time without the litany of scratches and splices as seen on earlier DVD releases – and a radio spot (0:54).

THE BEAST MUST DIE carries over the audio commentary by director Paul Annett (who died this December), moderated by Jonathan Sothcott, who discusses the film as his feature debut after some television and documentary work. He had been offered DRACULA A.D. 1972 but Carreras was not impressed with his clip reel, and he is uncertain as to whether Subotsky actually thought him suited to THE BEAST MUST DIE but he admits to rewriting the film extensively without the producer's interference. He did not have access to the original source story during the rewrite but read it later and would like to have included some elements from it in his version. Sothcott reveals that Subotsky originally optioned the property for a TV movie but then may have decided to try to use it to cash in on the Blaxploitation genre. He recalls desiring to cast singer Shirley Bassey in the role that would be played by Clark, although he also reveals that he was unaware the lead would be a black actor and was under the impression the role would be played by Robert Quarry (COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE). He speaks highly of the cast – including having to fight the producers for the then-unknown Gambon – as well as the contributions of his crew, including cinematographer Jack Hildyard (MODESTY BLAISE) and art director John Stoll (THE COLLECTOR), as well as Cushing's explicit descriptions of how he wanted to be made up and dressed for the part.

"And Then There Were Werewolves" (18:35) is an audio essay by horror historian Troy Howarth in which he discusses the film in the context of Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE which influenced the decision to script THE BEAST MUST DIE as a body count whodunit – spending enough time on the many film adaptations from the Rene Clair version to the recent BBC miniseries that one wonders if the featurette was actually meant to accompany a Blu-ray release of one of the Christie films like Scorpion Releasing's TEN LITTLE INDIANS (1975) – before getting to the Amicus film but largely focusing on the dearth of werewolf films produced in Britain, from the werewolf segment of Amicus' DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS and the unsuccessful Tyburn production LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF to Hammer's psychological approach with DEMONS OF THE MIND and their later "Children of the Full Moon" for the HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR series for ITV. Ported over from the DVD release is "Directing the Beast" (12:58) in which director Annett covers much of the same material as the commentary about meeting Subotsky and eventually landing his first feature, and working with Cushing. The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (1:00).

THE BEAST MUST DIE is exclusive to the boxed set along with the fourth Blu-ray THE VAULT OF AMICUS which starts off with a trailer reel (64:16) consisting of HORROR HOTEL, RING-A-DING RHYTHM!, DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS, DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS, THE SKULL, DALEKS INVASION EARTH: 2150 A.D., THE PSYCHOPATH, THE DEADLY BEES, TORTURE GARDEN, DANGER ROUTE, THE TERRORNAUTS, THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE, THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, A TOUCH OF LOVE, THE MIND OF DR. SOAMES, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, (mislabeled as THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD which is not included here at all), I, MONSTER, WHAT BECAME OF JACK AND JILL, ASYLUM, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE VAULT OF HORROR, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE, MADHOUSE, THE BEAST MUST DIE, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, AT THE EARTH'S CORE, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, THE UNCANNY and THE MONSTER CLUB. Horror writers Kim Newman and David Flint provide optional commentary on the trailer, covering such topics as Subotsky's preference for the early musicals, the early horrors as the company was finding its style, and the possibility that Amicus tackled the DOCTOR WHO feature films following Hammer's success with the QUATERMASS properties.

The "Philip Nutman Interview with producer Milton Subotsky" (181:16) provides three hours of audio "highlights" from tape-recorded interviews for a Subotsky book that went unpublished (Nutman died in 2013) that discusses the earlier incarnation of the company Vanguard that launched on a cash-in of ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK titled ROCK, ROCK, ROCK! shot in nine days and very successful, his desire to do Frankenstein in color which lead to his script being sold to Hammer through Warner Brothers/Seven Arts and his appalled reaction to the final product, and to making CITY OF THE DEAD abroad (reworking his story from George Baxt's too-short script). As he discusses subsequent Amicus productions – from creative and behind the scenes conflicts – he also touches upon other ventures including editing the UK version of Mario Bava's THE WHIP AND THE BODY, his working relationship with Robert Bloch, as well as the poor American distribution of some titles. The recordings reveal his invaluable creative contribution to the shaping of almost all of the projects throughout the life of the company – particularly interesting his work on DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS, including bringing in composer Elizabeth Lutyens who would effectively score some other Amicus titles like THE SKULL which he desired to make as a film without dialogue – through to his later post-Amicus works like DOMINIQUE IS DEAD and THE MONSTER CLUB. Particularly juicy even as it proves infuriating for Subotsky are his descriptions of Rosenberg's interference swooping into production at the last moment and creating editing headaches that had to be rectified by Subotsky (particularly the conclusion of THE PSYCHOPATH). He actually shares the opinion of Newman and Flint voiced on their commentary that Cushing did not do his best work on 1the DOCTOR WHO films. The track should prove invaluable for anyone who actually is able to mount that scholarly Amicus tome.

The "other side" is offered by "Audio Notes of Max J. Rosenberg" (47:26) which were recorded by Rosenberg for Jonathan Sothcott based on his reactions to the first draft of his Amicus book, discussing the business practicalities of buying a British company and seeking funding for groups of pictures rather than individual works. More interesting than his own anecdotes about the various productions are his impressions of his partner Subotsky which go some way towards perhaps explaining why Rosenberg made some of his moves that sometimes contradicted Subotsky's work or steamrolled over him. Interested parties can find more of Rosenberg's discussion of his post-Amicus film career on video interviews of VCI's DVDs of BLOODY BIRTHDAY (not included on the Severin Blu-ray) and HOMEWORK. An Easter Egg includes the reissue trailer for FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE titled THE CREATURES as well as TV spots for TORTURE GARDEN, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, VAULT OF HORROR, THE SKULL, ASYLUM and TALES FROM THE CRYPT. (Eric Cotenas)