Director: Kevin Connor
Warner Home Video

After a decade of producing a number of entertaining omnibus horror features, England’s Amicus films (headed by Americans Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg) made their final entry of this sort in 1973, with FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. Rather than have a reliable veteran such as Freddie Francis or Roy Ward Baker in the director’s chair, Amicus brought on newcomer Kevin Connor to helm the project, and he does a fine job of mixing traditional British horror and refined humor, aided by the usual fine cast often associated with these multi-story exercises in terror.

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE has horror icon Peter Cushing (as much associated with Amicus as he was with Hammer Films) as the proprietor of London antiques shop called “Temptations Ltd.” Patrons enter his store, purchase something from the shop, and their story unfolds, with mostly doom-ridden results. In “The Gate Crasher,” Edward Charlton (David Warner) buys a centuries-old mirror which awakens an evil demon inside it after a séance is held. The Mirror Demon (Marcel Steiner) takes control of Edward, having him bring home beautiful women to feed his thirst for blood – a process which will retain his youth and release him from his otherworld confines. In “"An Act of Kindness", middle-class office worker Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen), who swiped a prestigious military medal from the shop, finds friendship in street peddler Jim Underwood (Donald Pleasence), who happens to be a war veteran. Lowe’s loveless marriage to his domineering wife (Diana Dors) is enough to draw him to Underwood’s unusual daughter (Angela Pleasence), who, along with her dad, shares a dark secret.

Possibly the most memorable segment, “The Elemental” has Reggie Warren (Ian Carmichael) switching the price tag on a snuff box he buys from the shop. Later, an eccentric lady on a train, Madame Orloff (a wonderfully hammy performance by the late Margaret Leighton) warns him that on his shoulder is an “elemental,” a sort of invisible but harmful parasite. He doesn’t believe her until he gets home and it makes a habit of abusing his pretty wife (Nyree Dawn Porter). Warren calls on Madam Orloff to rid him of his peculiar nuisance. The last story, "The Door" has William Seaton (Ian Ogilvy) buying an ancient hand-carved door from the shop, using it to enclose a stationary closet. Periodically, the door opens to reveal a secret room harboring a 17th century sorcerer (Jack Watson, TOWER OF EVIL) who preys on Seaton’s wife (Lesley-Ann Down) in search of a human soul.

With four parts weaved into a 98-minute outing, the tales here are based on the writing of R. Chetwynd-Hayes, who would later be the literary source for the Subotsky-produced THE MONSTER CLUB. The stories are implemented well and not at all gimmicky, with only “The Elemental” allowing itself to be humorous with winning results. As with most Amicus films, style, good writing and fine acting are more important than graphic violence or gratuity, and the production values are indeed handsome. Cinematographer Alan Hume (who had lensed Amicus’ first anthology, DR. TERRROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS as well as Hammer’s KISS OF THE VAMPIRE) exceeds with some superbly polished camera work, and composer Douglas Gamley (“The Sound of Amicus” if you will) provides another appropriate, if familiar-sounding score.

Kevin Connor’s directorial debut is an impressive one, making it appear as if he’s been doing it for years, and he would go on to helm the final Amicus releases (THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, AT THE EARTH’S CORE and THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, which was handed over to AIP once Subotsky and Rosenberg parted ways) and later did American splatter fests such as MOTEL HELL and THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS. Connor is still a very busy TV movie director to this day. As the death-like presence who holds things together (very similar to what he did in DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS), Cushing is given one of the better roles of the latter part of his career, and he seems to be having a lot of fun with it, even improvising with props and such. Although Warner released the film in England in 1974, it wasn’t shown in the U.S. until early 1976, when the studio sold the theatrical distribution rights to Howard Mahler Films.

Available individually or as part of their “Twisted Terror Collection,” Warner has done a fine job premiering FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE on DVD. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, colors look bold and detail is excellent, with very little in the way of blemishes, only some minor grain here and there. A strong mono audio track is included, as well as additional Spanish and French language tracks (optional English, Spanish and French subtitles as well). You might want to take a listen to the Spanish track, as it contains a completely different music score! The only extra is the rarely seen theatrical trailer, which seems to have been utilized for the British theatrical release. (George R. Reis)