From Beyond the Grave (1973)

Perhaps best known for the excellent anthologies Tales From the Crypt (1972) and The Vault of Horror (1973), Milt Subotsky and Max Rosenberg's Amicus Productions was most often compared to the more prestigious Hammer Films. But while Hammer is best known for their gothic-drenched retellings of Universal's classic monster films, Amicus specialized in "modern day" (read: lower budget) anthology tales.  The aforementioned two are probably the best of the bunch (the former of which inspired the '90s television show of the same name), but a very interesting curio that was released the same year as The Vault of Horror is definitely worth a watch to get things started in this season of the witch.

From Beyond the Grave centres around the mysterious and slightly malevolent back-alley antique and oddments shop Post and Beam Temptations Ltd (Offers You Cannot Resist) and its vaguely sinister proprietor (played with a wonderful mix of affected ignorance and wily menace by the superb Peter Cushing).  Each of the four tales in the film are kickstarted by that story's main character entering the shop and, by some less-than-honest means, acquiring an obscure object of desire.  From there, each of the four tales follows roughly the same story arc - the dishonest antique hunter slowly begins to notice that something is amiss and after a series of increasingly traumatic events, they all get their grisly comeuppance (save for the couple in "The Door" - though they do go through their fair share of horror - for reasons that are explained at the end of the story).

As with most anthology films, not all the stories in From Beyond the Grave are created equal; in fact, the two bookending chapters, "The Gatecrasher" and "The Door", are essentially the same story of a centuries old spirit trying to break on through from the other side, just wrapped up in different details.  The most touching yarn (as well as the most chilling) is "An Act of Kindness" in which a frustrated man (Ian Bannen) trapped in an unfulfilling marriage happens upon a street vendor (Donald Pleasance) and the two strike up a friendship based on their military history (though Bannen is lying about his).  After increased meetings at Pleasance's home and a growing familiarity with his creepy semi-lobotomized daughter (an effectively eerie turn by Donald's real-life daughter, Angela), things take a dark turn and, needless to say, it doesn't end well for ol' Bannen (or his wife).

The other three tales are wonderfully frightful, and a special mention must go to Margaret Leighton's grandiose medium Madame Orloff in "The Elemental".  The best performance - and one of the main reasons for watching - belongs to Cushing, whose sly, knowing proprietor is at once bumbling and malefic.

Low production values are well-hidden, and like I mentioned, staging the tales in the present day allows for much budget-shortfall overcoming.  Overall, a worthy anthology, and if you are a fan of the format, you'll certainly find lots to tempt you in here.  Come in, come in...

Oh yeah, we don't have this at either store, so if you want to see it, you'll have to ask me.  Or buy it on AMAZON.CA!