From Beyond the Grave (1973)
FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
WRITERS: Screenplay by Robin Clarke and Raymond Christodoulou
Based on stories by R. Chetwynd-Hayes
DIRECTOR: Kevin Connor
STARRING: Ian Bannen as Christopher Lowe
Ian Carmichael as Reggie Warren
Peter Cushing as The Proprietor
Diana Dors as Mabel Lowe
Margaret Leighton as Madame Orloff
Donald Pleasence as Jim Underwood
Nyree Dawn Porter as Susan Warren
David Warner as Edward Charlton
Ian Ogilvy as William Seaton
Lesley Anne Down as Rosemary Seaton
Jack Watson as Sir Michael Sinclair
Angela Pleasence as Emily Underwood
Wendy Allnut as Pamela
Tommy Godfrey as Mr. Jeffries
Ben Howard as Burglar
John O'Farrell as Stephen Lowe
Marcel Steiner as The Face
QUICK CUT: At a quiet antiques and knicknacks shop, the old proprietor just tries to sell his wares, while people keep screwing him over. So his magic items get revenge in the most disproportionate ways possible!
Too many characters in too many stories, so I am just going to let the review speak for itself this time out, folks!
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! After a weird summer, we're wrapping things up with our semi-regular look at an anthology film. This became a thing after the Burning Moon, and someone pointed out they were fun. It's like three times the pain! And I won't lie, I like doing them, since the stories can vary so wildly, and I get a little of everything.
So, here we are with this year's antology, a British flick called From Beyond the Grave, starring a bunch of familiar British faces. The overarching idea here is that there's a store filled with mystical items, and people come along and annoy the owner, and get in trouble because of it. Is the store called Needful Things? Because that would be a bad sign. That, or run by Merlin.
Temptations Limited? Pff, that's nowhere near as clever. But oh well, I can run with it. Onto the first story!
David Warner wanders into the store, and an antique mirror catches his eye. Is that the Lasser Glass? Is Karen Gillan gonna show up? Because that's like an instant five stars right there. But really, when the owner of the store is Peter Cushing, would YOU trust anything you bought here?
They haggle over the price, and Warner gets him to knock off quite a lot of money, so David takes the clearly evil mirror home with him.
And gasp! David LIED about the mirror not being as antique as it really was, just to get a good price on it. THE HORROR.
He gathers some friends around to show off his acquisition and their immediately thought is, hey! Let's hold a seance around the evil mirror! What could possibly go wrong??
I'll say this for the cinematography, the scene of the seance, with the camera going around the table at all the guests, spinning around the center candle is really well done.
As they ask it questions, the candle starts shooting larger, bluer flames, and the music cues chime in too. Oh nooo, they're summoning Mr. B Natural!
David Warner suddenly finds himself in a wooded area with the figure inside the mirror, who stabs his astral form with a knife. Well, is that any way to greet a friend?
His scream ends the seance, and everyone else thinks nothing happened. Because seances are bull puckey, but I digress.
That night, Warner is visited by the ghost of mirrors past, and the spirit demands to be fed. With what, Windex??
But no, the mirror wants blood, because of course it wants blood.
So he heads out into the foggy streets of London, and finds a prostitute to bring home to his mirror murder buddy. As one does.
While they get comfy, he gives her a drink, and the spirit of the mirror...WATCHES! THE HORROR!
The cookie mirror monster demands NOW and so Warner kills his first victim. He then wakes up and are we supposed to wonder if it was all a dream? Because immediately showing his blood stained jammies and couch kinda blow that idea.
We then cut to some time later, and he's still got a bloody shirt on, but it's a different shirt. And while the mirror is calling out for more blood, and he's crying out how many more?? it makes me wonder just how many murders we missed? And that makes me angry.
After at least one more murder that we do see, Sark does the smart thing and smashes the mirror, until it's not smashed no more. THE HORROR.
Which is when one of his friends from the seance rings him up and wants to come by and feed the mirror herself.
So she comes by and is immediately sent away, because he doesn't want to kill someone he knows. Pfff, amateur.
Meanwhile in the downstairs apartment, blood is dripping down on his neighbour's head, so the guy comes up to complain about the plumbing.
Baydool looks around his wrecked, bloody apartment, and digs up the floorboards, finding out where he's been disposing of the corpses after the mirror has its fill. Well, that's just wasteful. If those bodies are leaking down into the apartment below, there's plenty of blood for the mirror!
After the neighbour burst in and gets killed, Pepper's Ghost has a chat with Warner, and is now free from the mirror to kill with its own damned hands.
Starting with Edward. He gets stabbed and sent to the other side of the mirror, trapped in the Phantom Zone.
So, let's recap. The guy lied a little to get a cheap deal on an antique mirror, so he is cursed to become a murderer. And then get trapped within the mirror. AND release a malevolent spirit that says because its dead, it can cause a lot of trouble. Yep, that punishment sure fits the crime!!
After the apartment gets cleaned up, sold to new owners, and many years pass, someone eventually looks at the mirror and says, Hey! Let's hold a seance!
So we head back to Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders where Leland Gaunt is getting ready to screw over another poor sap.
Our schmuck this time out is a guy fascinated with the war and his glory days, and wants to get a medal in the shop, except he never won it fairly. Naturally, instead he steals it just to have it. But we'll get to that, first we have to watch this burke wandering around doing stuff.
There's also an ex-serviceman trying to get by, through selling matches and laces to passerby on the street, which the army fanboy does. And the guy should be familiar to Triskelions, or anyone really.
What? Did you think I was going to go the obvious route and make a Halloween joke? You fools!
After dealing with his shrew of a wife and terrible home life, our not so hero heads back to the shop and does the actual stealing of the medal.
Once he's done with his petty theft, he stops back at the beggar to show off his totally legit medal, and Dr. Loomis asks the guy around for some tea. The highest honour one Brit can bestow upon another.
They head over to Donald Pleasence's pleasant place on Pleasant Street, and Christopher meets Donald's very pleasant looking daughter. Certainly more so than his current horrible wife.
Well, this is all going well! He steals a medal, he makes a new friend, and meets pretty young Emily! Gosh, this is just the best outcome ever!
So Chris sits down with the Underwoods to enjoy tea and cake...THE HORROR!!
While Chris flirts with Emily and repeatedly visits the Underwoods, Emily is visiting his house and tormenting his wife's dreams, while also stealing locks of her hair. Finally, this might go somewhere. Chris should probably be worried when his mistress starts chanting about "Soon he'll be free" as he has some shepherd's pie.
After it is heavily implied that Chris and Emily sleep together, she grabs a large black candle, and is clearly not just lighting the apartment. She uncovers a small voodoo doll of Chris's wife, and she stabs the doll.
It's a nice touch that through all this, Emily makes it very clear to make sure that Christopher is the one to say he wants her to do this, it has to be HIS choice, what HE wants. "If you like," is not an acceptable answer. It makes him very culpable in the events.
Chris doesn't believe the voodoo priestess, and rushes home to his wife and oops, she's dead. The Underwoods arrive shortly afterwards, and the wedding march starts playing. Does he at least get to propose first?
There's a wedding, and Emily wants to cut the cake, but not without her newfound husband's permission.
Oh, and what happens when the voodoo witch slices the cake topper at the groom's head? Yep, you guessed it, dead Christopher. Oh, and the twist is, it was Christopher's SON that asked for his dead parents, and the witches answered his prayers!
So, let's recap story #2. Because he stole a medal, Chris gets a dead wife, and dead himself. Yep, more perfectly fitting punishments from Temptations Limited!
Okay, let's get back to this place just begging for the Warehouse 13 agents to come crashing through the door and meet patsy #3.
Reggie stops in to buy a snuff box, but doesn't like the price, and swaps the tag with one from a cheaper box to get a bargain. So, what's gonna happen to him? Is his face going to melt off? Will his fingers fall away, and then stab him in the eyes, then tickle his spleen? That's the way this movie is going...
On the way home, he gets bugged by Professor Trelawney, insisting he has an elemental on his shoulder and that he's a killer. Sorry lady, that's a parrot. But gosh, he sure would kill for a cracker!
When Reggie arrives home, the dog won't stop barking, and his shoulder is oddly hunched up. Oh, and the spirit punches his wife in the shoulder.
His wife doesn't believe her, no matter how loudly he does his best Tommy Wiseau and insist that he did not hit her!
That night, his wife wakes him up demanding to know what he's doing, as the unseen force chokes her. I bet Darth Vader is lurking outside the window.
Despite Reggie being asleep and laying down with his back to her, his wife won't believe that he didn't have his hands around her throat.
So, with his wife's life in danger, he decides to give a call to the wacky woman from the train.
Madame Orloff hurries out the next morning, and warns that the elemental wants to take over someone's body, as one does when one has no body I guess.
She asks about the dog running off, and says that dogs and some small children always know. So, what? The elemental is Al from Quantum Leap?
Orloff does her exorcism thing, and it pales in comparrison to most others. She chants a little, things get thrown about. Very typical, but weird, and somehow bland. The best part is what she does to Reggie's face.
I really hope this was all improv on Orloff's part, and the actor playing Reggie had NO idea what she was going to do to him.
Once the tv explodes, Orloff declares that this house is now clean. And it's worth noting that Orloff's fee is the same amount he would've paid if he just bought the snuff box honestly.
So she leaves, and the family is free of elementals, and that actually turned out with a happy ending! OH wait, no, the creature is stomping around upstairs. Never mind.
Reggie goes to investigate, gets knocked down the stairs, and when his wife appears, oooops, she's been taken over by the elemental and kills Reggie. So much for a happy ending.
SO let's recap story #3! Guy tricks his way into a cheaper price, gets tormented by an elemental (Which is also totally a plot Babylon 5 used!) loses his wife to evil forces, and then gets killed. Yep that's fair!!
Anyways, let's head back to Vendredi's Antiques, for a fourth twisted tale of terror. Poor schmuck William finds a creepy evil looking door, and when he pays for it, he ponders stealing back some of the money from the open register.
I predict he will become a door himself as punishment. Let's see how this plays out.
William's master plan is to take the creepy evil door and replace an average cupboard door with it. That seems a bit overkill. I'd at LEAST put it up as the bathroom door.
And when he goes to clean the door, he looks at the rag and goes, "Oh! It looks like blood! Haha! :D" Yeah, no, that's not normal.
Once the door is installed, William opens it up one night, and rather than opening up into his closet, it opens into...A STUDY!! THE HORROR!!
After his trip to Narnia, he checks and the door is back to leading to his closet. THE HORROR!
Later, the door opens on its own, and William steps in, with the door closing behind him. Careful, if the TARDIS takes off with you inside, you might not get back.
William finds a book, an account from the man who made the room, and we get an infodump that it's a ghost room, an escape plan if anyone ever found out Sinclair's dark powers. And from time to time, the room must be fed. THE BASEMENT HUNGERS!
He finishes up his light reading, and the creator of the trap shows up to claim those souls he craves. William barely escapes and finds his wife.
She doesn't believe him, but suddenly all the doors are jammed, except...FOR ONE! THE HORROR.
Meanwhile, all the clocks are blinking 12, so even in 1973, no one could set a VCR. William's wife goes to investigate the door, and finds the creator behind it, ready to claim her soul.
William grabs an axe and goes to town on the door, smashing it good and making Poncy McPirate cry out in pain with each strike.
The room, shatters apart, and once Sinclair is weakened, William rushes in, tries to grab his wife, but gets into a fight. The door starts to close, ready to trap them in and move on to Gallifrey or Skaro or wherever, but he gets out just in time, and it returns to a normal closet.
So, let's recap story #4. We learn that William DID NOT steal any money, they faked us out, and instead paid the agreed upon price, and got away without dying or mutilation. The evil creepy door STILL tried to kill him. AND his wife. AND is now a pile of splinters, so he paid 40 pounds for nothing. That's STILL wildly unfair, isn't it?
But hey, he didn't cheat or steal, so he only gets to be tormented some!
And finally, we go back to the store as a crook sneaks in. We've seen this guy lurking about the store all movie long, and at this point? I'm rooting for him to stop Temptations Limited's reign of terror.
He checks out some classic flintlock pistols, and tries to use them to hold up the store. Now, even if they weren't cursed objects begging to be grabbed by Pete, Myka, or Micki and Ryan, who would suspect pistols in a shop to be loaded? Do you check out guns at the rifle shop and expect to rob the place?
Shots are actually fired, but nothing hits Leland Gaunt, so the would be criminal throws the guns at the store owner, but they just harmlessly bounce off as the Cushing advances.
And as a punishment, he falls into a wannabe Iron Maiden type box filled with spikes. Now, I will admit. This one? He was asking for it.
I like that the movie ends with more customers coming in, but it's from the perspective of the camera, so the owner is addressing us, the audience, to come and buy his wares. Yes, no thank you. I like not having cursed doors.
Video: This falls into the realm of looks pretty great for a 1970s era British flick.
Audio: Same here, sounds good, everything is clear.
Sound Bite: "Yes yes, that's to be expected. He's quite homicidal!" Orloff trying to calm down Reggie about the elemonkey on his back.
Body Count: Hmm, with four horror stories, and a wrapper, I would've expected more. And technically ther ARE more, but the mirror story skipped over like, what? A dozen? Still, pretty good for 1973.
1 - After about 10 minutes, David Warner kills a prostitute.
2 - He hands over a second victim that we see.
3 - And a third when the downstairs neighbour complains about the bloody ceiling.
4 - With his work complete, Edward gets killed and sent to Mirrorville.
5 - Chris's wife falls victim to terrible acupuncture.
6 - And Chris gets a splitting headache from a kinife.
7 - Reggie gets clubbed in the head by his wifemental.
8 - Sinclair's eternal ghost rots away, I guess.
9 - The burglar actually gets a punishment befitting his deeds, and dies in the shop.
Best Corpse: Sinclair's rotting corpse looks pretty good, and is at least not undeserved.
Blood Type - D+: There's a bit here and there, mostly splashes around David Warner's apartment and the repeated use of head wounds, but nothing major.
Sex Appeal: Nope!
Drink Up! Whenever someone dies. Simple, but will keep you nicely buzzed.
Video Nasties: Gasp! What's this? I am actually passing on a video this time out. In recent months, it felt like I was adding a clip just to have a clip, and they weren't always cool, or funny, and at best mildly interesting. I'd like to get back to really WTF moments or cool stuff. Nothing like that REALLY leapt out at me from From Beyond the Grave, which isn't to say there's not cool stuff here, just nothing that really sold me on being a clip. The seance came close though.
Movie Review: Normally when I've done an anthology, I'll take the movie in pieces, but I don't feel like doing that this time. Each story is fairly solid, with nothing being really great, but nothing being bad either. Everything here is fairly average. The quality is all of a single level, and that's worth noting. Most anthologies vary wildly, and as they say, you're only as strong as your weakest part. But with everything being equal here, it's a nice change. This is a solid horror flick with some good chills, in an era before The Exorcist. There's a lot playing with the mind here, and psychological ideals, as well as cautionary tales. Nowadays, everything here is a throwback to a different time. The worst part is the pacing, by today's standards. Especially during Christopher's story, things drag terribly as he has a merry olde time with the Underwoods. It's rare when an anthology movie, with so many short stories, has pacing issues. Still, this is largely enjoyable in a 70s kinda charming way, and it's well made for the time, and for the people it was made from and for. Three out of five excessive punishments.
Entertainment Value: This is the horror equivalent of dry, British humour. It's got a very staid quality to it, very matter of fact, and it has moments of black comedy. It is oh, so very British. And that means I kinda love it. This sort of style, and the dryness of it, won't be for everyone, especially modern audiences. But I enjoyed it, despite having moments of slow, and the overblown punishments being ludicrous. It had a solid cast through every story, ample strangeness, and was a solid collection of stories that never quite reached Twilight Zone levels of irony, but took a good old British stab at that sort of thing. Three out of five elementals.