October 5, 2019

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE: The Customer is NOT Always Right

Starring Ian Bannen, Ian Carmichael, Diana Dors, Peter Cushing, Margaret Leighton, Donald Pleasence, Angela Pleasence, Nyree Dawn Porter, David Warner, Ian Ogilvy, Leslie-Anne Down. Directed by Kevin Connor. (98 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

From Beyond the Grave is a British film from Amicus Productions. Founded by American producers Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, the studio was Hammer Films' main rival during the 60s and 70s, churning out dozens of similarly-styled horror films (and keeping directors like Freddie Francis & Roy Ward Baker gainfully employed). Though they dabbled in several sci-fi and horror subgenres, Amicus' specialty was anthology films consisting of thematically-similar shorter pieces linked by a framing story and featuring a variety of well-known British actors.

While 1972’s Tales from the Crypt remains the best of Amicus’ anthology films, From Beyond the Grave has enough similarly macabre moments, ironic twists and dark humor to draw favorable comparison. The framing story has an antique store proprietor (Peter Cushing) seemingly swindled by a few customers unwilling to pay what his merchandise is worth. They apparently think he’s simply a gullible old rube, but Cushing’s amusingly sinister performance tells the audience otherwise. Once they leave the store with their treasures, those customers become the key players in four supernatural tales.

"I call her Mini Me."
Like any anthology film, some stories are better than others. The first, in which Edward Charlton (David Warner) becomes a murderer at the behest of demon trapped inside an antique mirror, is the most atmospheric – and bloody - with pretty decent visual effects for its time. The strangest, most unpredictable of the four has henpecked husband Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen) befriending a congenial street vendor (Donald Pleasence) and his really creepy daughter (Angela Pleasence, whose resemblance to Dad is disturbing). The third story is the funniest, with Margaret Leighton chewing the scenery as a medium attempting to exorcise a nasty invisible demon from a man’s shoulder. Finally, a writer purchases an ancient door that contains an evil spirit. It’s the least involving of the four, but does boast a young Leslie-Anne Down, looking gorgeous.

None of the stories are particularly scary, mostly due to the cruelty of time. Still, From Beyond the Grave is an entertaining slab old-school British horror. The performances are good – especially Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence – and as anthology films go, this one is remarkably consistent. There’s also a valuable lesson here: The customer is not always right.


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