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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

THE VAULT OF AMICUS -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

THE VAULT OF AMICUS is exclusive to "THE AMICUS COLLECTION" (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films.
(And Now the Screaming Starts/Asylum/The Beast Must Die!/The Vault of Amicus)

So you like Amicus Pictures, and you also like trailer compilations, eh?  Well then, Severin Films has just the thing for you--namely, their new Blu-ray collection entitled THE VAULT OF AMICUS (B&W/color, 63 min.), which gathers 30 or so Amicus trailers from 1960-81 together into one nice, watchable batch and also adds a commentary track and a couple of lengthy interviews with the company's founders, Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, for good measure.

It's exclusive to Severin's new 4-volume boxed set, THE AMICUS COLLECTION, which also contains Amicus classics ASYLUM, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS, and THE BEAST MUST DIE!  The trailers for these show up later, of course, but the disc begins with Rosenberg and Subotsky's pioneer foray into film, a pre-Beatles teen music show called "Ring-a-Ding Rhythm" which is delightfully out of touch with where pop music was headed at the time.

What follows is an account of how the producing partners followed trends, tried new things, learned their craft through trial and error, and ended up putting out a widely-varied body of work which happened to concentrate mainly upon horror and science-fiction, the two most lucrative genres for the independent filmmakers. 

Some of the more familiar titles in the latter category are "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors", "Dr. Who and the Daleks", "The Skull", "Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.", Robert Bloch's "The Psychopath", "The Terrornauts", "They Came From Beyond Space", "The Mind of Dr. Soames", "Torture Garden", and one of their least successful efforts, "The Deadly Bees." 

A departure for them was the spy thriller "Danger Route" with Richard Johnson.  Forays into more high-brow and/or experimental territory would come with such films as "The Birthday Party" with a young Robert Shaw (who would later play Quint in "Jaws"), "What Became of Jack and Jill" (a psychological thriller), and "Thank You All Very Much" with Sandy Dennis.

But it's the good stuff (as far as I'm concerned, anyway) that Rosenberg and Subotsky kept coming back to.  As the commentary points out, experience taught them what worked and what didn't, so they just kept doing what worked as well as they could.

This resulted in a string of classics and near-classics that gave Hammer Studios a run for their money in the 60s and 70s, with such titles as "The House That Dripped Blood", "Scream and Scream Again", "I, Monster" (Christopher Lee doing Jekyll and Hyde), "Asylum", "And Now the Screaming Starts", "The Beast Must Die!", "From Beyond the Grave", "Madhouse", and that beloved duo of EC Comics adaptations, "Tales From the Crypt" and "The Vault of Horror."

Later, Amicus would venture into Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy-adventure romps with "The Land That Time Forgot", "At the Earth's Core", and "The People That Time Forgot."  Rosenberg and Subotsky's partnership would conclude with "The Uncanny" and "The Monster Club."

This is the stuff I read about in "Famous Monsters" magazine as a kid and was occasionally lucky enough to see on the big screen. I particularly recall seeing "Dr. Who and the Daleks" as the second half of a double bill with "Night of the Living Dead."  The colorful and relatively cheerful "Daleks" came as quite a relief for a kid who just endured Romero's grueling nightmare of terror for the first time.
The trailers, as usual for a collection such as this, are a mixed bag with some more interesting than others, but all in all it's a splendidly entertaining set.  Casting was an Amicus strong point, so many of them are jam-packed with familiar faces such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith, Patrick Magee, Caroline Munro, Ingrid Pitt, Diana Dors, Harry Andrews, Carol Lynley, Robert Vaughn, Nigel Davenport, Patrick Wymark, Doug McClure, Robert Powell, Terence Stamp, and many others.

The commentary track by horror authors Kim Newman and David Flint is knowledgeable and fun, with nary a dead spot.  The bonus menu consists of very lengthy, in-depth interviews and remembrances by Rosenberg and Subotsky themselves (with accompanying pictures) which should prove absolutely invaluable to any interested parties. 

The trailers themselves have that wonderful grindhouse look that fills me with nostalgia--most of them look like they've been around the block a few times. (Look for the really cool Easter Egg for some fun TV spots.)

THE VAULT OF AMICUS, like any good trailer compilation, is a treasure trove of juicy clips from lots of great movies, in this case the best of a legendary production duo whose solid genre output kept us horror and sci-fi fans going back in the days before such things became mainstream and plentiful.  It's the kind of nostalgia that you just want to settle into and wallow around in for awhile.

THE VAULT OF AMICUS is exclusive to "THE AMICUS COLLECTION" (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films.
(And Now the Screaming Starts/Asylum/The Beast Must Die!/The Vault of Amicus)

Order THE AMICUS COLLECTION (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films

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