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STUDIO: Image Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 91 Minutes
• Commentary by Ian Ogilvy
• Commentary by Roy Ward Baker and Stephanie Beacham
If you’re a British lord and you’ve got a hot new wife, make sure you consummate that shit ASAP.
One of Bruce Campbell’s hand’s earliest roles.
Ian Ogilvy, Stephanie Beacham, Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee.
Lord Charles Fengriffen and his fiancé, Catherine (Ogilvy and Beacham), arrive at the ancestral home to get married and settle down. But from the get go, Catherine is beset by strange goings-on, particularly visions of a ghostly severed hand and of a strange man with no eyes and a bloody stump where said hand should be. On the night of her wedding, Charles leaves his ready (and might I add willing) wife, to go get undressed in another room (must be one of those lame British traditions). While he does that, Catherine is attacked by the hand in the bed and by the time Charles can get to her, she’s a wreck. Several other haunting events occur, as well as several deaths, and Catherine seems to sink further into madness, especially when she finds out she’s pregnant. The chief suspect in the first killing is a woodsman, Silas, who lives on the estate and seems to have a perverse interest in Catherine’s impending oven bun. With things going downhill fast, Charles calls upon the esteemed Dr. Pope (Cushing) to help them and he discovers that everything that has been going on harkens back to an old legend involving Charles’ grandfather, the father of the Woodsman and a ghostly plan for revenge.
"I say, old man, you must give me the name of your tailor."
"Do you like it? Its Coruscant Armani."
This is a classic horror film, from the vault of the old Amicus Productions, who, along with Hammer, were cranking out horror by the raw tonnage in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I saw many of those films in my youth, including The Beast Must Die and the crapload of Hammer Dracula flicks with Christopher Lee. Many of those types of films don’t hold up very well today, but this is a surprisingly good tale of terror that, while not particularly terrifying by today’s standards, is still a solid tale of suspense, ghosts and revenge reminiscent of old urban myths and wives’ tales. Admittedly it’s been a long time since I’ve seen films of this type, and in fact I’d been putting this one off because I was dreading having to sit through some dated old hokum. However, despite the age of the movie, there’s very little of that here.
"I’m going to end up in 90210?!! AAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"
First off, Stephanie Beacham carries this entire movie on her historic rac – uh shoulders. She has the body of a Troma chick but also can act – and scream – like an old pro, which is what she may be now, but was certainly not then as this was one of her very first film roles. Ogilvy also portrays the traditional stiff-lipped British blueblood well and of course Master Cushing’s prowess in this type of role goes without saying. Herbert Lom is also good, despite limited screen time as Henry Fengriffen, the grandfather of the main character and cause of the curse.
"I’m telling you, Charles, there’s something utterly strange going on here."
"Uh, that’s nonsense, darling, breast that we forget such poppycock and concentrate on making happy mammaries here and rack up any notions to the contrary as flights of fancy. Tits for the best, I’m sure…"
The entire atmosphere of the flick is oh so British and suitably creepy in a “you must be mad, gov’nah” type of way that we don’t get to see much of any more, save for the fine The Others a few years back. The practical effects, including the severed hand that creeps along the picture hold up surprisingly well, although the ghost effects are a bit dated, but not embarrassingly so. I’ve seen modern movies that don’t do it as well as this, that’s for damn sure. The entire progression of the curse and the ghostly events is very understated, as shot by Baker, and the movie breathes like a nice merlot instead of going down like a shot of Cuervo.
Yeah, that shit had me screaming too…
The music by frequent Amicus composer Douglas Gamley also is suitably creepy, but is also very reminiscent of the era and is the first dead giveaway of the type of film this is. And Now also looks astonishingly good here. Just looking at some of the trailers, including of this film, and you can see how many prints of these films haven’t aged well, but the transfer here looks just about as good as anything modern you’re going to see and cinematographer Denys Coop does some really nice work here. Baker also deserves much credit for crafting a film that, although might seem obvious from the get go, actually develops its mystery rather well.
"Darling, is that you hand?…"
I believe the cover art is the original one sheet for the film and is straight out of the period and somewhat cool (I dig Dr. Phibes myself). The look is fantastic and the sound, primarily Beacham’s screaming and Gamley’s score are as good as they can be in Dolby 2.0 Mono. I was surprised that there are not one, but two commentaries, the first by Baker and Beacham and the other by Ogilvy, accompanying the film. Both are just as British as the Spice girls and fun to listen to, although a bit reserved. I generally wouldn’t have thought one could find commentaries on a film of this type as this could just have been a throwaway release of the film, so it’s nice to see some effort being given by Image Entertainment. There’s also a couple of trailers and filmographies.