Archive for the ‘Amicus Productions’ Tag

The Deadly Bees (1966)   2 comments

deadly bees

Vickie Robbins (Suzanna Leigh), a British pop star with a grueling schedule has a breakdown during a taping of a Shindig-like show.

shindig
I’m stressed.

Her doctor orders her to recuperate on a friend’s farm on remote Seagull Island. A few weeks on a quiet farm in the country sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if it weren’t for all those deadly bees. You see farmer and all around jerk Ralph Hargrove (Guy Doleman) keeps bees and spends most of his time experimenting with them to create a race of superbees or bees that can juggle or do your taxes or something. The film never quite tells you. That leaves Ralph’s wife, Mary (Catherine Finn) to run the farm. Their marriage leaves something to be desired as well. Ralph appears to be overly friendly toward the publican’s daughter and Mary is more devoted to her dog than any pesky humans. When Mary’s dog is attacked and killed by bees, the idyllic farm takes on a more sinister mood.

doggie
Why do they always pick on the dog?

Mary blames Ralph for the death of her beloved pet and an already strained relationship careens over an embankment. Vickie starts noticing odd things about her host and she soon suspects he’s using his bees to dispatch people he finds superfluous. She meets H.W. Manfred (Frank Finlay), beekeeper and gentleman farmer who fuels Vickie’s suspicions. After Mary meets the same fate as her pup, Vickie and Manfred pool their knowledge to try and thwart Hargrove.

face bees
Why can’t we keep our honey in a jar like other people?

Amicus Productions, a studio considered a lesser Hammer Studios, produced some terrific low budget horrors in the 1960s and 70s. They often used Hammer actors like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as well as big name actors and some who once had big film careers. Amicus specialized in portmanteau horror films like The House That Dripped Blood, Torture Garden, and Vault of Horror and made some full-length horrors as well. Despite their reputation for low budgets, Amicus had good production values and hired talented actors and writers. Robert Bloch (Psycho-Strait-Jacket) wrote the screenplay for The Deadly Bees along with Anthony Marriott and Gerald Heard from his novel A Taste for Honey. The story originally appeared as Sting of Death as part of the Elgin Hour television series and starred Boris Karloff. Director, Freddie Francis (The Day of the Triffids, Trog) helmed a few Amicus films including several anthology films.

I like The Deadly Bees. Despite the bee effects (superimposing film of swarming bees over the actual film), there was some real suspense and the film had more surprises than I expected. The acting was really good. A lot of the cast straddled high and low budget films throughout their careers. The weird bee science was fun. I love the idea of attack bees that respond to scent and music. I recommend The Deadly Bees. I think it’s the first killer bee film so it started a genre I love. It also has an odd cameo. In the opening scene set during the taping of a pop music show, we see a band called The Birds perform. No, they’re not the Turn, Turn, Turn Byrds, but they are the band Ron Wood played in before he joined the Rolling Stones. Their tune isn’t bad either.

Buzzzzzzzzzzz.

ron
I could buy and sell all of you.

Vault of Horror (1973) 31 Days of Horror   1 comment

poster vault

Five men meet in an elevator over which they have no control. Sounds…like Tuesday morning in a large office building, right? Not so fast. The elevator takes them to a basement vault (of horror!) where they sit at a nicely set table and have drinks. Ahhhhhhhh! The film is British, after all. As the men begin to talk, they realize they all have frightening dreams so one by one they tell their stories. So begins this portmanteau horror film set in modern day (1970s) England. The five tales, directed by Roy Ward Baker (A Night To Remember, Don’t Bother To Knock) involve betrayal, revenge, and murder. And vampires! William M. Gaines and Al Feldstein of EC Comics and MAD Magazine fame wrote the stories and they boast an exaggerated, dramatic flair. All five storytellers have one thing in common. They’re all nasty people.

five
Lesser X-Men cosplayers

Daniel and Anna Massey (real life brother and sister) play siblings in the first tale. The characters they play must have had some awkward family dinners. In the second segment, Terry-Thomas and Glynis Johns are newlyweds starting a less than idyllic marriage.

glynis
Tell me again the dinner was late.

Curd Jürgens and Dawn Addams travel to India searching for novelty for their magic act in the third. They find it. In the fourth story, Michael Craig and Edward Judd partner up in a plot that goes awry. Their tale also stars Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies from the old Doctor in the House TV series. In the last of the five parts, Tom Baker ditches the TARDIS and gets a lesson in voodoo in Haiti. Denholm Elliott appears as well.

voodoo
Did you bring your co-pay?

These vignettes boast a stellar cast of British film and television actors. Some act as part of the Amicus Productions repertory company and some appear in small cameos. Amicus made a number of anthology horror films like Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), and Tales From the Crypt (1972) and often used actors borrowed from Hammer films like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and even Vincent Price to headline its casts.
My attention span rivals that of an adolescent gnat so I love anthology films and short stories. The plethora of character actors in these films makes it fun too. While Vault of Horror lacks the depth of a full-length feature film, it makes up for it with its inventiveness, cool cast, and inside jokes. At one point Michael Craig reads a paperback copy of Tales From the Crypt and later looks almost directly into the camera and says, “There’s no money in horror.” If you watch Vault of Horror with a sense of humor and enjoy the campiness, you’ll enjoy it as much as the cast seems to.

knife
You feel a sharp pain where?

I wrote this for the 31 Days of Horror challenge on cinemashame.wordpress.com @cinemashame on twitter.

I’m @echidnabot on twitter.

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