I’m a big fan of British horror anthology films of the 1960s and 70s, produced most famously by Amicus Films and directed usually by Roy Ward Baker or Freddie Francis. Some of these films had horror stalwarts like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, but also included actors as diverse as Donald Sutherland, Joan Collins, Tom Baker, Britt Ekland, Margaret Leighton and Herbert Lom.
These films included Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1964), Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1970), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972), Vault of Horror (1973), From Beyond the Grave (1974) and The Monster Club (1980).
Generally, these films involve 4 or 5 people gathered together by circumstance. Traveling together by train, stuck in a sub-basement or drifting off to secret cave, those persons are ordinary looking people who hide very dark secrets. One by one, the story of each attendee is told and eventually we find out they are terrible scumbags deserving of the horrible things that happen to them.
Francis, Baker and screenwriters Robert Bloch and Milton Subotsky knew how to make quick, compelling fun stories that sometimes had moving performances.
Such a good acting job was done by Peter Cushing in Tales from the Crypt , my personal favorite of these anthology films. In it, he plays a kindly old widower tormented by a nasty neighbor. My favorite story in this film, however, is the incredibly creepy “Blind Alleys” starring Nigel Patrick and Patrick Magee in a story warning you to never piss off the blind. And I’ll take the hooded Sir Ralph Richardson as Cryptkeeper asking Joan Collins menacingly “What are your plans when you leave here?” over a goofy animated skeleton. Any. day.
All the Amicus Productions listed above are pretty readily available for rental, purchase or download.