Amicus Productions. Film Review


Director(s) Kevin Connor/Freddie Francis

Starring Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Peter Gilmore, Doug McClure, Shane Rimmer, Robert Hutton, Shane McEnery, Doug McClure, Jennifer Jayne and Doug McClure

Reviewed by Guy Adams

Far from timely coverage this asStudioCanalwere kind enough to release these titles into the wild at the end of July as part of the fiftieth anniversary of Amicus Productions. That said, I feel I would be lacking in my duties not to direct readers towards them as I would consider any shelf lacking a critical mass of Amicus movies a sad shelf indeed.

Amicus Productions was set up by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, a pair of Americans who would go on to become part of the bedrock of British horror cinema in the sixties. Often referred to as a rival to Hammer, an argument given heft by the fact that in the late fifties, they approached the studio with an idea to reinvent Frankenstein for a modern audience. Hammer liked the idea but not the script (Subotsky’s) that went with it. Cue 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein, the movie that arguably built the foundation for Hammer over years to come.

Despite this well-documented snub, Subotsky and Rosenberg didn’t give up on the horror market and the jewel in their crown over the decade that followed is certainly their series of portmanteau movies featuring the likes of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasance, Herbert Lom and, obviously, Roy Castle.

Frequently shooting to a strict budget and (outside of occasional, valuable contributions from screenwriters of the calibre of Robert Bloch) a Subotsky script, Amicus carved themselves a slice of the horror box office and a place in the hearts of all fans of British horror cinema.

They didn’t restrict themselves to the genre, however, as this current selection proves. On the back of their successful adaptation of Doctor Who for the big screen (oh very well, successful depending on taste but I for one will always adore Peter Cushing battling the biggest, most colourful Daleks the sixties ever saw) they produced a number of sci-fi movies including They Came From Beyond Space, one of the most wonderfully nutty low-budget movies of it’s type. Unashamedly British it features a host of familiar character actors (most particularly Bernard Kay and Michael Gough) battling alien mind control courtesy of a crop of fallen meteorites. For those who love their British sci-fi in the Quatermass vein this is certainly a step towards silliness too far, not for They Came From Beyond Space is the woolen overcoat, pipe tobacco seriousness of Nigel Kneale, this is a far more unrestrained romp offered with glee by director Freddie Francis. Ridiculous, yes. Fun certainly and I challenge anyone not to watch it with an insane grin.

The other three titles form a loose thematic trilogy, monster mash-ups with the king of square-jawed heroism, Doug McClure teaming up with director Kevin Connor to deal with prehistoric hand puppets and savage tribes. Naturally he does this by punching things very hard.

There’s no doubting that The Land That Time Forgot and At The Earth’s Core show their B Movie roots with every frame, Subotsky’s scripts contain more holes than McClure’s shirts and the special effects were questionable even in their day. But to hell with that, like the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels they’re adapted from they seek to do no more than offer spectacle and entertainment and they succeed in this admirably. The latter in particular is glorious fun, with Peter Cushing on fine form as scientist Abner Perry and Caroline Munro offering her usual allure as Inevitable McClure Love Interest.

Warlords of Atlantis is slightly dull by comparison but that’s like saying a thunder storm is peaceful after experiencing an atom bomb explosion.

These movies hail from that wonderful period where movie makers shot beyond their game, refusing to be restrained by anything so prosaic as budget (or even talent) they aimed for the moon and if the end result was a charming jaunt somewhere in Earth’s upper atmosphere, who are we to complain?

Inspirational, wild and outrageously entertaining, this reviewer would rather spend time in the company of these movies than recent Burroughs adaptation John Carter any day.