Second Sight Film brings us a deliciously diabolic double-feature with their two new Blu-ray releases, both classic anthologies from Amicus Productions – Asylum (1972) and The House that Dripped Blood (1971), each film sporting some serious horror chops with the presence of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in both anthologies along with Denholm Elliott, Ingrid Pitt and Joss Ackland. Second Sight are carving out a nice little niche for themselves with some quality releases to date, including Upgrade, Flight of the Navigator and The Changeling and they don’t disappoint here.
The Blu-ray transfers of both films are spectacularly good; the pictures crisp and clean, the colours vibrant (almost too vibrant in the case of Peter Cushing’s shirts in The House that Dripped Blood!) and the soundtrack sounding as good as it likely ever has. Both discs feature double-sided sleeve art, with the new artwork being supplied along with the original, as well as a plethora of special features.
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Asylum features a director’s commentary track, a BBC report featuring interviews with actors and the screenwriter, and a featurette called ‘Inside the Fear Factory’, as well as theatrical trailers and radio promos.
The House that Dripped Blood also features a directory’s commentary, as well as a commentary track with film historian and author Troy Howarth, interviews with the cast, and theatrical trailers and radio promos.
Asylum comes across as the more serious of the two anthologies. The framing device employed is that Dr Martin arrives at an asylum “for the incurably insane” to be interviewed for a job by a man called Lionel Rutherford. Rutherford sets him a challenge: to identify which of the inmates is Dr Starr, the former head of the asylum who has had a complete mental breakdown. If he gets it right, the job is his. Each inmate then tells their story during an interview with Dr Martin.
There are four stories in total.
‘Frozen Fear’: A lovely little tale of voodoo, hoodoo, murder and infidelity with some really rather impressive dismembered body part effects for the time.
‘The Weird Tailor’: The story of a man who requires a suit made of very special fabric, with some very interesting restrictions on how and when it can be worked on. But what does he want it for?
‘Lucy Comes to Stay’: When Barbara is released from the asylum and sent home she finds a few too many restrictions set on her life by her overbearing brother George and the nurse he’s hired, but it’s okay because her friend Lucy has come to help her escape and live free again!
‘Mannikins of Horror’: A tale of soul transference, black magic and dolls with uncomfortably gooey insides. To say much more would be to spoil the story.
Of the two anthologies, Asylum is the stronger and scarier one by far. Each story has lovely twists and turns. The stand-outs here are – well, actually every one of them stands on its own but my personal favourite was ‘Frozen Fear’ due to the lovely practical effects. I’m a sucker for those.
The second release is The House that Dripped Blood. It’s another solid outing from Amicus, but is slightly more tongue in cheek than Asylum, the stories just that little bit sillier.
The conceit here is that a film star has disappeared and Inspector Holloway has come up from Scotland Yard to investigate. On speaking to the local police officer it turns out that the house the star was renting (ooked after by an estate agent by the name of Stoker, we see what you did there movie) has seen its share of strange occurrences over the years, setting up the framework again for our four stories.
‘Method for Murder’: The story of a horror writer who finds his latest creation, Dominic, is starting to intrude not just in his dreams but into everyday life as well. Is he losing his mind, or is something more sinister afoot in this strange house?
‘Waxworks’: Tells the story of a retired stockbroker and his friend who both become obsessed with a mannequin inside a creepy waxwork museum that appears to resemble someone they once knew. A lovely little tale of obsession and shirts so bright they could be seen from orbit.
‘Sweets to the Sweet’: A private teacher is concerned by the way her student is treated by her harsh and overbearing father, but that’s okay. Voodoo makes everything better and by better we mean more murder-y.
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‘The Cloak’: Features the now-missing film star, Paul Henderson, picking up an “authentic” vampire cloak for a movie he’s starring in. It so happens that authentic really is the word for it as it bestows strange powers on its wearer, along with some really terrible makeup. This is the silliest and campiest of all the vignettes, with Jon Pertwee not even pretending to be playing it straight and hamming up almost every scene. It’s fun, but the weakest of the lot.
‘Waxworks’ is definitely the strongest story here, in part due to the part played by Joss Ackland and his neon shirts. He anchors the story even more than Cushing does.
Both of these releases are a lot of fun, and both have plenty for genre fans to enjoy. Any afficionado of British horror should pick both of these up, they won’t be disappointed.