Horror anthologies always have a special place in the genre, and especially with the fans, sometimes they share a theme or otherwise a series of short stories anchored with main tale flowing through it. These were popular in the early-60s to mid-70s until 2010 and onward where it became more standardized for filmmakers joining together to release their short stories. The many interesting standouts and a few subpar among them Tales of Terror [1962], The House that Dripped Blood [1971], Tales from the Crypt [1972], and of course the television production Trilogy of Terror [1975]. It wouldn’t be the 80s that this style would rise once more, thanks to Creepshow [1982] and Twilight Zone: The Movie [1983], from then it became a slow diet of these creations. However, one needs to be accurate and not overlook an early entry into this subgenre, and while not the first it is perhaps a truly fine movie entitled Dead of Night [1945]. The basic rule in these films, is there’s at least one story that doesn’t work perfectly, but that is acceptable as there are more on the way, just need to sit back and wait for it.

Dr. Terror’s of House of Horrors, which honestly struggled at times regarding the stories and required director Freddie Francis (The Creeping Flesh [1973]) to rewrite them on the spot as they had muddled moments. The productions often shot on extremely tight budgets, and waste due to errors was not an acceptable reasoning, knowing the fans of the genre are often willing to indulge themselves to feed their hunger for more entertainment. The production British studio Amicus Productions formed by Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky (The City of the Dead [1960]), both from America who journeyed to the UK to take advantage of lucrative tax breaks and funding opportunities made available. Subotsky while a huge fan of horror films had ulterior motives for setting up shop in England, he sought revenge on Hammer Film Productions after they had rejected a script of his known as Frankenstein and the Monster.

It begins with five strangers boarding onto the same train carriage in London, each taking a moment to settle in for the ride ahead of them, in more ways than one, which included Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee (Dracula: Prince of Darkness [1966])) and Dr. Schreck (Peter Cushing (Horror Express [1972]). The rocking of the train puts Schreck asleep and in turn drops his leather bag, which falls to the floor spilling out his tarot cards, or is it all a ruse to lure the travelers into his clutches? Those initially curious about these cards allows the dear doctor to explain their usage, to tell of one’s future, which leads to an immediate rejection from Marsh. The first traveler to inquire is Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum (The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die [1965]), and he opens the string of stories with “Werewolf” and discover he’s architect. His firm gets a call from Mrs. Biddulph (Ursula Howells (Torture Garden [1967]), seeking to do some remodeling, Jim realizes it’s the home he grew up in, yet knows secrets about the place. As he works on the project, he discovers Count Cosmo Valdemar’s coffin who had sought revenge on the Dawson’s family, wisely no actual werewolf monster is shown. As the story ends the final tarot card is death. The second story is entitled “Creeping Vine” which has Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman), returning home from vacation with his wife and daughter only to discover a new vine growing in his garden. The plant appears with similar characteristics lime that of The Day of the Triffids [1963] tries to incorporate a bit of truism into an otherwise campy tale. Bill’s able to get a sample of vine to two scientists he knows, one Jerry (Jeremy Kemp) visits to investigate, but learns this plant thinks on a different level, make it a bit of environmental horror. Biff Bailey (Roy Castle (Legend of the Werewolf [1975])) takes center stage as a jazz musician in the West Indies, he is warned about respecting the local customs, but the superiority and ignorance of himself reigns supreme as he stumbles upon a voodoo ceremony, who enjoys the rhythmic music used more as a McGuffin and steals it for his own work in London. This storyline’s work is silly, but the story is likely one of the first that truly deals with cultural threat. Also, it contains some truly political incorrectness, such as poor presentation of black characters and their culture, hence thoroughly dating this piece. Likely one of the favorites among fans, is the fourth tale called “Disembodied Hand” for Christopher Lee who portrays Franklyn Marsh, who was initially highly skeptical of Dr. Schreck’s shtick. Marsh is an art critic, who is considered the worst by many, a harsh disposition and enjoyed humiliating artists rather solely focus on their artwork. Marsh constantly picked on artist Eric Landor (Michael Gough (Satan’s Slave [1976]), and for fleeting moment the dear artist exacts revenge, which irks the critics to take deadly change of events. Francis kept the pacing upbeat and had Lee on a high-level of sinister obnoxious behaviorism. “Vampire” serves as the final story, when Dr. Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland (Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1978]) returns to his small-town home accompanied by his French wife Nicolle (Jennifer Jayne (The Crawling Eye [1958]), and quickly thrown back into his work with his colleague Dr. Blake (Max Adrian) concerning a patient with a blood disorder problem. A bloodsucker is on the prowl, and the story has far too many coincidental plot pieces, that clearly foreshadows the conclusion way too early and far too fast.  When the train comes to a rest so does the story, fates unsealed, with a hidden ending that might not please all viewers.

First, there’s plenty to like about the conceptual design of this anthology movie, many of the set designs make great usage of the props, especially in “Werewolf”, then the cinematographer by Alan Hume (The Legend of Hell House [1973]) and with the talent of Freddie Francis, who already won one of his Oscars in 1961 for Sons and Lovers, the second came in 1989 for Glory. It’s the tight quartered camera movements that truly shine in the train carriage scenes, especially when playing with the Tarot cards and learning one’s fate. As for the stories themselves, they averaged about 15-minutes though some truly are very weak in their design, the acting is a modest affair.

I think most of the stories work to various degrees, though “Voodoo” lacks with the too quick pacing and yet leaves much unexplored. In addition, both viewers and other critics, need to remember the era it was created, yes, it is improper of how they regard minorities and the precious cultural representations, nevertheless one needs to look at it through the lens of then. Another aspect, to note is the reference to the “Death Card” in a Tarot deck, which [spoiler] is constantly appearing in the film, which implies to the unaware audience member that the person is likely to die, however, in Tarot readings the card is often associated with a change (choice) that is going on or is happening rather than one’s life changing from life to death.  The one significant issue with the movie, is that it lacks a solid script, each tale is disjointed and at times feels too hurried, while incorporating many of the cliches of horror mainly beasts, a werewolf, vampire, nature attacking, voodoo and simply horrific revenge. Does that mean one should bypass, no, rather remember anthology movies contain twists and turns, an uneven flow to them besides it stars Lee and Cushing.


  • Acclaimed as “THE FEAR OF THE YEAR”


IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10

Followed by: 

The Psychopath [1966]

Torture Garden [1967]

The House That Dripped Blood [1971]

Tales from the Crypt [1972]

Asylum [1972]

The Vault of Horror [1973]

From Beyond the Grave [1974]

The Monster Club [1981]