Written by: John White on April 14th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: United Kingdom, 1965
Director: Freddie Francis
Writer: Milton Subotsky
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Donald Sutherland, Roy Castle, Alan Freeman, Neil Mcallum
DVD released: October 27, 2003
Approximate running time: 93 mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0/5.1 and DTS 5.1
DVD Release: Anchor Bay UK
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £14.99
Five men enter a train carriage and are joined by a sixth called Dr Schreck. Schreck proceeds to tell their future by using his Tarot cards. The first finds himself returning to his family home only to find that the new owner has lycanthropic links to an old family legend. The second is shown that his house will become engulfed by a man eating plant. The third sees that a trip to the Caribbean will result in musical inspiration but also a voodoo curse. The fourth, a cynical art critic, learns that his revenge on an artist will haunt him to the grave. The final man sees that a new wife will have a taste for blood resulting in his downfall. When the train stops, the men get off only to find that their prophesied doom has already happened.
This 1965 movie from Amicus was the template for the majority of their later output. Written by Amicus founder, Milton Subotsky, and directed by Hammer’s Freddie Francis, it boasts an excellent cast of Hammer regulars, soon to be famous Sutherland, and DJ “Fluff” Freeman.
The framing story of Cushing telling the passengers their future is interrupted by the individual tales but is of an equal quality with the individual stories. In the first, Mcallum is tricked by the new owner of his ancestral home so that he meets his doom fulfilling a legend about resurrecting a werewolf. The second story is much lighter, a kind of domestic Day of the Triffids with Freeman and family haunted by a voracious vine – it is the weakest of the stories here. The third tale stars Roy Castle and his ready trumpet in a tale of a musician borrowing the rhythms of voodoo for success but having a curse visited on him. This is very well done, surprisingly as Castle is a reasonable light comedian but not a great actor.
The fourth tale is the best of the lot with Lee as an insufferable prig who is publicly embarrassed by artist Michael Gough and revenges himself by destroying Gough’s hand. The hand remorselessly gets it’s revenge as in the tale by Guy de Montpassant and the other filmic versions of his story. The final tale is a jokey affair with Sutherland as a newly wed who fears his wife’s lust for blood and is tricked into dispatching her and leaving the coast clear for an existing vampire – “this town is only big enough for one vampire”.
The stories in Dr Terror are all good and reach heights in the Lee and Castle tales, but one of the chief virtues of the film is how excellently it chugs along. To fit the five stories in and not leave them feeling glib or too slight is a sign of the excellence of the direction and editing. The cinematography and composition is first rate as ever with Francis,a particularly brilliant moment is a re-creation of a Monet like scene in the Lee tale.
Along with the House That Dripped Blood, this is the best of the Amicus movies for it’s wonderful look, consistency and delivery. An absolute must see.
In recent times Anchor Bay have undone a lot of their previous good work by dropping the ball on DVD releases. Here though that is far from the truth. This film looks and sounds gorgeous. Apart from the inserted end titles which are rather murky, the colours look as brilliant as they ever have and the DTS track is spotless.
The extras include two commentaries with one from the director, film notes and a biography.
This is the best available release of a must own movie, buy it.