The Deadly Bees (1966 – 1967) – Movie review – Amicus Films

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The Deadly Bees (1966)

Amicus Films
Directed by Freddie Francis
Screenplay by Robert Bloch and Anthony Marriott
Based on a book by Gerald Heard, A Taste of Honey

Suzanna Leigh
Frank Finlay
Guy Doleman
Michael Ripper

When pop singer, Vicki Robins, has a nervous break-down from the pressures and rigors of touring, she is instructed to take some time off away from the business. Ralph Hargrove, an old friend of the family, welcomes her to stay at his country farm house on a secluded island for rest and relaxation. It’s clear early on that Hargrove has a strained relationship with his wife. He is also a bee farmer and very protective of his hives. When Vicki meets the neighbor, Manfred, she finds that he also has an the deadly bees dvdinfatuation with bees and keeps his own hives very close to his house.

At night, shadowed figures and dark silhouettes criss-cross the field and barn. The next day Vicki wanders into the barn to find a sick horse with many oozing open wounds. When the wife’s dog gets into the husband’s experiment, bees kill the dog. The effects aren’t so great, the bees look like yellow blobs floating around the screen. The wife, distressed about her dog sets the bee hives ablaze. Hargrove comes home just in time to put the fires out and saves one hive from demise. It isn’t long before the bees attack and kill Mrs. Hargrove.

While the investigation into Mrs. Hargrove’s death heats up, the last boat to the island leaves and won’t return for five days. The neighbor, with the help of Vicki captures some of Hargrove’s bees, and explains they are a breed of killer bees. But he has no proof to give police that Hargrove is purposely raising them for evil deeds.

One of my favorite scenes is when Vicki is in the bathroom brushing her teeth with an electric toothbrush. It’s buzzing loudly The Deadly Bees pic 3but when she turns it off, she still hears the buzzing. She turns around and the bedroom is full of killer bees.

The film is more drama/thriller than sci-fi but held my interest with its mystery. At times it has the feel and atmosphere of The Birds, though never gets to that level of intensity. There are some nasty shots of real bees stinging human flesh in close-up, some that made me squirm for sure, but the attacks were short enough to not become torturous. It’s a good old-style thriller with a light sci-to angle, perhaps not for everyone, but I enjoyed it because of its mystery storyline, crisp cinematography and charming character portrayal in Vicki. From what I’ve read Bloch was not happy with the rewrite of the script which he felt made the characters less menacing than his original screenplay and the book.

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Fun Facts:

The band playing in the beginning of the film features Ron Wood (The Rolling Stones) on guitar. He sure looks young.

The lead roles were originally written for Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff, but neither could free up enough time on their schedules to commit to the film.

All of the interior and exterior of the farm were built as a set in a studio

Check out the master list:
Amicus Films Overview
see the many Amicus films I have reviewed thus far!

The Skull (1965) – Amicus Films – movie review

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The Skull (1965)

Amicus Films

Whenever you get Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in the same film it is a treat. Add to that, a screenplay based on a story by Robert Bloch and director Freddie Francis, you have the trifecta of old-school British horror goodness.

The film concerns the accursed skull of the Marquis de Sade. Christopher Maitland (Cushing) and Sir Matthew Phillips (Lee), are The Skull 1965collectors of occult artifacts. Maitland is offered the skull by a shady dealer and recognizes it as part of Lee’s collection. Knowing it must have been stolen he turns down the offer to purchase the skull. He contacts his fellow collector about the stolen item and Phillips tells him, he is happy to be rid of the accursed skull. He warns Maitland to stay away from it however, Maitland soon develops an obsession with the skull. When he re-visits the shady dealer, he finds the man dead and steals the skull. Once in his home the artifact haunts and torments Maitland, driving him to insanity and provoking him to kill.

The film is subtle, relying on atmosphere and mood to relay the psychological conflict between Maitland and the skull. The silent battle is brought to the screen superbly by Cushing. The visuals are dated and may be considered hokey by today’s standards, but none-the-less effective as the skull floats through the the skull pic 1rooms of Maitland’s abode, taunting him to evil deeds. The gothic atmosphere provides a visual appeal that I find interesting. The Skull is quite different than most horror of the time, relying on the psychological horror rather than blood and gore, and the battle of wills rather than the usual perversions associated with the Marquis de Sade. It is a fantastic film for those who like old-style horror.

This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus horror films.
You can check out all the reviews from links at this page:
Amicus Films – overview



Asylum (1972) – Movie review – Amicus Films

Asylum dvd coverAsylum (1972) – movie review

Written by Robert Bloch and directed by Roy Ward Baker. Stars, Robert Powell, Patrick Magee, Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Charlotte Rampling and Barbara Parkins. A Doctor Martin shows up at an Asylum for a job interview as head doctor. A wheelchair bound Dr. Rutherford (Magee), the Asylum’s administrator, explains that the previous head doctor had suffered a mental breakdown and is now one of the patients at the institute. He then gives Dr. Martin a test to see if he is worthy of the job. If he can interview the patients on the second floor and discover which patient is his predecessor, he would basically have the job. An orderly, Max, escorts him from room to room, to meet each patient. Thusly, each interview takes the viewer into a different story.

While House that Dripped Blood used a minimalist style musical score, Asylum uses bold musical pieces by Modest Mussorgsky. The intro credits are accompanied by the powerful ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ as Dr. Martin drives up to the ominous asylum building. My favorite piece plays as Dr. Martin ascends the asylum stairs while observing disturbing paintings upon the walls showing harsh treatment of mental patients through history. The piece ‘Gnomus’ from Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures of an Exhibition’ accompanies the scene and is quite foreboding and sinister with its dissonant harmonies and broad brass blasts.

Frozen Fear – in the first room we are introduced to a woman named Bonnie. She recounts the tale of how she plotted with her married lover to kill his wife. The husband, Walter, chops his wife to bits and wraps the pieces in brown butcher paper, asylum pic 4placing the pieces neatly in a basement freezer. However, the wife having studied voodoo can not die and the separate pieces crawl out of the freezer looking for revenge.

The Weird Tailor – tells a story of how a suspicious Mr. Smith (Peter Cushing) came into the Tailor’s shop with a unique fabric and pattern asking him to make this suit for him. When the tailor finishes, days later, he delivers the suit to Smith. He then learns of the suits magic powers of resurrection and Smith’s intentions for the suit. Trying to stop him he accidentally kills Smith and returns to his shop with the magic suit. However, when he awakens, he discovers his wife has put the suit on a mannequin and the mindless humanoid knows only to kill. This is my favorite segment of the film.

In Lucy Comes To Stay a young lady, Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) relays the story of how she had been watched closely because of a prior mental breakdown. She felt like a prisoner in her own home due to the watchful eyes of her brother George and her nurse. It wasn’t until her good friend Lucy (Britt Ekland) came for a visit that she saw her only chance at freedom.

Mannikins of Horror – In this segment, a Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom) is a scientist that is working on transferring his soul asylum pic 8into a small toy robot by filling its insides with his own biological makings. He can telepathically control the small version of himself through meditation. However, the small toy is an evil incarnation of Dr. Byron that breaks contact with his master and does his own bidding. This segment is unintentionally humorous because watching the miniature toy with Herbert Loms head walking around can only be regarded as comical.

The film wraps up with a reveal to Dr. Martin, a couple of murders and a ‘patients running the asylum’ ending. Aside from The Weird Tailor segment, this is probably my least favorite of the Amicus anthologies. However, I think the wrap-around story is probably one of the most interesting and developed of all the Amicus anthologies. There are some bright spots in the film and it’s definitely worth a watch for completists and those who like movies from this era.

Amicus Films overview 

The House That Dripped Blood (1970) – Movie review

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The House That Dripped Blood (1970)

the house that dripped blood posterThis is the third anthology by Amicus Films and features both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in separate segments. The stories and screenplay were once again written by Robert Bloch. The film was directed by Peter Duffel and features an interesting and unconventional soundtrack by Michael Dress. It opens with scenes of the house itself, a sufficiently creepy but real dwelling. The camera passes through black iron gates to see the brick façade with Ivy crawling up its surface, cathedral windows and jutting turrets. Inside the home is furnished with antiquities from bygone eras and dated design. We cut to Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) from Scotland Yard questioning a local officer, Sergeant Martin about the disappearance a of film star. Paul Henderson was last  seen in the home he had rented in the countryside. Martin pulls out a case file on the house and its strange history. He goes into stories about the inhabitants and how they all came to untimely demise. So we enter each segment:

Method for Murder
A writer, Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott), looking to finish his latest murder/horror novel moves into the home with his wife, hoping the isolated country surroundings will give him the peace he needs to create. Once moved in, he immediately conjures his main protagonist, a brute psychotic named Dominic, who likes to strangle his victims with his bare hands. However, soonHouse-That-Dripped-Blood-6 Charles is seeing the strangler in the house; in the dark corners of the hallway and outside in the garden. Will reality prevail of will the writer be strangled to death by his own character?

Next up, Phillip Grayson (Peter Cushing) is a retired theater actor, looking for a quiet place to call home. We soon see that he is distraught over a long lost love named Salome. Wandering aimlessly through the local town he comes across Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror where he finds a beautiful figure that looks exactly like, Salome. The proprietor explains she was cast from real life and relays the story of how she was murdered. Mr. Grayson leaves in a flustered state and is soon having strange dreams surrounding this figure in the museum and her alluring beauty. The dream sequence is a fantastic piece of shock horror visuals. He is awakened by a visiting friend, Neville, who had also courted the beautiful Salome. the house that dripped blood pic 2While in town, Neville also discovers the wax image in the museum. Quite strangely the competition between the two old friends is reignited. Only one can be with her and the winner gets his wish!

Sweets to the Sweet
In the third story, John Reid, (Christopher Lee) is a single father raising his daughter Jane. Jane is about 6 or 7 years old with long blonde locks and innocent blue eyes. He moves into the country home to be away from the town and populous. He hires a teacher for Jane, unwilling to let her go to public schools. The teacher, a widowed Mrs. Norton, soon learns the strange parameters of the father and daughter relationship. Jane is strangely fearful of fire, is withdrawn and angry. Mr. Reid will not let his daughter play with other children and will not permit toys in the house. Mrs. Norton soon realizes that Mr. Reid is terrified of his daughter. The reasons become clear one night when a black out leads Mr. Reid to discover missing candles and Mrs. Norton discovers that Jane has been reading books on witchcraft.

The Cloak
The final story concerns the missing actor, Paul Henderson (John Pertwee). In town for a low budget film production of Dracula, he searches out his own wardrobe to replace the unauthentic clothes the film production has given him. He finds a cape in a small costume shop. When he puts it on, he is empowered with the powers of a real vampire. This tale has comedic elements as Mr. Henderson is dumbfounded by not seeing his reflection in the mirror and accidentally bites his co-star, Carla, played by the lovely, Ingrid Pitt. There is even a scene that mirrors The Lost Boys as Henderson begins to float at the strike of midnight and is stunned by the incident. Henderson states that he wants to play his role like Bela Lugosi, not that new guy, in an obvious referencethe-house-that-dripped-blood-08 to Hammer films. This is my least favorite of the stories but not bad for campy entertainment.

The film wraps up with Inspector Holloway finally visiting the House and discovering Henderson and Carla in the basement. They are now full-fledged vampires and asleep in their coffins, that is, until they are disturbed by the investigator. This is another good Amicus anthology with well-written stories and convincingly acted parts. It is not scary like more modern films (none of the Amicus films or films from that age are) but the stories are interesting tales of the macabre.



This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus Anthologies and horror films.

Related articles:

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

Torture Garden

Amicus Films Overview – the Studio That Dripped Blood

Ingrid Pitt career overview by Robbinsrealm

Torture Garden (1967) – Movie review

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Torture Garden (1967) 

Directed by Freddie Francis

Torture Garden dvdTorture Garden has one of the best set-ups of all the Amicus anthology films, not surprising considering the screenplay was written by Robert Bloch. The film builds on the excitement of carnivals and the strangeness of Carney folk. A midway soapbox pitchman attracts a small audience into the Torture Garden side show. Once Inside, Dr. Diablo (a masked Burgess Meredith) demonstrates torture devices upon wax figures. By the end of the ‘show’ the audience is moderately amused, but before they depart, Dr. Diablo offers a chance to see the bonus exhibit for an additional 5 pounds. He promises to show the patrons something they could not see anywhere else. He gets a few customers to shell out the additional payment and they enter another curtained section. Much to their dismay, they are confronted with a wax figure fortune teller. Dr. Diablo insists that all they have to do is step up, look into her eyes and they will see their future and certain danger that awaits them. Of course, theytorture garden pic 1 do and we enter each one’s story.

Colin visits his sick uncle looking for a big monetary hand out after hearing rumors of his uncle paying for items with gold coins. When the Uncle begins having an attack, Colin holds his medication out of reach until he reveals the hidden gold. The uncle dies and soon after Colin is ripping the home apart, looking for the coins. He breaks into a trap door in the basement and is confronted by a cat with hypnotic eyes. In a trance, Colin goes out and kills the neighbor with a pitchfork. The cat rewards Colin with gold coins upon return. It turns out the feline is some nefarious deity.  It is not long before Colin has a wealth of gold coins and the suspicions of the police.

A young woman, struggling to be an actress, double crosses her roommate and meets some wealthy Hollywood hot shots. Her torture garden pic 8career skyrockets until she learns the truth of how stars are able to sustain lasting careers and the sacrifice she will have to make to hold her place in the Hollywood elite.

The next story sounds ridiculous but is filmed with enough conviction that allows you to accept what you’re seeing. A concert pianist meets a young lady reporter and it is clear that she wants more than an interview. When they begin to fall in love his prize piano becomes jealous and is intent on ending the relationship.

The fourth story is my favorite and was worth watching this movie for, alone. Jack Palance plays Ronald Wyatt, an historian and rare collector of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. At an exhibition, he meets Mr. Canning (Peter Cushing) who owns some rare items himself. The two men hit it off and Canning offers an open invitation for Mr. Wyatt to visit him when he’s in the states. Wyatt does pay Canning a visit to view his personal collection. The two men talk about Poe’ s work, exchange stories about their collections and indulge in quite a bit of brandy. Near the end of the night, Canning unveils the holy grail of Poe collectables, a lost, unpublished manuscript, The House of the Worm. The story about how Canning came into possession of this work is as fantastic as…one of Poe’ s fictional stories. As a Poe fan, this tale had me fascinated and intrigued.

All in all, an good Amicus anthology with fleshed-out stories and an interesting wrap-around. Worth a viewing.
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Related articles:

Amicus Films – overview

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Amicus Films – The Studio that Dripped Blood

Amicus Films – The Studio that Dripped Blood

A salute and overview

I am going to spend time reviewing most of the Amicus Films, horror and sci-fi releases. I am a big fan of Horror Anthologies and for years Amicus Films had been a name synonymous with that format of filmmaking. Before I delve into the film reviews, I thought it would be appropriate to post this history and overview of Amicus Films. Most horror fans probably know all the info max rosenberggathered here but it bares repeating from time to time, especially for younger horror fans looking to explore the roots of horror.

Amicus Films is a British film production company created by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg in 1962. The two had previously worked together on The City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) in 1960. The first two movies by Amicus Films were teenage, rock-n-roll, drive-in style movies. Not having much success with either, they steered Amicus Films into the field of horror. Emulating the format of the popular 1945 horror film, Dead of Night, the studio produced their 1st horror anthology, Dr. Terror’s miltonsubotskyHouse of Horrors. They would follow that with more horror anthologies, horror and thriller movies, and sci-fi features. Some of the horror anthologies were written by, or based upon stories by Robert Bloch. Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror were based upon stories from the EC Horror Comics of the same names.

Many Amicus films are often mistaken for Hammer Films. The biggest difference in each studio’s productions (especially early on) was; Hammer Films production’s were gothic period pieces, but the Amicus film’s were set in present day situations. Both studios procured mutual actors (Lee, Cushing) and directors. Amicus Films Studio’s most successful film, Tales From the Crypt, would later spawn a series on HBO in the late 1980’s and several films baring the Tales From the Crypt moniker through the 1990’s.
I own all of the horror films on dvd, and about half the sci-fi films. There is also a documentary called, Amicus House of Horrors: A History…. The documentary is mostly interviews with the actors and directors.

Amicus Films: Horror

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1964)
The Skull (1965)
Torture Garden (1967)
The House That Dripped Blood (1970)
Asylum (1972)
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
The Vault of Horror (1973)
From Beyond the Grave (1974)
And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)
The Beast Must Die (1974)
Madhouse (1974)


Horror Hotel (1960)
The Uncanny (1977)
The Monster Club (1980)

Amicus Films: Sci Fi

Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)
Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)
The Deadly Bees (1966)
They Came from Beyond Space (1967)
The Terrornauts (1967)
The Land That Time Forgot (1974)
The People That Time Forgot (1977)
At the Earth’s Core (1978)


The Psychopath (1966)
Danger Route (1967)
The Birthday Party (1968) (Directed by William Friedkin)
What Became of Jack and Jill? (1971)


The Mind of Mr. Soames (1969)
A Touch of Love (1969)

Rock N Roll films:

It’s Trad, Dad! (1962) (aka Ring-a-Ding Rhythm)
Just for Fun (1963)

Horror art – Early sci-fi and horror ‘pulp’ magazines

Horror art – Early sci-fi and horror ‘pulp’ magazines

Here are some of my favorite covers from early ‘pulp’ horror and sci-fi magazines. These were the small press publications that featured fiction short stories by HP Lovecraft, August Dereleth, Robert Block, and others, before they were well known and their stories were collected for anthologies. Publications like these were around from the 1920’s to the 1970’s.

Early sci-fi and horror ‘pulp’ magazines – cover art
(click on any cover for larger images)

astound2 Astounding_1953_10 amazing pic 5

The giant robot image was later used for a Queen album cover – News of the World

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HP Lovecraft………………….H.G. Wells (war of the worlds)

amazing pic 4 other worlds

Weird Tales still exists today… These are some of the earliest issues:

weird tales 1 weird tales 4 weird tales 3
HP Lovecraft in this one ……………………………………Robert Bloch

weird tales 6 weird tales 2
Doctor Satan!

Some of these issues are still around to purchase. I own a few myself. If you are interested in collecting, check out ebay and other great sites for collectable magazine fiction.