Distinctly Amicus


Distinctly Amicus

We’re all like-minded friends here, aren’t we? We all love our classic horror, right? And we all get annoyed when TV magazine schedules or pompous reviewers seem to refer to all classic British horror movies as ‘Hammer’. As if Hammer was all it was about (and don’t get me wrong, Hammer films and personnel are well worth celebrating) as if no other companies were contributing.

Why do we get so annoyed? Well, most of us were there, weren’t we? The BBC double bills of the 1970s, the continued prolific broadcasts of the 1980s. We grew up on this stuff and I’m sure that you were all the same as I was, soaking up every sound, every visual and every word of the credits. Yes, we noticed that Terence Fisher and Freddie Francis directed a lot of them, and yes, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were prolific. But we also clocked on that this was across a variety of different companies and studios. And it didn’t take long to spot the idiosyncratic aspects of the different people behind every production. Here, my friends, I wish to place one particular company in the spotlight and not only spot the differences between them and Hammer but also celebrate those differences. It is time to praise and contrast the distinct qualities of Amicus Productions.

Whilst there might have been the odd occasion when these two revered companies bore stronger similarities (some of the ‘Lost World’ type productions, the rare times that Amicus tried a suspense thriller or full-length period gothic), they definitely had their own flavours. As we know, Hammer excelled in full-colour re-imaginings of vintage classics such as Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy, presenting impressive-looking settings and liberal splashes of bright red blood.

Amicus ensured that they had a clear personal identity. The vast majority of their movies are set firmly in contemporary times and whilst many of the characters within the storylines were pretty well off, there was something of a seedy quality to them when compared to the well-spoken Victorians that oft-inhabited the Hammer landscape. For all of the fine upper middle-class homes and natty cravats worn jauntily, the Amicus characters were often greedy, grasping and deserving of a strong bit of retribution from beyond the grave!

Of course, Hammer was established much, much earlier than the company that would one day become a fairly serious rival in the British horror film stakes. Their first feature was released as early as 1935 and they started striking genre gold during the mid-fifties, first with monochrome adaptions of Nigel Kneale’s successful TV serials such as The Quatermass Xperiment (UK, Val Guest, 1955). That led to full colour gothic in the form of The Curse of Frankenstein (UK, Terence Fisher, 1957)… however, it was at this point that Hammer and Amicus founders Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg first crossed paths.

Subotsky had written a script entitled Frankenstein and the Monster, which he called “the most faithful adaption”, which it really wasn’t! It owed more to the first two Universal movies of the 1930s starring Boris Karloff. Hammer was sounded out regarding making the film as a black-and-white vehicle for Karloff and some interest was shown. However, when Hammer’s James Carreras looked into the project’s potential, he discovered that the similarities to the Universal product were a legal nightmare. What’s more, Hammer producer Tony Hinds thought that Subotsky’s script wasn’t very good (despite what Subotsky himself thought) and so it was scrapped, barring the opening and closing scenes of the Baron telling his story in flashback, something that doesn’t make sense as it means he is therefore admitting to body snatching and murder! Hammer paid Rosenberg and Subotsky’s Vanguard $5,000 and a cut of the profits and ran with their own colour interpretation of the tale which led to the success we now know. Rosenberg reacted philosophically though Subotsky harboured a grudge against Hammer forever more. And whilst the partners were convinced that horror movies were likely to be a cheap and easy way to consistent success, they rarely mimicked the Hammer style.

Although considered the first Amicus genre picture, The City of the Dead (Vulcan, John Llewellyn Moxey, 1960) was a Vulcan Production, made at Shepperton Studios in 1959, released in the UK in 1960 and arrived at US cinemas as the poorly retitled Horror Hotel in 1961. It made a small profit, not being a great success but convincing Rosenberg and Subotsky that modestly budgeted horror films could pay. Whilst Hammer was certainly still releasing some black-and-white movies at this point, their monochrome genre fare had tended to be brisk British science fiction or slick psychological thrillers set in the South of France, both of which made much of their exterior location shooting.

The City of the Dead instead opted for an American setting (all of the cast adopted accents, some more convincingly than others), and despite being restricted to shooting on studio interiors, director John (Llewellyn) Moxey, cinematographer Desmond Dickinson and the design crew managed to effectively present an eerie, fog-shrouded example of small-town Americana. It can’t be truthfully said that the film looks anything other than low budget, but it has plenty of atmosphere. And despite the presence of a marquee value name Christopher Lee (in a small role, carefully spread out across the running time), it is in no way reminiscent of a Hammer Film. They rarely covered the witchcraft aspect of the supernatural kingdom and rarely ventured Stateside. What Rosenberg and Subotsky presented was something with the distinct flavour of a cheap but artfully crafted independent picture that avoided the technicolour blood splashes of Hammer but managed to create an aura of disturbing nastiness, not least by matching Hitchcock’s Psycho (US, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) in the very same year, as a blonde heroine arrives at a creepy hotel and is summarily despatched, subverting expectations and providing a mid-movie shock that leaves the audience never knowing from then on if the good guys will win through.

However, once Amicus was finally set up as an official name and body in 1962, they attempted a brace of musical features to capture the teenage market. In 1964 though, they returned to the horror arena, this time in colour, and with many more Hammer alumni attached.

It might be worth summarising the obvious comparisons between Amicus and Hammer before looking at any other specific titles. First of all, let’s be in no doubt that Hammer was the bigger company, with offices on Wardour Street and by the early 60s cleverly setting down roots at Bray Studios where they built many impressive-looking sets on a budget and made use of the grounds for many exteriors. Amicus had a Saville Row head office and filmed at Shepperton Studios alongside many, many other companies.

It is also worth noting that Hammer made 166 films (plus a variety of short features and some television) between 1935 and 1979 before focusing entirely yet sporadically on television up until the archival documentary series The World of Hammer in 1990. Amicus only actually made 25 genre movies (including The City of the Dead). For a while, they competed admirably though, and undoubtedly, the familiarity of the personnel involved with both companies enabled both Hammer and Amicus to enjoy cinema success up until the end of the 70s.

The most prolific name performer for each of them was Peter Cushing, an established and award-winning television actor before becoming the pre-eminent star of Hammer from The Curse of Frankenstein onwards. Adept at playing both heroes and villains, well able to convey steely characters of action, men of mystery, fragile victims and dotty professor types, Cushing was a go-to professional. On the one hand, he could carry a horror film and his name above the title would attract custom, on the other, he was less rigorous in pushing for increased fees (as opposed to Christopher Lee). Perhaps the determining factor was Cushing’s tragic illness and eventual loss of his wife Helen in the early 70s, something that left him throwing himself into work to numb the pain. He made 19 movies for Amicus. Five of these were with his Hammer colleague Lee and, adding to the familiarity, regular Hammer support Michael Ripper also featured in a couple with him. Amicus and Hammer seemed to fish in similar thespian waters for other less associated performers. The likes of Barbara Ewing, Donald Sutherland, Jennie Linden, Nigel Green, Peter Woodthorpe, Bernard Cribbins, Suzanna Leigh, and Michael Gough (himself a prolific feature of genre productions) all appeared for both companies.

To cap it all, the two key directors that Rosenberg and Subotsky repeatedly returned to were Freddie Francis (who made five Hammer films between 1963 and 1968 but seven Amicus ones within roughly the same timeframe) and Roy Ward Baker who made far more Hammer (seven films plus one television episode between 1967 and 1974) but made his mark with Amicus via three consecutive movies over 1972-73. No wonder the more casual television viewers of later years confused the two companies when so many familiar names adorned the credits of so many films!

Who’s to say whether there was an element of respectful emulation in the latter, smaller outfit nabbing contributors of their main competitor? It’s more believable that the finance-focused Rosenberg recognised the sense of it whilst Subotsky might well have felt that it was a cheeky bit of one-upmanship.

The stroke of genius evident in the history of Amicus, becoming that for which they are best remembered, was the making of a series of seven portmanteau horror movies. These also stood out as significantly ‘other’ than Hammer because they all featured contemporary settings. More so, there was a distinct streak of very dark humour running through them. From a budgetary point of view, the anthology structure of (typically) four to five short tales linked by an overarching storyline made sense. As an easy example of how this helped to save the pennies, consider the six appearances by Peter Cushing, the most prolific of headlining stars. In two of these movies, Cushing portrays the sinister character who enables each tale to be told. As such, he appears in the prologue/epilogue of each, as well as providing short links between the stories themselves. That adds up to a reasonable short space of screen time, though spread out to ensure that there is enough of a consistent presence from the marquee name with which to satisfy the audience. As for the other four contributions from Cushing, they are all part of just one story in each film. This helped to keep the actor’s fees lower than they might be for a full shoot on a full-length feature. With the cash saved in that respect, money could be spent on short guest appearances from other name actors, hence, low-cost cameo slots from such names as Burgess Meredith, Jack Palance, Ralph Richardson, and Daniel Massey.

And, although the use of familiar gothic monstrosities such as vampires, werewolves, witches and voodoo worshippers might appear to tie in with Hammer following a perfunctory glance, in fact, Subotsky and co. were more likely having a little more fun at Hammer’s expense by often featuring said creatures in more comedic stories such as the vampire tales in Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (UK, Freddie Francis, 1964) – Donald Sutherland being tricked into staking his suspected vampiric wife to death by fellow vampire Max Adrian, The House That Dripped Blood (UK, Peter Duffell, 1970) – pompous horror actor Jon Pertwee and buxom supporting actress Ingrid Pitt) get turned into blood-drinking undead by a cursed cloak, and The Vault of Horror (UK, Roy Ward Baker, 1973) – Daniel Massey wanders into a twilight bar for local ‘nosferatu’, thus becoming the source of the hostelry’s House Red. As for voodoo, why not give it a comic musical tone and have it starring all-round entertainers Roy Castle and Kenny Lynch? Other movies in the series make the most of the blacker-than-black humour by using tales with a twist courtesy of source material from EC Comics or Robert Bloch. Thus, many an antihero comes a cropper and is taught a serious lesson from beyond the grave. Torture Garden (UK, Freddie Francis, 1967) features a jealous piano, Vault of Horror sees a neat freak husband killed, dismembered and stored tidily in labelled jars, and From Beyond the Grave (UK, Kevin Connor, 1974) makes the most of an assortment of recognisable sitcom-style characters such as the hen-pecked husband and his battle-axe wife (Ian Bannen and Diana Dors) and a wildly eccentric spiritualist (Margaret Leighton), all introduced by the most comedy Yorkshire shop proprietor this side of Ronnie Barker’s Arkwright from Open All Hours!

And, somehow, the insights into characters, their homes and ways of life, also mark Amicus’s product apart from their domineering competition. Amicus is full of characters wearing brightly coloured shirts and spectacular cravats. They are often writers, doctors, musicians or are involved in the world of acting. They have disposable income, speak in confidently airy tones of received pronunciation, and live in sizeably comfortable homes, doing business in modern offices. Of course, Hammer touches upon these people and places, but only generally in their so-called ‘Mini-Hitchcocks’, the psychological thrillers/gaslighting dramas that are often set in trendy areas of France. In Amicus productions, these people tend to be UK-based and find themselves having to deal with the supernatural… an uncanny otherworld brought to them through unseemly contact with the working classes and other unfortunates! For example, in Tales from the Crypt (UK, Freddie Francis, 1972), a smugly middle-class gent sees his snide son rendered literally heartless due to his bullying of the local dustman (played broadly but emotively by that man Cushing again) who is bringing the standards of the street down. The result? Cushing kills himself and returns from the grave to offer a bloody Valentine’s gesture. In From Beyond the Grave (1974), a brow-beaten Ian Bannen improves his self-esteem by faking a noble military career and showing off to a shabby war veteran played with sinister mock servitude by Donald Pleasence. This results in him and his wife (Diana Dors) being killed off via the dark arts, as requested by their embittered young son.

These tales are all short and not so sweet. Characters do bad things; characters don’t usually live to regret it. The nasty outcomes raise a smile as well as the hairs on the back of the viewer’s neck. Thus, Richard Todd finds that dissecting the body of his wife and wrapping the parts neatly in brown paper won’t stop her from giving him a good telling off, Christopher Lee pays for being strict with his daughter (who turns out to be a witch), and using voodoo to deal with art critics ends in crushing defeat for Tom Baker.

On the rare occasions that Amicus did attempt full-length horror, therefore aligning itself more closely with Hammer’s output, it still had its own clear identity. The Skull (UK, Freddie Francis, 1965) is an absolute classic, and it features familiar Hammer personnel on either side of the camera: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are there, and backed by any number of actors to be found frequenting Hammer films also. There is Patrick Wymark (The Secret of Blood Island (UK, Quentin Lawrence, 1965)), Jill Bennett (The Nanny (UK, Seth Holt, 1965)), Nigel Green (Sword of Sherwood Forest (UK, Terence Fisher, 1960), Countess Dracula (UK, Peter Sasdy, 1971)), Patrick Magee (Demons of the Mind (UK, Peter Sykes, 1972)), Peter Woodthorpe (The Evil of Frankenstein UK, Freddie Francis, 1964), Hysteria (UK, Freddie Francis, 1965)), Michael Gough (Dracula (UK, Terence Fisher, 1958), The Phantom of the Opera (UK, Terence Fisher, 1962)), and George Coulouris (Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (UK, Seth Holt, 1971) too.

Nevertheless, the results are considerably different to Hammer fare. For one thing, Milton Subotsky was again controlling the script, resulting in him presenting Francis with something that fell far short of the necessary run-time. This resulted in a superior film than most as the director found himself having to use his imagination and creativity to spin out long sequences such as Cushing’s feverish dream that borders on the nightmarishly surreal, and the unforgettable climax of the movie that creates maximum tension without dialogue for a remarkable length of time.

This particular project also saw Francis adopt the potentially gimmicky notion of filming from the perspective of the floating skull of the Marquis De Sade! The results are eerily effective and very much different to the Hammer approach.

Likewise, The Psychopath (UK, Freddie Francis, 1966), also directed by Francis, initially seems to emulate Hammer’s psycho thrillers but goes its own way, turning proceedings into a shabby police procedural based in England, but with macabre touches such as dolls left at the scene of crimes and a disabled German woman who holds dark secrets that might be the key to the occurrences.

Then Francis (again) attempts to work his magic on The Deadly Bees (UK, Freddie Francis, 1967), a production that is let down by its ambition. The locations generally speak of thrift and the effects work relating to bee attacks are often unconvincing. Where Francis does succeed is in creating a fair element of suspense regarding the heroine Suzanna Leigh and the ‘Who-Stung-It’ aspects of the script. This part clearly emphasises the involvement of much-revered author Robert Bloch at the first draft stage. Bloch also worked on The Skull, The Psychopath, and the anthologies Torture Garden, The House That Dripped Blood and Asylum (UK, Roy Ward Baker, 1972), investing each of his half-dozen Amicus jobs with a macabre gruesomeness and dark humour that ideally suited the company. The contemporary setting of these pictures also emphasises Amicus’s ‘house style’.

Full-length historical gothic features were few and far between, perhaps Subotsky and Rosenberg recognised such fare as being predominantly Hammer’s patch, but there were a couple of efforts in the early 70s that were of mixed quality. It seems an odd choice for Amicus to go in that direction at a time when gothic horror was virtually running on fumes. Hammer was desperately seeking any number of variations on a theme to boost interest, including lesbian vampires, contemporary set Dracula tales and trips to the circus! What Amicus offered was far more traditional in many ways.

I, Monster (UK, Stephen Weeks, 1971) was a re-tread of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novella ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ featuring an undeniably strong performance from Christopher Lee, though Peter Cushing is somewhat wasted in the supporting role of Utterson and the whole things slams to a halt whenever the charisma-free Mike Raven has dialogue. Perhaps it was an unusual choice to attempt a serious adaption of the story, after all, Hammer had done so and Amicus were keen to ride the same train without wearing the same driver’s uniform. Perhaps this is the answer to the enigma that surrounds the changing of the principal character’s name and, indeed, that of his dark alter ego. Jekyll and Hyde become Marlowe and Blake, and the credits refer to the story by Robert Louis Stevenson without specifically naming it. Could the reason be as simple as an effort by Rosenberg/Subotsky to distance themselves from the Hammer-shaped elephant in the room?

It is a shame that Lee’s work here is not attached to a better movie. Unfortunately, the direction by promisingly idiosyncratic up-and-comer Stephen Weeks is often oddly jarring whilst the efforts to present this as a 3-D production failed.

For this writer at least, And Now the Screaming Starts! (UK, Roy Ward Baker, 1973) is a more satisfying period gothic entry, dealing with that old trope of a young lord of the manor returning to his family seat with a blushing young bride, only to find that an ancestral curse will deny them happiness. Director Roy Ward Baker felt the title of the film was “silly” and it is hard to disagree, although Hammer alumnus Stephanie Beacham certainly does her fair share of lung-bursting as the victimised bride. Ian Ogilvy is as dashing a hero as any that Hammer might have offered and the young couple is surrounded by a dauntingly talented supporting cast of Guy Rolfe, Herbert Lom and Peter Cushing, though the latter (despite top billing) turns up late into proceedings. In many ways, the hysterically haunted characters who seem doomed from the start, and the brutality of eye gougings, a hand severing and a striking moment at the end when Ogilvy disinters his ancestor’s desiccated corpse and begins to smash it to pieces link it to Hammer’s Demons of the Mind (UK, Peter Sykes, 1972) which also features Magee. This is fitting, as each picture stands out as atypical within their company’s oeuvre.

Amicus also sporadically entered the realms of science fiction, again in keeping with Hammer, but it is interesting to note the differences. During the 1950s, Hammer made several gritty, often documentary-like sci-fi thrillers, hitting paydirt with their adaptions of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass stories that had first appeared in the form of BBC serials. Hammer recast the cerebral hero Professor Bernard Quatermass in the shape of the brusque American actor Brian Donlevy and whittled the stories down into fast-paced sci-fi thrillers that were hard and sharp. Amicus also first attempted science fiction by adapting a BBC TV series ten years later, but with Dr Who and the Daleks (UK, Gordon Flemyng, 1965) and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (UK, Gordon Flemyng, 1966) they opted for the full-colour experience, and turned the first two BBC serials (dark and atmospheric) into brightly coloured family adventures, with Peter Cushing cast as a complete reinterpretation of the central character who was far cuddlier than William Hartnell’s interpretation on television.

Two further science fiction spectacles on a strangulating budget appeared in 1967 – The Terrornauts (UK, Montgomery Tully, 1967) and They Came from Beyond Space (UK, Freddie Francis, 1967), appearing on a double bill. Both worked best as child-friendly family viewing experiences, the casting of Charles Hawtrey and Patricia Hayes as principal heroes in the former is a clear indication of the intended level. Neither was a success.

Oddly enough, as Hammer opted for a more over-the-top approach with their moon western Moon Zero Two (UK, Roy Ward Baker, 1969), Amicus headed in the opposite direction, aiming for more adult appreciation. Released early in 1970, Scream and Scream Again (UK, Gordon Hessler, 1970) was an AIP/Amicus co-production starring the AIP-locked Vincent Price in the main role of mad scientist whilst Christopher Lee had a smaller role as a mysterious ministry man and Peter Cushing played just one scene as an Eastern Bloc military officer.

Like many of the standalone Amicus movies, this was based on a novel (the same was true of The Deadly Bees, The Terrornauts and They Came from Outer Space whilst The Skull was based on a short story), in this case, ‘The Disorientated Man’ by Peter Saxon. One thing that could be said of Milton Subotsky, he was well-read in the realms of horror, sci-fi and fantasy, and he brought many ideas to the table based on his vociferous appetite for such literary material.

Scream and Scream Again is often misunderstood as being uneven and confusing, but critics perhaps overlook the fact that this was the whole intention of the original text, hence the ‘Disorientated’ part of the original book title. Things are only supposed to pull together in the closing part of the story. Bearing this in mind, the more one views the film, the more satisfying it becomes. However, it did mark a change in approach for the Amicus sci-fi productions. With its plentiful nudity, sexual violence and brutal deaths, there can be no doubt that family fun time was over.

The same could be said for the same year’s adaption of Charles Eric Maine’s The Mind of Mr. Soames (UK, Alan Cooke, 1970) but this one was far more cerebral. Featuring a strong triumvirate of talented actors in Terence Stamp, Nigel Davenport and Robert Vaughan, it eschewed the more obvious 70s horror/exploitation tropes in favour of an emotional study of a man awakening from a 30-year coma with the intellect of a child. Through intensive study and coaching, the man develops but eventually makes a bid for freedom. Tragedy ensues. Columbia provided an impressive budget although the nature of the script doesn’t necessarily allow that to shine through.

This production was one of several that saw Amicus trying to find something fresh during that difficult time when there was a glut of genre movies being released and the British film industry was beginning to struggle. Interestingly, Hammer mainly stuck to their gothic template, simply adding more nudity or a quirk in time or setting. Amicus, meanwhile, tried to change their horror content more dramatically and in a way that might previously have seemed unlikely. The 70s predilection for nudity and increasingly cynical levels of blood and violence was something that Amicus had avoided to a certain extent. Of course, their pictures were macabre, and violent things certainly happened aplenty, but Subotsky had oft decried the relish with which Hammer had thrown blood and buxom beauties at the screen.

It was therefore surprising that Amicus attempted something far more exploitative with What Became of Jack and Jill? (UK, Bill Bain, filmed in 1970, released in 1972), a movie based upon the Laurence Moody novel ‘The Ruthless Ones’. Almost immediately, the powers that be seemed to regret the decision to mine such a rich seam of darkness and cynicism, a film that made the most of the younger generation versus older generation attitudes that proliferated within exploitation cinema. They quickly sold it on to Twentieth Century Fox. Nevertheless, this now fairly obscure picture stands as comparable to Hammer’s Straight On Till Morning (UK, Peter Collinson, 1972) in trading the by now cosier chills and thrills of British horror movies for the newer variety of nastier psychological torment.

Two other attempts at new angles came in 1974, firstly with Madhouse (UK, Jim Clark, 1974), loosely based on the Angus Hall novel ‘Devilday’. As this was another AIP co-production, it again positioned Vincent Price as its star, thereby giving the picture the sort of camp light-heartedness that mingled with the grislier element, in short – the sort of thing that was Price’s bread and butter. Therefore, despite the presence of Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing and other players from ‘that’ company, such as Linda Hayden (Taste the Blood of Dracula (UK, Peter Sasdy, 1970)) and Adrienne Corri (Vampire Circus (UK, Robert Young, 1972)), the film felt distinctly non-Hammer, but also not quite Amicus. The contemporary setting and dark humour were there in this tale of a horror actor plagued by fatal accidents on the sets of his movies, but the overall mood was quite similar to the likes of other Price vehicles such as the Dr. Phibes brace and Theatre of Blood (UK, Douglas Hickox, 1973) though inferior to them all.

Then there was the flawed yet interesting entry in the so-called ‘Blaxploitation’ genre, The Beast Must Die (UK, Paul Annett, 1974), based upon the James Blish short story ‘There Shall Be No Darkness’ and yet another example of the well-read Subotsky finding inspiration in the pages of books). This earnest attempt at trendiness placed Calvin Lockhart as the big game-hunting anti-hero who invites a houseful of potential werewolves to his estate for the weekend. This includes Hammer personnel such as Peter Cushing (again), Anton Diffring (The Man Who Could Cheat Death (UK, Terence Fisher, 1959)) and Charles Gray (The Devil Rides Out (UK, Terence Fisher, 1958)).

Interestingly enough, though one might imagine werewolves to be more the domain of Hammer, this was the second Amicus movie to feature lycanthropes (Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors featured one back in 1964) compared to the one that the competition had released. With its funky soundtrack and gimmicky ‘Werewolf Break’ which gave the audience time to reflect upon who they thought the werewolf was), this felt more like another AIP production rather than either Hammer or Amicus. The reception it received did not encourage further forays in this direction.

Basically, by the 70s, Amicus were increasingly dependent on the success of more and more anthology films in the same way that Hammer was increasingly returning to Dracula and, to a lesser extent, Frankenstein. However, 1974 also saw Amicus find more success via a new avenue – that of the ‘Lost World’ sub-genre of sci-fi/fantasy. The final three movies made by the company would all be based on pulp novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of ‘Tarzan’) and would star beefy American TV star Doug McLure. These were The Land That Time Forgot (UK, Kevin Connor,1974), At the Earth’s Core (UK, Kevin Connor, 1976) and The People That Time Forgot (UK, Kevin Connor, 1977), though by the time of the final film Subotsky had been ousted from his position on the board of the company and Amicus were out of business before the release, resulting in it getting an AIP credit instead. Yet again, Amicus was paddling in waters that Hammer had also done earlier. Hammer’s first releases in this direction were She (UK, Robert Day, 1965) and One Million Years B.C. (UK, Don Chaffey, 1966), the latter boasting Ray Harryhausen’s typically brilliant stop-motion effects for the dinosaurs featured in the tale. By the early 70s, Hammer had cut out the magic and monsters altogether. Most featured primitive tribes only, such as in the likes of Slave Girls (UK, Michael Carreras, 1967) and Creatures the World Forgot (UK, Don Chaffey, 1971). Amicus featured big monsters in all three of their Burroughs fantasies but swerved the high cost of stop-motion effects and opted instead for glove puppets, models and monster suits that could be worn by small stuntmen. They weren’t always convincing, and these movies divide opinion, but they offer a cosy charm for many, like myself, who first experienced big monsters on the big screen courtesy of Amicus.

On reflection, then, it is clear to see why so many casual film viewers confuse the work of Amicus and Hammer, and yet the differences in approach and realisation are clear to see. At the end of the day, the lower budget efforts of Amicus are today remembered every bit as fondly as the Hammer output

Picture of Ian Talbot Taylor

Ian Talbot Taylor

Ian writes both fiction and non-fiction. The former includes the anthology Spoken in Whispers co-written with Andrew Llewellyn, the latter includes The Dark Side and We Belong Dead magazines.

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The House that Dripped Blood

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