From Beyond the Grave

Director: Kevin Connor

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl


From Beyond the GraveAn anthology film based on tales by Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes (1919-2001), From Beyond the Grave (1973) has been recycled upon occasion with variant titles, including Creatures, Creatures from Beyond the Grave, Tales from Beyond the Grave, Tales from the Beyond, & The Undead.

R. Chetwynd-Hayes was sort of Britain's Robert Bloch, an author occasionally of scarey stories, but more commonly of jokey macabre stories.

In 1988 he received the Bram Stoker Award for lifetime achievement, & the following year received a British Fantasy Society Award.

From Beyond the Grave begins with "The Gate Crasher." This tale finds David Warner as Edward, looking very mod, wandering into Peter Cushing's oddities shop called Temptations.

He obtains an item cheaply & brings it home. He knows full well it's worth a fortune, & is proud to have taken advantage of who he assumed was an ignorant shopkeeper.

He holds a seance for entertainment's sake in his tastelessly appointed flat, in front of his new purchase, an antique mirror.

This results in his first contact with a demonic gent (Marcel Steiner). Later when the guests have gone home, the demon in the mirror tells Warner, "You must feed me."

The Gate CrasherSo Edward fetches to his apartment a harlot (Rosalind Ayres) to slay in front of the mirror. All too soon, the mirror is again demanding, "Feeeed meeee bloood."

It's a crappy story that pretends never to have seen Little Shop of Horrors (1960) & nowhere near the spookiness intended.

The only thing interesting about any of this is Edward never cleans up his apartment which gets rather bloody.

The mirror-demon improves his personal appearance with each slaying in his behalf, with the most obvious fillip at the end not the least satisfying.

When the apartment is remodeled, somehow the ugly-ass mirror survives the changes. The new owner of the flat (Dallas Adams) has friends over to hold a seance, cause doesn't everyone. This results in an encoutner with the mirror-demon. But this time it's Edward.

An Act of Kindness Meanwhile in Cushing's alley shop, another character peers in, but decides not to enter. Instead, he heads down the street, where a beggar named Jim (Donald Pleasance) sells matches. We enter the second tale, "An Act of Kindness."

Our current protagonist, Christopher (Ian Bannen), then goes home to his cruddy wife (Diana Dors) & cruddy kid (John O'Farrell) to be served a cruddy dinner. He ends up in an argument with his harridan wife. Life sucks.

The next day he speaks to the beggar in a familiar way, telling him he wished he was back in his military days.

He pretends to have been decorated for valor. For this reason he attempts to buy a medal from Cushing's junk shop, steals it instead, & uses it to impress the beggar, who really is a decorated vet.

An Act of KindnessThe beggar invites him round for tea, with the beggar's family. Jim's daughter Emily (Angela Pleasance) is pretty but odd. Christopher finds himself preferring the company of this family over that of his own.

His new friends agree his family life is deplorable; indeed, Emily is working up some witchcraft against Christopher's horrible wife.

A demonic bond developes between the clerk who pretends to be a war hero, & the beggar's witchy daughter. This story's not badly done, & when Emily uncovers the voodoo doll of Christopher's wife, it's an effective moment even if it is a cliche.

Mable, Christopher's wife, is soon gotten out of the way thanks to witchcraft. Christopher then marries Emily. But there's a twist in the end, comical & cruel, making this episode tepidly successful.

The ElementalAnd so another gent, Reginald (Ian Carmichael), comes to Cushing's shop of antiques & collectibles. He sets his gaze on an old snuff box which is a mite pricy, so he switches price tags.

By now we know that obtaining anything in the shop by theft, trickery, or misdirection, brings a curse with the purchase. And the fact that it's a "snuff" box is a built-in pun, since getting one's come-uppance for minor crimes seems to mean getting snuffed.

Our third protagonist's cross to bear will be the titular "The Elemental," something of a monkey on his back.

On the train home, Reginald encounters an eccentric woman, Madame Orloff (Margaret Leighton), who insists he has a malevolent elemental perched on his shoulder.

The ElementalShe gives him her calling card, as she's a clairvoyant, & quite certain he will be needing her expertise.

At home, his dog Mr. Hawkins no longer likes him. With a couple more mysterious troubles, Reginald calls for the help of Madame Orloff.

She's kind of cool in a dorky sort of way, a dorky manner that thrilled me as a kid seeing films like this at the drive-in. She arrives at Reginald's home with corny poems of exorcism, inducing poltergeist activity.

Utter silliness progresses, with everything in the house getting broken & flung about. At last she declares victory & the racket & turmoil quietens.

She leaves & once the mess is cleaned up, everything seems okay, Until!, dot dot dot. Surprise endings so rarely are, as his wife Susan (Nyree Dawn Porter) gets the last word in.

The DoorThe fourth & final tale is "The Door." And I said to myself, "This had better be better than these other ones have been!"

And iindeed for my tastes it turned out to be the best of the lot, it being common enough that such anthology films end on their best note.

The young man who enters the antique shop is William (Ian Ogilvy; central casting greatly adored actors named Ian). He takes a fancy to a nasty-looking door with a devil carved into it in relief.

He pays an honest price for it so we can assume he won't be bothered by its curse. But then, alas for him, he has the opportunity of a five-finger discount, & appears to have taken advantage of the moment.

The DoorThe door is fitted to one of their cupboards. Soon he & his wife Rosemary (Lesley-Anne Down) discover the door opens into a blue room rather then their stationary cabinet.

The eerie, candlelit room is festooned with cobwebs. The dimensional doorway to another place is an almost Lovecraftian set-up.

There's a grimoire on a table, & a portrait of a sorcerer on the wall. It was he that created this ghost-room, which is sustained by human sacrifice. The room is set with traps for the sake of future sacrifices.

A spooky imagiantive yarn portrays a good fight against the evil room, with Williant intent on saving Rosemary & winning back his stationary cabinet. In a sort of double-surprise, it turns out he had not taken advantage of the chance for a five-fingered discount & therefore the cursed object is defeatable.

From Beyond the GraveA half-tale or coda closes the film. A thug (Ben Howard) who we've previoiusly glimpsed in the between-tale moments finally enters the shop with intent of robbery. He handles two antique duelling pistols & with them demands the proprietor empty the till.

He shoots the proprietor twice without effect, but himself falls into a coffin-sized trunk.

In all, a fun film packed with meritorious character actors. Though very little is actually scarey or shocking, it's nevertheless colorful & by right of telling four tales, swiftly paced.

It's a fine example of a type of film from the day, usually made by Amicus or Hammer (this one's from Amicus), which told multiple tales within a wraparound story. Anyone who was young when such films were new will get an extra boost for the nostalgia of the thing.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]