Amicus! A British studio well known for their horror anthologies and the only real horror presence in the UK to compete with Hammer's numerous outputs throughout the 60's/70's. Dr Terror's House Of Horrors was their first anthology, and while not as good as some of their later films, is a nice start!
The film follows five strangers (including Christopher Lee, 'Record Breaker' Roy Castle and a young Donald Sutherland), all sat next to one another on the same train, getting their fortunes told by a tarot card wielding Dr Schreck. A werewolf curse, a killer vine, what happens if you plagiarise a sacred voodoo song, a dead artists disembodied hand out for revenge, and a new wife acquiring some rather fangy attributes make up the five stories and the stranger's rather shaky (to say the least) futures.
The thing with Amicus' anthologies is that even though most of the stories presented in their films are good, there's always one, which lets the side down. In Dr Terror's case it's 'Voodoo', Roy Castle's segment about the stealing of sacred music. The attitude within it seems pretty dated (least alone the presentation of most of the black characters, all being highly threatening and mad voodoo worshippers of course) as does Castle's cheeky chappy humour and acting, and the fact there isn't a decent payoff to the character's actions marks it down in tone.
The other four stories (and the train journey rap-around) are all very good. Freddie Francis (also behind Hammer's most successful Dracula Has Rosen From The Grave) shows off his great directorial skills. Many shots stand out, weather it's Cushing slowly wiping condensation off a window, to a hand crawling along a road, all done in a highly atmospheric way, that is kept sustained throughout the film (even in Voodoo).
Of course kudos must be given to the key players as well. Donald Sutherland shows great promise as the youngest of the group, Neil McCallum and Alan Freeman also do a good job, being the lesser-known members of the group. The other standout performances come from the underrated Michael Gough, in an almost cameo as an artist who can't find recognition, Christopher Lee as a pompous art critic hunted down by Gough's hand, who manages to go from suave but cold-blooded, to a complete wreck in about ten minutes. And then there's Peter Cushing, giving his best, and showing his creepy side as Dr. Schreck, the tarot who is holding something back from the group!
A good start for the Amicus team, using a formula that obviously could only get better (Tales From The Crypt and Asylum). Of course featuring a couple of stand out stories (not Voodoo obviously), and one that I feel could of been feature-length (the werewolf section...not the hand one, Oliver Stone tried that to disastrous results), great acting and direction, it really is a worthwhile film, also anyone out there new to the whole 'British horror anthology ' concept, then it's probably the best place to start!