Thursday, January 24, 2019

Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

Just a quick 'Random Movie Trailer' today.  It was inevitable that, with the success enjoyed by Amicus with its anthology horror movies in the late sixties and early seventies, others would try to imitate them.  Unfortunately, the independently produced Tales That Witness Madness has to rank as one of the worst anthology movies ever.  Despite a star studded cast, decent production values and the presence of Amicus regular Freddie Francis in the director's seat, the stories themselves are simply not very good.  They provide the viewer with nothing they haven't seen before, even the mental institute framing story feels tired, having been done better by Amicus the previous year in Asylum.  The first story involving the young boy and his imaginary tiger is the only reasonably effective story.  The other three are either ineffective, like the 'Uncle Albert' story, failing to generate any scares, utterly ludicrous, like the third story which sees Joan Collins in a love triangle with her sculptor boyfriend and a tree (yes, a tree), or, like the final voodoo story, telegraph their all too obvious punchlines.

The biggest problem faced by Tales That Witness Madness, though, was that it was released at the wrong time: by 1973 the portmanteau horror movie sub-genre was running out of steam.  In truth, it had been completely flogged to death by Amicus, whose own cycle of such films had probably reached a peak in 1972 with Tales From the Crypt and Asylum.  Indeed, Amicus' later anthology films (Vault of Horror (1973) and From Beyond the Grave (1974) are notably inferior to their predecessors).  Tales That Witness Madness does try to differentiate itself from the Amicus productions by taking a less campy approach to its material, with a cast devoid of obvious horror stars (with the exception of Donald Pleasance), giving relatively restrained performances.  But, with a weak script, it just comes over as po faced and pretentious, too timid even to acknowledge that it is a horror film.  Sadly, it was to be Jack Hawkins' last screen appearance (he died after filming his scenes), while for Kim Novak it marked a return to acting after a four year absence.  She really needn't have bothered.  Novak had replaced Rita Hayworth at short notice, after Hayworth allegedly wandered off of the set and never returned.  She'd obviously read the script.

World Film Services, the production company behind Tales That Witnesses Madness, also produced a couple of other horror films during this period: the intriguing but not entirely successful The Creeping Flesh, and the would be horror comedy Vampira (aka Old Dracula), starring David Niven.  These were something of a digression for the company, which had previously been involved with artier titles like Boom! and Secret Ceremony (with the odd exploitation picture thrown in).  They operated until the mid-eighties, mainly involved with more serious pictures.  Clearly, their excursion into horror didn't prove profitable.



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