Tiny Budgets Big Ideas
Four films out this summer showcase what Britain’s Amicus studios were all about.
Best known for portmanteau horror movies (Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, Tales From the Crypt) and their status as Britain’s number two horror company, Amicus – founded by producers Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg – had a more varied output than their rival, Hammer, leavening horrors with prestige (a William Friedkin adaptation of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party) and pop musical revues (Just for Fun).
Subotsky, a longtime science fiction fan, had a commitment to kid-friendly action-adventure, producing the 1960s Dr Who/Dalek movies and delivering sci-fi and fantasy (on tiny budgets) which prefigured the blockbusting wave that came along with Star Wars, a film studded with Amicus graduates onscreen and in the effects department.
This summer StudioCanal are releasing four titles from the Amicus back catalogue. They Came From Beyond Space (1967), directed by Freddie Francis, is a Quatermass-ish quickie based on Joe Millard’s wonderfully-titled novel The Gods Hate Kansas. A scientist with a silver plate in his head that makes him immune to mind control realises aliens are among us with dubious purposes. It’s a brisk, less ambitious effort, but looks forward to Amicus’s 1970s work, when director Kevin Connor put US TV star Doug McClure through a series of invigorating lost world adventures based on the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Also out in July is The Land That Time Forgot (1975), scripted by novelist Michael Moorcock, which has a serious side, and both At the Earth’s Core (1976) and Warlords of Atlantis (1978), which are simply just for fun.
They Came From Beyond Space, The Land That Time Forgot, At The Earth’s Core and Warlords of Atlantis are all out on DVD on 30 July 2012.
Words: Kim Newman