It’s strange what can draw a person to a movie, or repulse them as well. Take this movie, for example. Put out by Amicus, who did a lot of anthology movies around the late ’60s and early ’70s (such as Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and Tales From the Crypt), it was directed by their in-house director Kevin Connor (At the Earth’s Core, Motel Hell; tho this was his first movie for them) in workmanlike fashion without much style or flair, but enough talent to develop an entertaining movie. What puts it over the top and makes it more enjoyable is the performances. They lift this movie away from being a silly, mediocre early ’70s British horror quickie (of which there are plenty) and turn it into, well, maybe not quite a classic, but an enjoyable watch.
As mentioned above, it’s an anthology, featuring 4 stories (plus a wrap around story to tie them all together). It details what happens to several dishonest customers who come into an antique shop named Temptations Ltd, which is run by Peter Cushing, looking rather haggard and older than he really was (his wife had passed away just a year or two before filming, which was very hard on him), but charming and gentlemanly as ever (Cushing brings something extra to most any role he played, but he seemed almost born to play this role- he is perfect in it). His performance anchors the film, but it’s complimented by several of Britain’s finest actors.
In the first story, the always reliable David Warner fast-talks him into selling a valuable mirror very cheaply, which turns out to hold the spirit of a dangerous being who demands to be fed… with blood This story is hampered by not having enough time to breathe and create suspense, and a pace that’s way too fast. It’s probably the weakest story of the bunch, and even Warner can’t really save it from being a bit bland.
The second segment is probably the best one, in which a worm of a man stuck in a loveless marriage with a shrew (played by Diana Dors, who was also in Theatre of Blood with Vincent Price) befriends a down on his luck ex-military man (a nicely restrained Donald Pleasance) selling matches on the street corner. He steals a medal from Temptations Ltd to impress the ex-serviceman, who invites him over for tea, and to meet his daughter (played by his real life daughter Angela Pleasance). Things are not as they seem, tho, and everyone gets what’s coming to them.
The third story is a comedy, and a showcase for the entertainingly hammy talents of Margaret Leighton, a British theatre actress who never did much on screen. She plays an eccentric medium who spies a homocidal (and invisible) imp attached to the shoulder of a man who just came from ripping off Temptations Ltd for a silver snuff box, and tries to help him get rid of it.
The last tale, like the first one, suffers from being too short and being hurried along at too fast of a pace, and involves young couple who buy an antique door that sometimes opens a doorway into another world.
The storylines themselves are rather hokey and pedestrian, but the acting is outstanding. You end up liking a lot of these characters (or disliking some of them, as they are played to be unlikable), and wanting to see them interact with each other more. The set dressing and production values are also very nice, and provide a great atmosphere for the stories. Unlike rivals Hammer, Amicus didn’t soak their movies in gore and blood much, and this one is no exception- the violence and bloodletting is rather tame, and the overall feel of the whole thing is actually very quaint and charming. I find the old time urban British setting to be a nice place to visit on screen, which makes the whole thing even more appealing.
So, to sum it all up, From Beyond the Grave is not a masterpiece, but is a nice little charming horror anthology that would go good on a cold October night with hot chocolate and peanut butter crackers (or whatever your snack of choice might be).