Sunday, June 1, 2008

Temptations Limited


Years before becoming a stalwart of television tat,
Lesley-Anne Down earned her stripes fighting forces of evil.

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE is an Amicus gem which stars Peter Cushing as the wily Yorkshire-accented proprietor of Temptations Limited. This decrepit antiques shop situated between a cemetery and a demolition contractor has its customers face a supernatural death if they conduct their business dishonestly. There are four stories here, all based on the work of R. Chetwynd-Hayes: The Gate Crasher has David Warner buying a haunted mirror; An Act of Kindness sees middle-aged Ian Bannen finding solace from his overbearing wife (Diana Dors) in the company of a street vendor and his daughter (Donald and Angela Pleasence); The Elemental documents Ian Carmichael possessed by an imp; and The Door bought by Ian Ogilvy and Lesley-Anne Down opens an ancient blue room.

Directed by Kevin Conner, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE is an anthology bettered only by DEAD OF NIGHT, and similar to the Ealing classic, the framing story has a resonant thread (and the first and fourth tales are closely modelled on the Googie Withers/Ralph Michael DEAD OF NIGHT segment).
The Elemental strongly shifts from comedy to horror in its final twist, as the demon passes from Carmichael’s bland, commuter-belt persona to Nyree Dawn Porter’s disgruntled housewife. The Door contains the most sophisticated use of colour attempted in a British horror - the cobwebbed room of a Necromancer bent on "the entrapment of those yet to be born" - but it is An Act of Kindness that cements the reputation of the film, a compelling narrative of believable characters with poignant yearnings. Donald Pleasence - his every utterance a military cliché - is suitable unsettling as the kipper-tied, match-selling old soldier, yet it is the performance of real-life daughter Angela which is the most unnerving.