Dr Nicholas (Jack Hawkins) drives up to the gates of this high-tech asylum in the middle of the English countryside one night and is allowed in. As he walks through the door, there doesn't appear to be anybody about until he is welcomed by the head psychiatrist there, Professor Tremayne (Donald Pleasence), and he has exciting news for his guest. There are four cases he has been working on, and according to him he has finally cracked each and every one of them, this in spite of the patients' stories sounding nonsensical. He then takes Dr Nicholas to meet them in turn to hear what he has found...
If it looks like an Amicus anthology, sounds like an Amicus anthology and for all we know smells like an Amicus anthology, then what could it be but a... World Film Services anthology? Who were those guys? They had a few titles to their name from the late sixties to the mid-eighties, a strange mixture of prestige productions and genre fare which suggested they were none too discriminating, but as the British horror boom wound down in the seventies they had no qualms about introducing their own portmanteau chiller to cinemas in the hopes that nobody would notice it wasn't quite the real deal, that being a Milton Subotsky-scripted effort.
Actually this wasn't based on any American shocker comics, but sprang from the mind of British actress Jennifer Jayne, here using a pseudonym and presumably her experience from appearing in genuine Amicus movies, including the first and one of their most appreciated anthologies, Doctor Terror's House of Horrors, also directed by Freddie Francis. Her ideas ranged from the fair enough, nothing spectacular to the downright bizarre, but with a female perspective on what was up to that point largely a male preserve, so there were strong feminine characters concerns here, not that it made her oddest premises any the less outré. Naturally, it's this sort of business which sticks in the mind of unsuspecting viewers many years later.
The opening yarn Dr Nicholas hears (this was Hawkins' last role, dubbed by Charles Gray thanks to cancer robbing Hawkins of his voice) could have been influenced by another movie. Or at least a Ray Bradbury short story, for by featuring a kid with an imaginary - but actually quite savage - pet tiger summoned memories of the then-recent adaptation of The Illustrated Man, particularly as they round off their tellings in almost identical manner. Next up was one of the most memorable, the one with the penny farthing which heir to a lot of furniture and Victorian bric-a-brac Peter McEnery finds himself strangely drawn to when he hangs up a photograph of long-deceased Uncle Albert next to it. Before he knows what is happening, a supernatural power has plonked him in the saddle and sent him back in time to inhabit Albert's past life.
But only one part of it, as the plot develops into a vicious circle which barely makes sense. Next up, Michael Jayston brings home a big bit of tree and leaves it in his living room where wife Joan Collins is understandably incensed - not least because he now falls in love with the tree and neglects his wife. Oh, and the tree is sort of alive and manipulative. Of course it is. The ending to this one throws up all sorts of questions you might not want the answers to, but no time to dwell on that as Kim Novak is in our last segment, here planning an exotic party but not realising her new friend Michael Petrovich has ulterior motives for setting it up for her. This one had future Romana from Doctor Who Mary Tamm as the daughter whose purpose in the story you could see from a mile away, leaving this last broken backed with its premise able to be summed up in one sentence, though it felt longer. Watching this movie on late night TV is something many have had the dubious pleasure of; not great, but stubbornly weird. Music by Bernard Ebbinghouse.
A much respected cinematographer for decades, British Francis made his way up from camera operator on films like The Small Back Room, Outcast of the Islands and Beat the Devil to fully fledged cinematographer on such films as Room at the Top, Sons and Lovers (for which he won his first Oscar), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and The Innocents (a masterpiece of his art).
Late in his career, he returned to cinematography with David Lynch's The Elephant Man, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Dune, Glory (winning his second Oscar), the Cape Fear remake and The Straight Story, his final work and one of his greatest.