Director – Freddie Francis
Cast – Donald Pleasence, Donald Houston, Georgia Brown, Russell Lewis, Peter McEnery, Suzy Kendall, Frank Forsyth, Michael Jayston, Joan Collins, Kim Novak, Michael Petrovitch, Mary Tamm, Leon Lissek, Jack Hawkins
Release Year – 1973
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had this film on my reviewing queue for quite some time, and honestly my only interest in viewing this piece was its “starring” actor Donald Pleasence. While I absolutely love anthology horror films, I had my doubts going into this watch due to its rarity and look/feel, and after finally giving this a watch I can say that my doubts were proven correct. While the execution is good at times, this overly simple film fails to deliver strong enough horror to warrant a truly positive review.
Dr blah blah, an eccentric psychiatrist touting a new breakthrough in the treatment of four patients, tells four tales of the madness that brought them there.
The first entry follows a young boy whose constantly bickering parents fail to acknowledge his imaginary friend, a tiger. This is the most simple effort in the film, and possibly the most horrific as well. We’ve seen the plot numerous times, where a young child’s imaginary friend is ignored by his/her parents, only to come back and haunt the parents in the end. I really cannot explain this story more without giving away the whole story, but despite it’s simple execution it was very effective and gave us possibly the more gruesome horror the film had to offer, which wasn’t much, but still.
The next story focuses on Timothy, an antique store owner whose historical bicycle sends him back in time, and is followed by a strange man reminiscent of an ever-changing photo of his uncle. This one was a bit cheesy due to the usage of the uncles photo, but overall it did a decent job of providing horror. There is a fairly strong love element as well, the only such one in this film, and that adds to the originality of this piece. The story is one that you must pay attention to, but keep in mind this is a story that could have been much better.
The third installment was definitely my favorite, which follows a man who brings home an odd looking tree stump found in the woods, much to the behest of his wife, and must choose between who he loves more – the tree or his wife, a tough decision to make. It sure sounds silly, but it worked very well and was not executed in overly silly fashion. I loved the idea of the man bringing home the odd and creepy looking tree stump, and it seemingly coming to life and heckling his wife was great, but ultimately the film hits peak enjoyability when the wife and stump duel to the death, which we sadly don’t see first hand but the closing sequence sustains the enjoyability.
The fourth entry was the one I enjoyed the least, which focuses on murder and voodoo and in uninteresting fashion. We follow a man set on devouring a woman’s young daughter, and the bulk of the experience falls apart due to poor pacing and unengaging material. The direction could have been much better, and while it made for maybe the goriest entry it also made for the worst the film had to offer.
The wraparound is nothing to write home about, but at least ended in pretty sweet but cheesy fashion.
Overall, Tales That Witness Madness is a film that could have been much better, but in the end is just a borderline-positive experience that will leave you unsatisfied.