Amicus at 60: in search of its crypts, wax museums and other locations

A rival to Hammer horror in its heyday, Amicus became famous for its creepy anthology films. Sixty years after the studio was founded, we went looking for the locations from some of its spookiest offerings.

26 October 2022

By Adam Scovell

Tales from the Crypt (1972)

In the 1960s and 1970s, British horror saw a rivalry between two legendary studios. On the one hand, Hammer Studios dominated with their luridly coloured gothic output. On the other were the underdogs: Amicus Productions. Founded by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, 60 years ago, and run from a shed at Shepperton Studios, Amicus became celebrated for their visceral and enjoyably modern terrors.

Influenced by the controversial EC Comics of decades earlier, Amicus were particularly renowned for their portmanteau films. Beginning with Freddie Francis’s Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), these were feature films made up of short horror tales, in the template of Ealing Studios’ 1945 forerunner Dead of Night. The cinematic equivalent of a compendium of fireside ghost stories, this format allowed for both innovation and a wealth of stars to come in and perform for much quicker shoots.

More so than Hammer, whose output was weighted towards period horror, Amicus’s films really captured the 1970s in all of their colourful, grimy, garish detail. Many of the studio’s strongest films feel like an absurdist snapshot of Britain in the period: its architecture, homes, towns and suburbs. To celebrate 60 years since this beloved mainstay of British horror was founded, here are some of the most effective Amicus locations as they stand today.

The house from The Skull (1965)

Freddie Francis’s The Skull is one of Amicus’s underrated standalone films, made just as they were starting to get a taste for anthologies. Its narrative, however, still feels like a shorter entry stretched over a feature-length running time, involving the wheeling and dealing around the supposedly possessed skull of the Marquis de Sade. The film relishes a gothic rendition of London and makes the most of several beautiful period locations, of which the most effective – almost Holmesian in its atmosphere – is Great Cumberland Place.

The Skull (1965)
Location from The Skull (1965) in the present day

It’s here, amid the address’s faded grandeur, where the film’s collector of rare esoterica and occult artefacts lives. The road is still there as it was, and the house is now part of a vast four-star hotel and its various facilities.

The Skull (1965)
Location from The Skull (1965) in the present day

The wax museum from The House That Dripped Blood (1971)

Although an obvious visit for Peter Duffell’s The House That Dripped Blood would be the titular house, sadly it was demolished some time ago. Instead, the most recognisable extant building from the film is seen in the segment ‘Waxworks’ starring Peter Cushing, which follows the morbid goings-on of a wax museum, ever a cliché of horror films. The building is first seen when Cushing’s character spots it on the high street.

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
Location from The House That Dripped Blood (1971) in the present day

The building is Weybridge Hall in Weybridge, on the corner of Church Street and Minorca Road. Appropriately, there are currently plans to turn it into a cinema, though the building is empty at the moment.

The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
Location from The House That Dripped Blood (1971) in the present day

The crypt from Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Highgate Cemetery has a long and illustrious relationship with horror, real and fictional, so it makes an appropriate number of appearances in Amicus’s back catalogue, most importantly in Freddie Francis’s Tales from the Crypt. It’s in Highgate that you’ll find the titular crypt itself, and the first shot of the film shows the entrance to the cemetery on Swain’s Lane.

Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Location from Tales from the Crypt (1972) in the present day

The camera pans to the side past gravestones as the film’s title comes up, so it’s easy to work out where the exact gravestones are too.

Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Location from Tales from the Crypt (1972) in the present day

The crypt itself is further into the cemetery, within the atmospheric Circle of Lebanon – a series of 20 sunken tombs and family vaults built around a Lebanese cedar tree in the 19th century. We see the location in great detail as the credits roll.

Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Location from Tales from the Crypt (1972) in the present day

The gateway leading to the Circle of Lebanon closes the title sequence. It’s just as atmospheric today.

Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Location from Tales from the Crypt (1972) in the present day

Kevin Connor’s Amicus film From Beyond the Grave (1974) also uses the steps leading down to the Circle of Lebanon behind the film’s title card. Although the cemetery has been tidied up in the years since filming, it’s still one of the creepiest spots in the capital. 

From Beyond the Grave (1974)
Location from From Beyond the Grave (1974) in the present day

The vault from The Vault of Horror (1973)

One of the more refreshing aspects of Amicus’s films is how they managed to contrast more obvious gothic and period settings with distinctly postwar architecture. Take, for example, the building that houses the vault in Roy Ward Baker’s The Vault of Horror. The building in question is Millbank Tower, which still looms over the Thames today. It was from two floors of this tower that the Labour party ran its successful 1997 general election campaign, and the building has hosted a number of other public bodies and political organisations.

The Vault of Horror (1973)
Location from The Vault of Horror (1973) in the present day

The house from From Beyond the Grave (1974)

Amicus’s films often document the varied houses co-existing during the postwar period, ranging from the antique to the ultra-modernist. Yet they also capture humdrum everyday suburbia, as for example in From Beyond the Grave, where the character played by Ian Bannen has a typical terrace house.

From Beyond the Grave (1974)
Location from From Beyond the Grave (1974) in the present day

The house was 61 Queens Road in Windsor and still stands today, looking quaint on its unchanged street. As any viewer of Amicus’s films will know, however, even the most inane and harmless of exteriors has the possibility of something darker behind the curtains.

From Beyond the Grave (1974)
Location from From Beyond the Grave (1974) in the present day

References


In Dreams Are Monsters: A Season of Horror Films is in cinemas across the UK and on BFI Player now.

Sight and Sound Presents – The History of Horror Part 1: Vampires

Drawing on extensive material from the Sight and Sound and Monthly Film Bulletin archives, Vampires is the first in a major new series exploring the history of horror onscreen. Vampires takes us from the first vampire film in 1922, FW Murnau's Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors, to Carl Dreyer's Vampyr in 1932, and on through the endless versions of Dracula and other vampires that have abounded in cinema since.

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