One could easily think that Tales That Witness Madness is an Amicus anthology film, as it has all the traits of those classic horror films (Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror for example). Surprisingly, though, Tales That Witness Madness is not such a film, but a separate, strange entity from the early 70s. It’s a weird, quirky anthology flick, featuring performances from several famous people, such as Donald Pleasance, Joan Collins, and Kim Novak. The movie itself contains four stories, each one stranger than the previous, with a wrap-around story tying them all together. Tales That Witness Madness is available on Blu-ray from Olive Films for us Region 1 folks, but now, thanks to Fabulous Films, UK/Region 2 peeps can get their hands on this wacky trip. Should you, though? Read on to see…
RUN-TIME: 90 min
ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0
PRODUCTION DATE: 1969
RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2016
Stroll down the corridors of a mental asylum, where your mind won’t believe what your eyes see. In the tradition of Tales from the Crypt and Creepshow.. This anthology of pulp horror tales, helmed by the ever- reliable horror master, Freddie Francis (Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors). The film features a quartet of eerie vignettes involving four patients in the care of psychiatrist Donald Pleasance (Halloween), who attempting to justify his strange theories of colleague, Jack Hawkins (Theatre of Blood). The all-star cast includes Kim Novak, Joan Collins, Peter McEnery and Suzy Kendall.
Tales That Witness Madness
The movie starts off with Dr. Tremayne (Donald Pleasence) showing his fellow colleague, Dr. Nicholas (Jack Hawkins), four separate cases that involved strange circumstances. Dr. Nicholas is hesitant in believing Dr. Tremayne’s stories, but Tremayne has proof to prove each one, or so he thinks.
The first tale, Mr. Tiger, is about a child who befriends an “imaginary” tiger. The parents, who are constantly fighting with each other, ignore their child, but after finding scratches all over the house and hunks of bones everywhere, they start to think maybe they should keep a better eye on him.
Mr. Tiger is a quick tale that starts off slow, but peaks with a final, bloody ending that should leave you grinning.
We are only into the second story and things are already getting very strange. Timothy (Peter McEnery), who runs an antique shop, receives a portrait of an old distant relative named Uncle Albert. Along with the painting, he receives a penny farthing bicycle. Somehow, the portrait of Uncle Albert is able to change expressions and make Timothy ride on the penny farthing and travel back in time. Uncle Albert wants him to take over Albert’s life and body and fix a mistake he made with his love interest Beatrice (Suzy Kendall)… or so I think. Actually, I have no idea what the hell this story was about.
Penny Farthing is an incoherent story, that doesn’t go anywhere. The ending throws a bunch of random nonsense your way, and never bothers to explain itself.
If things couldn’t get any weirder after that time traveling penny farther story, just wait until you see Mel. It’s a love triangle between a man, his wife and a tree stump named Mel he found in the woods. He brings Mel home and sets “her” up in the living room, much to Bella (Joan Collins) objection. As he cleans up the stump, it starts to take shape into somewhat of a female looking form, wood boobs and all. Bella hates the stump and plans on destroying it, but Mel has other plans.
Mel is a quick story, that I actually didn’t mind. I mean, yeah, it’s freaking wacky as all get out, but damn it, it’s a fun wacky. I could see the ending coming a mile away, but I still wasn’t completely prepared for that final, hilarious scene. I think most will get a kick out of this one.
The last story and arguably the best of the lot is Luau. It’s about a man named Kimo and his task he must complete in order allow his dying Mother’s soul safe passage to Heaven and him, infinite power. The task involves sacrificing a virgin and eating her flesh. Luckily for Kimo, Auriol Pageant (Kim Novak) is Kimo’s literary agent, who is producing his life story (he lived a life of no drugs and no sex, so I guess that warrants a novel?) and has a beautiful young virgin daughter (as if!) played by Mary Tamm. Kimo, along with his weird sidekick, Keoki (Leon Lissek), start the ceremony and Auriol unknowingly helps by throwing a luau that will be the perfect cover for Kimo nefarious plans.
Luau gives us some more wacky tales to witness, but manages to keep the story tight and to the point. The ending is rather dark when you think about it, which only goes to improve my overall impression of the story.
And there you go, that’s all four tales in this way out there anthology from the 70s. It obviously was not as successful as other anthology movies of its time, but now that it’s easily more accessible to watch, I think a lot of people are going to get a kick out of how strange the entire movie is. The stories aren’t the best around, with Penny Farthing being the tale that spun its wheels the most and got nowhere. I think, though, that most will find something to enjoy. I certainly did.
Fabulous Films’ Blu-ray release of Tales That Witness Madness is a bare-bones release, with no special features in sight. The audio/visual side of things, though, is rather decent. The movie is a bit rough around the edges, but this is probably the best this unknown flick will ever look, so my complaints are rather moot when you think about it. Audio is also decent, with no complaints from me.
Tales That Witness Madness is a rather appropriate name for this movie. Each tale is as mad as the one that came before it. Some fail in delivering an effective story (Penny Farthing), but others serve up a fun time (Luau and for those tree huggers out there, Mel). The good to me far outweighs the bad, but you have to know what you’re getting, and what you’re getting happens to be a bare-bones Blu-ray and a good, but not great movie.