StudioCanal have just released four monster titles from Amicus Studios, the only company which even came close to beating Hammer at their own game during the 1960 and 70s. Warlords of Atlantis (1978), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), At the Earth’s Core (1976) and The Land That Time Forgot (1975), directed by Kevin Connor, Freddie Francis and starring Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Caroline Monroe and Susan Penhaligon, are all examples of some of the studio’s better-known epics.
At the Earth’s Core and The Land That Time Forgot, both directed by Connor, are based around scientists and sailors who either intentionally or inadvertently discover lost lands inhabited by fantastical animals and savage tribes. Featuring McClure, Cushing and Monroe, these films based on novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs highlight that author’s penchant for adventure stories. Warlords of Atlantis, penned by stalwart Doctor Who writer Brian Hayles and again directed by Connor, and They Came from Beyond Space directed by horror master Francis, approach from more of a sci-fi-centric, though no less fantastical, angle as they deal with alien races from both below the sea and beyond the sky.
Considering these films were made before the advent of CGI, it is doubtful whether modern audiences will see them as anything more than whimsical kid’s stuff, and as such are really only aimed at younger viewers or die-hard fans intent on completing their Amicus collections. Where Hammer seldom strayed from their winning formula of vampire counts and mad barons, Amicus often stepped outside their comfort zone with varying degrees of success.
On the evidence of this collection the studio may have been better sticking with what they did best – compilation films like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) and Asylum (1972). As often the case with these kind of releases the extras, which here include interviews with Connor and Penhaligon on the disc of The Land That Time Forgot, are more animated than the main features.
Though not dreadful – if you can see past the glaringly plastic prehistoric beasts and set bound action scenes – watching these newly rereleased Amicus outings with a liberal dose of sea salt may make them easier to consume.
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