Wednesday, 2 December 2015


Sad news to report British character actor Anthony Valentine has passed away… Best known for his the ruthless Toby Meres in Callan, the sinister Major Mohn in Colditz, and the title character in Raffles…. He also starred in the Hammer films The Dammed (1963), To The Devil A Daughter (1976) and the Hammer House Of Horror episode Carpathian Eagle

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


It seems that hardly a week goes by now, without some distributor releasing a 'remastered, special edition, uncut, limited edition, cleaned up, all singing and dancing' blu ray from the Hammer or Amicus film vaults. To be fair, most of these releases do come up with the goods, and many of the films now presented minus scratches, dust with censor snipped footage now 'slipped back in', do pass mustard. We'll leave the 'experts' to pick and chew over ratio discrepancies among themselves. Having said that, however good the main attraction feature is presented, quite a few releases fall at the fence on the strength of what was once, just a little extra, a good will gesture, thrown in to complete the package... a dusty stills gallery, a few yellowing pages from a press book, some vintage cinema posters or if you are really lucky all three. But, over the past few years, the target audience has become more than a little sophisticated and knows exactly what it wants and expects. Has some distributors have found to their cost, the success of a new release can fly or fall based on the strength of their EXTRAS.

Today, nothing less than a 40 minute documentary, including rare stills, behind the scenes footage and interviews will do. Twenty five minutes of 'talking heads', including 'a celebrity' or two..... neither of which appeared in the feature attraction, but do happen to have an opinion about it, doesn't really impress. And why should it? Not when there IS a veritable treasure of material out there to be used, if you know where to find it and how to incorporate it into an extras documentary.

In the field of 'extras features' to be found on blu rays over the past few years there are one or two familiar producers, authorities, names and faces that spring up with alarming regularity. What you probably don't know, is the one name, that for many, wouldn't even summon the faintest tinkle of a bell... and yet, for almost ten years he has produced an unfailing record of documentaries and extra features, that sometimes threaten to even over shadow the feature product itself!

It's common practice now in the pre release promotion for many fantasy genre releases, for distributors to promise the earth...and more! Photo galleries, rare behind the scenes footage, rare interviews with the actual cast and crew...and  photographs. RARE ones. Many, Many RARE ones. Sadly, what we get is a twenty minute tedious rip off of talking heads, of people who may be critics, fans, authors or academics who might KNOW the subject matter very well, and once may have met Terence Fisher in a pub thirty years ago, along with five black and white press photographs, panned and edited in the style of Ken Burns, that appeared donkey's years ago in Famous Monsters and have been  doing the rounds ever since, in every publication from the Radio Times to a dodgy mag, that thinks the way to a fans heart and wallet is by printing suspect pics of Hammer film starlets, long before they were stars, self consciously flashing their bits and tits, crouch fluff and often more.... tacky.

For quite sometime now this person, has produced an outstanding series of documentaries and extras for blu rays and dvd releases, and yet has remained quite happily for most people, under the radar. Unlike many, he doesn't crave the spot light himself, never appears in his documentaries, never visits or comments on forums and would never even consider doing an interview, believing his work speaks for itself.

For a small tight crowd of Hammer film fans in the UK, the name Donald Fearney was first connected with a series of very unique garden parties with actors and technicians from the film world. That may not sound anything particularly exciting or special, until you consider that the 'garden party' was held at the home of Hammer films 'Bray Studios'.... and the actors and technicians, some 60 to 80 in total, were the cream of British Fantasy Cinema from the Hammer and Amicus hey-days. Fearney hosted this event not once, but three times! Invitation by ticket only, fans could walk at their leisure around Down Place, take in the atmosphere, while chatting to Veronica Carlson, Ingrid Pitt, Val Guest, Don Taylor, Michael Ripper, Jimmy Sangster, Hazel Court, the Collinson twins, Hammer producer Roy Skeggs, Hammer films producer Anthony Hinds, Yvonne Monlaur, Carol Marsh and a host of others. Autographs...were free. This of course, was before the explosions of signing events that are all too common these days. But, they were something very special and never to be repeated.

If you purchased Final Cut's blu ray release of 'The Brides of Dracula', 'Captain Clegg/ Night Creatures', 'The Phantom of the Opera' or 'The Evil of Frankenstein'... you would have seen Donald's work. All extra content was produced by Don , with help from editor, Jim Groom. It's all of a very high standard. Don says his job is to 'tell the story'. From page to screen, how the film in your hands was produced, with help from narrators like Hammer actor, Edward de Souza and John Carson. The first thing that strikes you about Fearney's documentaries is the sheer volume of content he brings to the screen. It's quite staggering and I have yet to view any extras documentary, that matches his photo count, and the staggering total of vintage photographs he freely shares with the viewer to 'tell the story'.

Which bring me to Donald's latest release. This one is a stand alone feature. It was recently a boast, from a company promising the earth in the shape of their forth coming documentary, that in so many words...'for the first time in our documentary we'll be telling the behind the scenes story of these Hammer Dracula films.....' I guess they missed the 90 minute Fearney documentary entitled 'The Legend of Hammer Vampires', released in 2009 and features exclusive interviews with, Jimmy Sangster, Tudor Gates, John Forbes Robertson, Dave Prowse, Caroline Munro and John Cater who until that time, had never appeared before a camera to tell their story. Produced for a very modest £2,000 that again, that's £2,'s a tight, info packed professionally produced feature, that wont have you reaching for the fast forward or skip button and again the content I have never seen bettered, at least that was until last week...

Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg's Amicus Vault Of Horrors, tells the full story..warts and all of the legendary partnership of Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg and the production company, Amicus films, who along with Hammer films dominated the horror / fantasy genre in cinemas during the 1960's and 70's. The Amicus reputation is probably more based on their series of portmanteau films such as, Dr Terror's House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror and it would have been an easier job for Fearney, in telling the Amicus story, had he just trod this well worn path. The fact that this documentary covers not only ALL 'Horror' Amicus output, but also their less successful ventures like ' The Mind of Mr. Soames', 'What Became of Jack and Jill?' and 'A Touch of Love'. This does not detract or make for boring viewing, quite the opposite. Fearney has left no stones unturned in finding material and 'the story behind the story' in the production of these films. The addition of the narration delivered by the fruity and rich tones of none other than Roy Hudd, is a real plus. Hudd's career as a performer, comedian and highly respected authority on the history of entertainment in the UK, makes him the perfect choice, for the colourful tale of Amicus and cinematic stories that often held a black cruel twist.

Amicus Vault of Horrors, begins with a very clever homage to Dr Terror's House of Horrors, that continues through out the documentary, using the turning of Dr Terror's Tarot Cards, as a cunning visual device in telling the story of the Amicus fortunes... and fate. One very interesting plus in the documentary is the footage of a never before seen interview with Milton Subotsky, this interview comes from our very own Peter Cushing Appreciation Society archives. A lot has been written about Subotsky down the years, much of it second and third hand, this is the first and only time, where he gets  the opportunity to share his side of the story, and who better to help him do that, than  Donald Fearey.

Written by Marcus Brooks

Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg's  : Amicus Vault of Horrors DVD is a region 0 release and is available for purchase for £20.00 which includes post and package anywhere through the following paypal address:  PEVANS113@BTINTERNET.COM

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