FREELANCE WRITER. JOURNALIST, AND SCRIPT READER – FILM AND TV RUNNER – FAN OF SCI-FI AND CHOCOLATE DIGESTIVES – YSTV'S BEST DRESSED MEMBER 2013

Monday, 15 February 2016

On 15.2.16 by KieronMoore in , , ,    No comments


Tales That Witness Madness begins like all anthology films – with its framing story. Dr. Tremayne (Donald Pleasence), who runs a mental asylum with oddly futuristic corridors, tells his colleague Dr. Nicholas (Jack Hawkins) of four special cases he has ‘solved’, and thus begins the flashbacks revealing what made these four patients so mad.

The first story, Mr. Tiger, introduces us to a child who insists he’s visited by an invisible tiger. His parents assume it’s just his imagination, but things escalate, with brutal consequences.

Then there’s Penny Farthing, about an antiques storeowner who inherits a Victorian bicycle and a photograph of his ancestor ‘Uncle Albert’. The photo telekinetically lifts him onto the bike, which sends him back in time. It all gets a little too weird for its own good. 

Third comes Mel, which has an entertainingly lurid concept – a man (Michal Jayston) brings a tree into his living room and falls in love with it. Don’t judge him, it does have sexy tree nipples.

Finally, there’s Luau, in which literary agent Auriol Pageant (Kim Novak) courts client Kimo (Michael Petrovich), unaware that he’s a member of a Hawaiian cult and intends to sacrifice a virgin – Pageant’s daughter Ginny (Mary Tamm). Enjoyment of this one will depend on your tolerance for its dodgy racial politics, particularly considering white actors play the native Hawaiian characters.

Overall, the way the stories play out is very predictable – the first three have almost exactly the same ending. Luau is the one that breaks the mould, and not particularly satisfyingly – it ends abruptly, and leaves you wondering at what point Pageant turned mad. The framing story also doesn’t hit the right notes, with Tremayne’s reasons for showing Nicholas these four cases being somewhat forced.

The film’s main strength is its cast, with big stars like Collins, Novak, and Pleasence appearing and doing the best they can with material that’s, frankly, far from their best.

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