Monday, October 29, 2012

Movie Review: Tales that Witness Madness

 The first short-story anthology horror film I ever saw was Cat's Eye by Stephen King.  It is a format that I enjoy.  Generally, you have four different stories, each with a continuous thread that relates them one to another.  Tales that Witness Madness is set in an asylum where Professor Tremayne is exploring a revolutionary method in treating his patients, and presents his theories on four of his patients to his friend, Dr. Nicholas.  Each patient appears to be the victim of a highly unusual set of circumstances, and Tremayne encourages them to indulge in their fantastic tales about how someone close to them was killed.  There is Paul, a little boy who's well-to-do parents bicker constantly and neglected him until his friend, Mr. Tiger, killed them both.  Timothy is an antique dealer who rides a Penny Farthing bicycle back in time to experience the life of Uncle Albert, leading to the destruction of his store and the death of his young bride.  Brian brought to his home a dead tree as a work of art which his wife loathed until it seemed to take on a will of its own and kill her.  Finally, the ambitious Auriol plans a sumptuous luau for one her most prominent and enigmatic clients, only to discover that he had a far more violent end planned for the evening and her daughter, Ginny. 
One word: splinters.

 Professor Tremayne's theories are based on phenomenon he witnesses himself relating to his four patients, but when he attempts to show Dr. Nicholas this phenomenon, Nicholas sees nothing and assumes that Tremayne is also suffering from some form of psychotic episode.  The truth eventually reveals itself to Nicholas, but by then it is already too late.

Dreams about being raped by a tree.
 Tales that Witness Madness, released in 1973, wasn't a terrible film.  It was more weird than frightening.  The actors are not slouches by any stretch of the imagination; Joan Collins, Mary Tamm, and Donald Pleasance are all featured in the film.  The stories themselves each seem unfinished or not fully developed, more sketches of an idea than something fully conceived.  There is a lot of off-screen violence, a typical trick in more modern films (1973 compared to 1940) when a budget for special effects is minimal.  

A haunted bicylce... why not?
 Compared to films like the original Wicker Man and The Exorcist, which were released in the same year, Tales that Witness Madness pales in comparison.  There is really nothing to see here.   








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