Tales from the Bookshelf

One of the key inspirations for me as a writer has always been the Amicus portmanteau movies from the late 60s and early 70s. These movies have had a strange influence on me, one that's always been there but has also only recently really began rearing its head.

I have several very vivid memories of a book my dad used to have - one that I have since rather upsettingly discovered he sold, perhaps I should have made more of a point about how much this book affected me. This book covered some of the key movies and moments in horror all the way up to, if I'm getting this right, the 80s.

And I'm sort of making an assumption about that time frame because I have a blurry half a memory of seeing what I think was An American Werewolf in London in the final pages.

I remember being fascinated by this book. On the first two pages was a picture of Christopher Lee as Dracula. His red eyes stared up at me and something about it made my own eyes water. Inside where pictures of horror icons and more obscure characters. The Incredible Shrinking Man fighting off the spider sat on one page while Boris Karloff in full Frankenstein's monster make-up sat on the other.

I remember The Reptile from the Hammer Horror film of the same name making me shudder with it's eyes on the side of it's head, while a picture of Christopher Lee's Lord Summersisle standing in front of The Wicker Man gave me an unsettling and uneasy feeling.

Such was the impact of this book that I have often found myself watching a movie late one night only to suddenly go; "It's this film! Oh wow!" and then try to learn everything about it in an effort to recapture the feeling of reading it when I was younger.

Vincent Price standing in front of his organ in Dr Phibes, or Linda Hayden watching over the horrific moment in Blood on Satan's Claw are both moments in film that made me suddenly sit up and remember staring at these exact images years before.

The front cover of this book featured a skull peering out from under a hood with one cobweb covered eye.

It was this image that first caught my attention. As an adult looking back I've no doubt it was this image that first drew me to the macabre, and this book has absolutely been instrumental in my development and my love of horror as a genre.

For years I never found the film this image was from, and I have wondered about it more than I care to remember.

Now, I've seen the Amicus portmanteau movies many, many times. Tales from the Crypt is one of my favourite horrors, and I've always had a bit of a soft spot for From Beyond the Grave and Vault of Horror. However, I've never owned them, I've only ever, in truth, seen them on TV or online.

But recently I had an idea to produce an anthology film, and I knew if I was going to do it the only way I'd want to do it would be as a homage to these old school films that have had such a huge affect on me.

So, in an effort to generate ideas and figure out how to do this idea justice, I bought several of the Amicus portmanteau movies. Imagine my shock when, as the Tales from the Crypt/Vault of Horror double bill dropped through my door and I pulled off the packaging to look at the cover, I found the front cover of this book staring back at me.

Turns out that image, while not really an image that appears in the film, is the poster art. For years and years I've been looking for the movie this striking skull with eyes and cobwebs came from and in fact it had been with me for almost as long.

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© Alex Secker 2018