Saturday, 27 August 2011



There's a lot to be said for the anthology film. Like a TV sketch show, if one segment doesn't appeal, there'll be another one along in a few minutes, whereas if you're not enjoying a feature film, tough because it's the only one there is. The variability has always been the flaw with portmanteau films: even the greats of the Amicus era - even going back as far as Dead Of Night - have sequences slightly less successful than others. (Or, at the other end of the scale with The Monster Club, slightly less sucky.)

It's even more pointed in something like The Theatre Bizarre, where all the segments are directed by different people. The wraparound (Jeremy Kasten) has a young women venturing into a strange theatre to watch scary-looking puppet Udo Kier introduce a mixed bag of several short stories. The most successful are Tom Savini's enjoyably gross story of dreams and nightmares and the return of Richard Stanley with an atmospheric tale of paganism, toads and Catriona MacColl. The real misstep is Douglas Buck's entry which concerns a child understanding death after witnessing an accident.

More damagingly, none of the individual segments have anything to do with the Theatre Bizarre: it's simply a series of entirely unrelated short films interspersed with the Udo Kier puppet saying "Here's an interesting story", then "This is a most peculiar story" and so on. It's not a failure by any means: in addition to the Stanley and Savini sections there's Buddy Giovinazzo's story of an extreme marital breakdown. But the disconnected structure and at least one story too many (the Buck section, and possibly David Gregory's food orgy, could be comfortably lost) count against it.


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