Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1970s Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

Tales That Witness Madness (1973)

This horror anthology – an attempt to mimic the successful Amicus formula – begins with a late-night meeting at an anachronistic and rain lashed maximum-security asylum.

Dr Tremayne (Donald Pleasence) receives visiting colleague Dr Nicholas (Jack Hawkins with his voice dubbed by Charles Gray as Hawkins had recently undergone an experimental operation on his throat to insert an artificial voicebox) and recounts the histories of four unusual patients whose cases he has solved.

In the first segment, ‘Mr Tiger’, Paul (Russell Lewis), the sensitive young son of prosperous but constantly bickering parents Fay (Georgia Brown) and Sam Patterson (Donald Houston) befriends an imaginary tiger.

Paul has even taken to sleeping with the bedroom window open so Mr Tiger can come and go as he pleases. Not only that but he’s also leaving giant bones and hunks of meat around the house for his furry invisible chum.

Parents and tutor Phillipe (David Wood) think Paul is making it all up – until Fay finds claw marks on a door.

In ‘Penny Farthing’, young antique dealer Timothy Patrick (Peter McEnery) inherits a penny-farthing bicycle from his recently deceased aunt, which seems to have time travel capabilities – as overseen by the apparently haunted portrait of Uncle Albert (Frank Forsyth) overseeing events.

Timothy travels back in time to the Victorian era where he meets a fair widow named  Beatrice (Suzy Kendall) – who happens to be the spitting image of his present-day girlfriend Ann (also Suzy Kendall obvs).

The third – and best – segment,’Mel’, has craggy mutton-chopped Beatle-fringed Brian Thompson (Michael Jayston) bringing home an old dead tree and prominently displaying it in his home as a work of modern art – much to the anger of his jealous wife Bella (Joan Collins).

“Mel”, as Bella names Brian’s new wooden girlfriend, turns out to be possessed by an evil spirit – which is conveyed by stagehands shaking it in close-up.

After a battle of wits between Bella and the tree – and some nightmarish visions where Bella is ravished and raped by trees in a forest – Michael kills his wife, carves his new friend into the shape of a woman and takes it to bed with him . . .

In the final segment, ‘Luau’, flamboyant literary agent Auriol Pageant (Kim Novak) hosts new client Kimo (Michael Petrovitch), an author. Despite Auriol’s overtures, he seems more interested in Auriol’s beautiful daughter Ginny – short for Virginia (Mary Tamm).

As Ginny leaves for a mysterious holiday Kimo’s ever-present assistant Keoki (Leon Lissek) helps Auriol prepare an elaborate luau for Kimo, where the centrepiece will be a large pork roast.

But it soon becomes clear that Kimo and Keoki have their own idea about what type of meat should be served . . .

Back at the asylum, there is one final horrifying twist before the end credits roll.

This was the last screen role for Jack Hawkins who died on 18 July 1973 following haemorrhaging as a result of his artificial voicebox. He was 62.

Dr Nicholas 
Jack Hawkins
Charles Gray (voice)
Dr Tremayne 
Donald Pleasence
Fay Patterson
Georgia Brown
Sam Patterson
Donald Houston
Paul Patterson
Russell Lewis
Phillipe (Tutor) 
David Wood
Suzy Kendall
Timothy Patrick
Peter McEnery
1st Removal Man
Neil Kennedy
2nd Removal Man
Richard Connaught
Beth Morris
Uncle Albert
Frank Forsyth
Bella Thompson
Joan Collins
Brian Thompson
Michael Jayston
Auriol Pageant
Kim Novak
Michael Petrovitch
Virginia ‘Ginny’ Pageant
Mary Tamm
Lesley Nunnerley
Leon Lissek
Zohra Sehgal

Freddie Francis