31 (Revived) Days of Horror: Tales that Witness Madness

I’m really, really running out of anthology films so it’s a good thing we’ve only got four more movies in this year’s marathon. This evening’s installment, however, doesn’t come from the studios of Amicus Productions, but could easily be mistaken otherwise. Instead, tonight’s film is from the good folks at World Film Services, who’ve done nothing else you’ve heard of. Can they compete in the world of horror anthology films? Time to find out!

Tales that Witness Madness (1973) uses the roughly the same wrapper story as Asylum: A person arrives at a mental hospital, in this case Dr. Nicholas, to speak with the institution’s director about several patients. This film’s doctor is Dr. Tremayne, played by Donald Pleasence (who seems to be prepping for his role as Dr. Loomis in Halloween a few more years in his future). Dr. Tremayne has claimed to have solved the cases of four patients and takes Dr. Nicholas on a tour of the facility. Along the way, we’re introduced to each patient and discover their cases all have paranormal elements—if Dr. Tremayne (and the short films shown as flashbacks) are to be believed.

Case #1 is that of Paul, a young boy whose imaginary friend, “Mr. Tiger,” seems to have killed and eaten his parents. Case #2 is Timothy, who may have been transported back in time on a penny farthing bicycle with unfortunate consequences. Case #3 is that of Mel, who developed unnatural affections for the curious dead tree he brought home, ones which the tree appears to have reciprocated. The last case is that of Auriol, who hosted a lavish Polynesian-themed dinner party with murderous results.

Tales that Witness Madness simply isn’t as strong as the Amicus films, but it’s not a terrible movie. The last two shorts are by far the best, with Mel’s vegetative sweetheart having solid folk horror vibes. The luau film is definitely a product of its time, with actors in brownface playing Polynesians and some far from politically correct exoticism tainting the movie. I will admit, however, I got a lot of personal enjoyment responding to every invocation of the god Mamalu by doing my best Ricky Ricardo “Babaloo!” Try it at home and see how it works for you.

While somewhat weak, the movie still entertains. It’s the worst of the anthology movies I’ve watched this year, but the bar was set pretty high by The House that Dripped Blood. In my opinion, Tales that Witness Madness earns 2 and a half skulls out of 5 on the old skull-o-meter, making it film worthy to pass the time with, but not one you’ll likely revisit.   

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