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TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS (1973)

"Does anyone in here love me...?"

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Director: Freddie Francis
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jack Hawkins, Russell Lewis, Georgia Brown, Donald Houston, Peter McEnery, Suzy Kendall, Joan Collins, Michael Jayston, Kim Novak, Michael Petrovich, Mary Tamm, Leon Lissek
Screenplay: Jay Fairbank (Jennifer Jayne)
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Synopsis: The head of a psychiatric institute (Donald Pleasence) tells the stories of four of his patients in order to illustrate his new theory. A dysfunctional couple (Georgia Brown, Donald Houston) argue over their young son (Russell Lewis), whose life is being taken over by his imaginary friend, an invisible tiger. The owner of an antique shop (Peter McEnery) begins living a strange double life, courtesy of a penny-farthing bicycle and a photograph of Uncle Albert. A woman (Joan Collins) finds her marriage and her life under threat from a most unusual source. A publicist (Kim Novak) arranges a luau for her client, a writer (Michael Petrovich), but unwisely leaves the preparations to the writer’s mysterious companion (Leon Lissek).

This omnibus film was a follow-up to Asylum, made the previous year, and employs the same setting. The first two stories, "Mr Tiger" and "Penny-Farthing" are rather perfunctory, containing few surprises, but the former does boast a good performance by Russell Lewis as the boy whose imaginary friend is not so imaginary after all. The shot of the child sitting calm and disinterested as his parents are dismembered in front of him is disturbing. Although played as a nasty wish-fulfillment fantasy, this story manages to make a point about the effects of an unhappy marriage on its children. The final story, "Luau", is gruesomely entertaining, but spoils its effects with unecessary explanations: we can see that a human sacrifice is being prepared, we don’t need to be told so at the same time. However, there is an awful kind of fascination in watching Kim Novak preside over the consumption of her own child, while for fans of Dr Who there is the bonus of an early role for Mary Tamm as the precocious teenager who ends up as the main course at her mother’s party. But the undoubted highlight of the film is the third story, "Mel". Anyone doubting Joan Collins’ basic good-nature need only view this story, in which she suffers a range of indignities that have to be seen to be believed, from her wardrobe (the baby-doll nightie and hair ribbon ensemble is a killer) to her ultimate fate, in which she loses her husband to a tree. In the years since its production, Tales That Witness Madness has developed an extra edge through the subsequent work of Donald Pleasence, who at the time was only beginning his fruitful career as a screen psycho. How would you like to be put away in an asylum run by Donald Pleasence? It comes as no surprise whatever when, at the end of the film, Jack Hawkins calls in The Men In The White Coats.

Check out all the details of this movie on the IMDB