dead of night 1972

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Edward Petherbridge in the ‘The Exorcism’ episode of the BBC’s Dead of Night series, 1972

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Ten Great Horror Anthology Films To See Before You Die

An anthology film (also known as an omnibus film, package film, or portmanteau film) is a feature film consisting of several different short films, often tied together by only a single theme, premise, or brief interlocking event (often a turning point). Sometimes each one is directed by a different director. These differ from “revue films” such as Paramount on Parade (1930)—which were common in Hollywood in the early sound film era to show off their stars and related vaudeville-style acts—composite films, and compilation films.

Sometimes there is a theme, such as a place (e.g. New York Stories, Paris, je t'aime), a person (e.g. Four Rooms), or a thing (e.g. Twenty Bucks, Coffee and Cigarettes), that is present in each story and serves to bind them together. Two of the earliest films to use the form were Edmund Goulding’s Grand Hotel (1932), released by MGM with an all-star cast; and Paramount’s If I Had a Million (also 1932), featuring segments helmed by a number of directors.

Sometimes there is one “top-level” story, a framing device, which leads into the various “sub-stories”, as in Tales of Manhattan (1942), Flesh and Fantasy (1943), Dead of Night (1945), and The Illustrated Man (1968). Dead of Night helped to popularize the format for horror films—although they had existed as far back as Unheimliche Geschichten (1919)—and British company Amicus made several such films in the 1960s and 1970s.