Friday, 18 March 2011

Tales From The Crypt (1972).

It’s an anthology horror movie from Amicus (contrary to popular belief the studio DID make other types of movies  but they will forever be tied to their portmanteau legacy) and based, of course, on the popular E.C comics of yesteryear. As well as Tales From The Crypt the movie also takes some story ideas from The Vault Of Horror, another popular title, but I couldn’t tell you which story comes from which source as I am far from an expert in comic books.

What I can tell you is that Freddie Francis once again directs from a screenplay by Milton Subotsky, as was the case with Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors, and the results are almost as enjoyable.

The framing story concerns a number of people who get lost while wandering around a crypt area, funnily enough, but the fun is to be had in the separate, twisted tales that The Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson) reveals.
Story 1 – Joan Collins plays a nasty woman who bumps off her hubby on Christmas Eve but then finds herself trapped and unable to call the police when a madman dressed as Santa comes prowling around the house.
Story 2 – Ian Hendry plays a husband about to secretly leave his wife and kids until fate intervenes.
Story 3 – The ever-brilliant Peter Cushing plays an old man who upsets his affluent neighbours by not selling up his house, looking after a number of noisy dogs and being loved by the local children for the re-conditioned toys that he gives out to them. The affluent neighbour plans to spoil everything for the old man but things, inevitably, go too far.
Story 4 – A fun, knowing take on the classic horror tale, “The Monkey’s Paw”, that revolves around a husband and wife who may have found a way to make wishes come true.
Story 5 – Last, but by no means least, is the tale of Maj. William Rogers (Nigel Patrick), a man who becomes the head honcho at a care facility for the blind and who ends up causing so much upset that the residents (led by Patrick Magee) plan a particularly nasty bit of revenge.

Tales From The Crypt is one of the better anthology movies from this period thanks to it’s decent cast, the choice of tales and the fact that five stories are crammed into it’s 90-odd minute runtime so you’re never far away from either an enjoyable set-up or gleefully nasty punchline. The script and direction are acceptable, if unspectacular, but the main plus point here is in the delight the film takes in it’s own nastiness. This is a horror anthology movie a step or two ahead of the more austere entries in the subgenre and anyone meeting a sticky end meets a very sticky end indeed. Which makes for a lot of fun.



  1. The old EC books were as good as horror comics have ever been. Their stories were like ghoulish campfire tales spun by demented carny barkers who delighted in their own madness. It's an incredible body of work. EC did great war and sci-fi books, too, and their longest running title was, of course, Mad magazine, too, but the horror books were the ones that became notorious--the backlash against them nearly destroyed the entire comics industry.

    This movie and the subsequent VAULT OF HORROR were the first efforts to bring them to film, and they're both pretty good. My gripe is that I find them too restrained, in terms of content--the overbearing hand of the censor always at work, and an indication of how far ahead of their time the comics were--and in terms of tone. They're overly somber--definitely more than a quart low when it comes to the maniacally twisted joy of the books. The CREEPSHOW flicks hit it closer to the mark, but the HBO TALES FROM THE CRYPT series is the one that finally nailed it perfectly (a subsequent short-lived series, PERVERSIONS OF SCIENCE, did a pretty good job of adapting some of the EC sci-fi tales).

  2. I have loved the few reprinted stories that I've read (and I am getting a hold of the TV series when I can).
    Vault Of Horror was okay though I know what you mean about the restraint, which is why I think this one was closest to the mark. The end of Poetic Justice was superbly nasty.

  3. Do be aware, though, that if you're watching the copy of VAULT OF HORROR on that double-feature DVD, it's reportedly a heavily censored cut of the film.

  4. I saw Vault Of Horror many years ago on the telly, I believe, so I have no idea how intact it was. Still gotta love that "bits and bobs" punchline to the Terry Thomas tale though ;-)