“Tales from the Crypt” (1972)
Studio: Amicus Productions
Starring: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Nigel Patrick, Patrick Magee, Ralph Richardson
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Running Time: 92 min.
Synopsis: Five tales of horror based on stories from EC comics of the 1950’s.
A very excellent work of horror and one of the best anthology films ever. It is also the best adaptation of the EC horror comics of the 1950’s such as The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, and of course, Tales from the Crypt. Way before the HBO series, there was this film by Amicus and even though the series on HBO was great, Amicus provides an almost flawless interpretation of those classic EC comics.
The film starts off with a tourist group exploring some old caves. Five members of the group stray from the others and figure out which way to go. The setting for the start of the film is great. It’s very creepy, closed in, dark, with only flames from torches providing any light. The five wind up trapped in a room that they enter. The only person there besides the five is the Crypt Keeper himself (played by Sir Ralph Richardson), but this is not the Crypt Keeper were use to from the HBO series. Before the decaying puppet, the Crypt Keeper in this film was just a man wearing a hooded rode and sitting on skull shaped throne made of rock.
The five ask the Keeper to let them out and he tells them, “All in good time”. He goes to the members one by one and ask them where are the off to in a hurry. There’s a story for each of the five foreseeing what is going to happen to them or it could be something that has happened all ready. Also all five tales are taken from direct stories from Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror. Here is an overview of all five tales:
…And All Through the House: The first story in the bunch stars Joan Collins who murders her husband on Christmas Eve while their daughter is upstairs sleeping waiting for Santa to come. As she starts to clean up the mess and tries to make sure her daughter doesn’t come downstairs, she hears a news bulletin about a man dressed as Santa that escaped from an asylum. Turns out the crazy Santa turns up at her house.
Reflection of Death: A man leaves his wife and children for another woman. One night he leaves without telling his family and meets up with his mistress. The two drive off for a new life together, but a car crash prevents that. The man walks away from the wreck, but as he tries to find help, he discovers something not right.
Poetic Justice: This tale stars horror vet, Peter Cushing who plays a widower who passes the time fixing toys for children and taking care of his dogs. His rich snobby neighbor believes that he’s bad for the neighborhood just because he doesn’t have a mansion like the rest of them and wants him out. He starts to make his life a living hell by getting his dogs taken away and warning parents not to have their children go to his house. He even sends him Valentines Day cards that are supposedly from everyone in town, but instead of wishing him happiness on that day the cards have mean poems that advise him to get lost. The rich guy’s plan works and Cushing hangs himself. A year later on Valentines Day, the rich man has a strange feeling that something bad might happen on the anniversary of his death.
Wish You Were Here: This one is pretty much a variation of The Monkey’s Paw, that’s about a corrupt businessman going bankrupt and has to sell all his prize possessions that he picked up around the world. One is Chinese figurine that grants wishes and his wife makes a wish for lots of money. Her husband is called to his lawyer’s office about something to do with money. He rushes out the door and ends up getting into a car accident killing him. This makes the wife a rich woman because of his insurance policy. The wife wants her husband back and has two wishes left to make it right.
Blind Alleys: The last tale in the film is about a former army major who is in charge of a home for the blind. Once he takes over, he starts to cut cost on the heating, food, and medical care. This frustrates the patients and it doesn’t help that the major is warm and toasty in his office eating a steak dinner with wine and feeding scraps to his dog. The patients plot a plan to get back at the major. First they get a hold of his dog and lock the dog in a cell down in the basement. Then they rush the major and lock him down there as well in separate cell. They keep him in there for two days as he hears his dog barking in another cell. Finally he is let out, but he discovers the men have built kind of a maze that he has to go through to get to his dog, but the patients set a number of traps for the old major.
All the stories in the film are solid and there’s not a dull one in the bunch. It’s hard to pick a favorite because they’re all so good. All five characters in the film that fall victim to something horrible in the end are all guilty of something to begin with. Unlike other horror films where the innocent are the victims, this one punishes the guilty. Some of their crimes ranges from just being cold hearted to murder, but all meet the same fate. A few you feel sorry for, but most of them deserve what they get.
Some key elements throughout the tales are just the pure eeriness of every story. It stays true to the EC comics and often has a classic horror movie feel from the films of the 1930’s through 50’s with a touch of modern terror of British 70’s horror. …And All Through the House has this great creepy feel that somebody is out there. The mood is perfectly twisted with joyful Christmas songs playing on the radio while Joan Collins kills her husband and then fears for her life with a maniac outside her door. The suspense is great when she discovers he’s out there and she quickly tries to lock all the windows and doors before he gets in. Way before the killer Santa in Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night, there was the crazy one in this tale, which was creepier than all of them.
As I said earlier, out of the five they are a few you feel for a bit. Both men in Reflection of Death and Wish You Were Here you feel bad for them at the end of their tales, but the two characters in Poetic Justice and Blind Alleys you want to see them die. Both the rich guy and the major are the most hated in the film and you want them to die a horrible death, especially the rich man from Poetic Justice, who puts poor Peter Cushing through hell. Cushing gives an awesome performance and your heart goes out to him and you see how lonely he gets towards the end. He even uses a OUIJA board to contact his dead wife looking for answers and his wife gives him a message warning him about a danger on the horizon. The major in Blind Alleys is just as evil as he neglects his blind patients. One of the blind men (played by Patrick Magee of Dementia 13 and A Clockwork Orange fame) rounds up the rest of the patients and gets revenge on the major. A very cool part is when the major is walking through the maze and he comes across a narrow passage that has razor blades all along the walls. A horrific sight that is a memorable scene in the film.
They are many standout moments throughout Tales from the Crypt that make the film scary, creepy, and full of suspense. This film sets the bar for other anthology films that have come after. It is one of, if not the best anthologies and the best adaptation of the original comics. The following year Amicus made a follow up to Tales from the Crypt, another EC comic title, The Vault of Horror, which is done in the same fashion as Crypt and is a very good film as well. Tales from the Crypt is one of those great classic horror films you don’t see made that much these days. It’s a film that stands the test of time and never gets old and always stays scary.