In 1972, Amicus Studios put out this gem. Based on the Horror Comics put out by Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein of EC Comics, this anthology tale takes us into the depths of hell to tell the most Gothic and twisted stories. Filmed in England with an all British cast, the film has a dark, grainy feel to it and the catacombs are dark and brooding. The film has a forbidding and sinking feeling to it that ads to the atmosphere. And not only did Amicus make a "Tales From the Crypt" Film, but a "Vault of Horror" film as well! Turn down the lights and get ready for my review of "Tales From The Crypt!"
We begin chilling organ music and a short tour of England's famous Highgate Cemetery. it really sets the Gothic and haunting tone of the film as we roll past crypts and grave stones that are ancient and crumbling. I was hook right away just from the opening! We go into the dark, dank catacombs where we see a tour going through. A small group gets separated from the tour and end up in a crypt where Ralph Richardson and The Crypt Keeper awaits. Richardson plays the Crypt Keeper very differently than the rotting corpse of the 90s series. There are no puns or jokes, just a scary man in a long robe. He plays it very seriously and you can tell he was enjoying the roll.
None of the group can remember how they got there, but The Crypt Keeper knows. He first approaches Joanne, played by the always lovely Joan Collins. We are then taken into the classic tale, "And all Through the House." Joanne kills her husband on Christmas eve with a fireplace poker to the head while her daughter sits in her room awaiting Santa. I think the best part of this story is the blood. It's bright pink and comical. This story was also done in the first season of the 90s series, but this version in my favorite.
Joanne tries to make her husbands death look like an accident, but her daughter, mistaking the madman for Santa, lets him in. We leave the story as she is being strangled.
This story always creeps me out. It starts with a happy home, white walls and carpet, then it takes a sudden and bloody turn and the walls and carpet splattered red. The thought of a crazed man waiting outside to strike makes me shiver. The creepiest part of the whole story is the classic Christmas music playing the whole time and how there is very little dialogue. It adds to the realism of the scene and being set on Christmas eve makes it all the more bittersweet.
Back in the crypt, The Keeper moves on to Carl, played by Ian Hendry. Carl swears he was on his way home to his wife and kids, but The Crypt Keeper knows better...
We go into the story, "Reflections of Death," my personal favorite Crypt story in the comics. We see Carl and his wife as he is packing up for what appears to be a business trip. He kisses his wife and child goodbye and leaves... To his mistress' house. As it turns out, Carl is secretly leaving his wife and child behind to be with another woman. While riding in the car with the other woman, Carl has a horrid nightmare and wakes up screaming. Shortly after, she wrecks the car and Carl wakes up, thrown from the blaze. From here on out, we are in Carl's eyes, seeing the world through them. Everyone he encounters runs from fright and he doesn't know why. He wanders to his wife's home to find her remarried and then gets to his mistress who survived and is now blind.
She tells Carl it has been two years. That's when he sees his reflection... He is a green, rotted corpse. He let's out a blood curdling scream only to wake up in the car again. He tells his mistress he had a nightmare just before the car rolls off of a hillside and crashes...
I love this story for the mystery element. You go right into the story hating this guy for leaving his wife and son, but when he wrecks and people run from him, you can't help but wonder what he looks like. You are almost literally thrown into Carl's shoes! Anticipation builds as more people run in sheer terror and then the payoff is massive and worth it!
The Crypt Keeper moves on to James, played by Robin Phillips to move to the segment that upset me the most. "Poetic Justice" is a heart breaking (literally) tale about an old man, Arthur Grimsdyke played by the always wonder full Peter Cushing. Grimsdyke is an elderly widower who likes to entertain the neighborhood children and play with his dogs. But James thinks Grimsdyke is making the neighborhood look bad because of his run down home and a dozen or so dogs. Over the course of this story, James destroys Grimsdyke's character by spreading rumors so the children wont visit and has all of his dogs taken away. Grimsdyke, sad at his losses, contacts his late wife from the grave. She warns him of danger, but poor Grimsdyke doesn't understand. On Valentines day, he receives a bunch of cards, all of which have nasty and insulting poems inside. then, sadly, old Arthur takes his own life leaving James to suddenly feel terrible about it.
A year later, Grimsdyke crawls free from his grave, rotting and decayed. He makes his may to James and leaves a rather fitting Valentines card for James' father to find.
This is one of those stories that you are hoping for a messy demise of the antagonist from the start. James is mean and nasty towards a friendly old man and it tugs at your heartstrings a tad. This is one of those stories that hits your emotions from every angle. It makes you mad, sad and mournful. Then, it will make you cheer for the old man and laugh at James' demise. This is powerful storytelling in only a way Tales From The Crypt could do.
The next story, in my opinion is the weakest of all of them. "Wish You Were Here" is your basic rehashing of The Monkey's Paw, in that a man is given a statue that grants three wishes to the owner. The first wish, of course, is for money which results in the death of Ralph, the one which the Crypt Keeper speaks. The second is a wish for him to come back as he was before the awful car accident that took his life. But, here's the twist: He died of a heart attack at the wheel. This is the only real cool scene of this story. After Ralph's wife makes the wish, his body is returned to her by some ghastly looking characters in full funeral garb. Imagine four Lurches walking through your door with a black coffin!! Without thinking, Ralph's Missus wishes for him to come back to life, and to live forever. Why? That's anyone's guess really. But, Ralph's corpse screams back to life and writhes and moans in pain. Of course, he was embalmed, so he awoke from peaceful death to immediate, searing and horrific pain. He screams and yells as Mrs. Ralph chops him up with a sword, but he will never die. He will live forever in agonizing pain. My issue with this story is with the end of the film, but I'll get to that in a moment.
Finally, The Crypt Keeper moves to Major William Rogers, in my opinion the worst of the group, and we move to his story. With "Blind Alleys," they truly saved the best for last. "Reflections of Death" may be my overall favorite Crypt story, but this one is the best one in the film. From the Crypt story, "Revenge is the Nuts," we see that Rogers has taken over control of a home for the blind. A starch and mean-spirited man, Rogers begins to cut corners and line his pocket while the elderly blind folks suffer. Patrick Magee plays George, the spokesperson of the blind speaks to Rogers numerous times about the state of the place, but is brushed off. After one of the men succumbs to the elements, they enact revenge. They kidnap Rogers' beloved dog and lock him in a cell in the basement and then snatch Rogers and put him right next door. Over time, the blind men begin to construct an elaborate set of traps while the dog becomes violent from starvation. Seriously, these traps would make Jigsaw blush.
After the traps are complete, the open the door and shut out the lights so Rogers can live as they do. He comes to a pair of walls lined with razor blades and tries hard to get through, but George is ready. He lets Rogers' dog loose and, starving and violent, attacks and kills him. A fitting end.
This story has it all. It's dramatic, violent and you cheer when the villain gets his comeuppance. It was beautifully directed and has a thick atmosphere. Patrick Magee gives an amazing performance and reminds me of Boris Karloff. You really feel sorry for these poor people and hope that Major Rogers gets his.
The stories are over and The Crypt Keeper tells them they are free to go. The door opens and one of the men rush to it, only to fall into a deep fiery pit. It turns out they were dead all along and on their ways to Hell. Slowly they all approach the door, accepting their respective fates. The Crypt Keeper smiles as the brood is dispatched, then turns to us with a smile signifying that we are next on the list.
I love this film, I cannot stress that enough. It's fun, it's scary, it's gross and it's Gothic. The music, sets and acting are superb. The atmosphere is spooky and forbidding as it should be. The only gripe I have about the film is in "Wish You Were Here," Ralph is brought back to life forever. According to his wife's wish, he will live forever in agony, yet he is in the limbo of The Crypt Keepers crypt and dispatched to hell at the end... But, he should still be alive! Besides that, I find no flaws. Joan Collins, Peter Cushing and Patrick Magee all shine in this film and the demises of the bad guys are truly satisfying. If you have never seen this film, I say pick it up, pop it in the DVD or Bluray player, pop some popcorn and enjoy this classic, Gothic, horror masterpiece!