October Countdown: Tales from the Crypt (1972)

We’re starting our horror reviews for the month of October today, with an anthology film from Amicus, adapting a collection of short stories from various American horror comics, such as Tales of the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear.

Tales of the Crypt (1972)

Cast and Crew

Directed by Freddie Francis
Screenplay by Milton Subotsky
Story by George Evans (“Blind Alleys”), Graham Ingels (“Poetic Justice” & “Wish You Were Here”), William M. Gaines, Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein.

Released by Amicus Films

Ralph Richardson as The Crypt Keeper (as Sir Ralph Richardson)
Joan Collins as Joanne Clayton (segment “And All Through the House”)
Martin Boddey as Husband (segment “And All Through the House”)
Chloe Franks as Daughter (segment “And All Through The House”)
Oliver MacGreevy as Maniac (segment “And All Through the House”)
Ian Hendry as Carl Maitland (segment “Reflection of Death”)
Susan Denny as Wife (segment “Reflection of Death”)
Angela Grant as Susan (segment “Reflection of Death”) (as Angie Grant)
Peter Cushing as Grimsdyke (segment “Poetic Justice”)
Robin Phillips as Elliot (segment “Poetic Justice”)
David Markham as Father (segment “Poetic Justice”)
Robert Hutton as Neighbour (segment “Poetic Justice”)
Richard Greene as Jason (segment “Wish You Were Here”)
Barbara Murray as Enid (segment “Wish You Were Here”)
Roy Dotrice as Gregory (segment “Wish You Were Here”)
Nigel Patrick as Rogers (segment “Blind Alleys”)
Patrick Magee as Carter (segment “Blind Alleys”)

The Premise

A group of tourists travel through a series of catacombs, there meeting the Cryptkeeper, who tells stories of their future (or past?) deaths.

“…And All Through the House” – The Vault of Horror #35 (February–March 1954)

A woman (Joan Collins) murders her husband, right before hearing on the radio that a psychotic murderer is on the loose, dressed as Santa Claus. She sees the man outside, but can’t call the police without exposing her own murder…

“Reflection of Death” – Tales from the Crypt #23 (April–May 1951)

A man (Ian Hendry) abandons his wife and family to run away with his secretary but ends up in a car accident. After waking up from the accident, he tries to return home, only to be faced with reactions of revulsion and hostility from people when they see him…

“Poetic Justice” – The Haunt of Fear #12 (March–April 1952)

A retiree (Peter Cushing), lives alone with his dogs after his wife’s passing. The Elliot family, living nearby, detests him based on his social class and slanders the retiree, driving him to suicide. However, in life the retiree dabbled in the occult, which will lead to consequences for the Elliots…

“Wish You Were Here” – The Haunt of Fear #22 (November–December 1953)

A loose adaptation of the story of The Monkey’s Paw.

“Blind Alleys” – Tales from the Crypt #46 (February–March 1955)

The new manager of a home for the blind (Nigel Patrick), dramatically cuts spending on food and heating, leading to the death of one of the residents. The remaining residents plan a bloody revenge for their oppressor…

High Points

This isn’t quite the same level of a Who’s Who of British acting talent as some of Amicus Films other works, but the cast in these stories is still generally very solid, with Cushing, Collins, and Richardson in particular nailing their roles. The stories also really get across the strength of the anthology format for horror – getting in, delivering the scares or thrills, and then getting out without overstaying their welcome.

Also, frankly, comparing Richardson’s Crypt Keeper for the one who would come later on HBO, I actually like this Crypt Keeper more. He’s more deadpan, and less focused on macabre dad jokes then his successor.

Low Points

“Reflection of Death” is a bit rough, in terms of the execution of the twist, and the setup for the payoff for “Poetic Justice” doesn’t quite land, though Cushing’s performance makes up for it.

The Scores

Originality: These are all adaptations of existing stories, from a bunch of horror comics, but there is a degree of originality coming from moving all these stories from an American to a British setting. 3/6

Effects: These stories are actually pretty effects light, with the bits we do get generally being executed well. 3/6

Production: Amicus selected a big chunk of stories with generally mundane set designs – with the two exceptions – the entrance to The Crypt in the frame narrative, and the climax of Blind Alleys, being the big production numbers (so to speak) and they’re executed well. 4/6

Acting: The performances in the film are, as mentioned in the High Point, solid across the board. 5/6

Story: Each of the stories do fit the Tales of the Crypt stock narrative structure – people do scummy things and face horrific and macabre repercussions as a penalty for their actions, and those concepts are executed well. 5/6

Emotional Response: As with the original comics, the intended response from each story is less dread and horror, and more of a chuckle and an “Ooh, nasty,” and it succeeds at provoking that response – especially the end of “Blind Alleys” 5/6

Overall: I don’t know if I’d say this was Amicus’ best anthology film, but it’s certainly of their strongest. 5/6

In Total, Tales from the Crypt (1972) gets 30 out of 42.

Our October Schedule is currently as follows.

2:  Tales from the Crypt (1972)
9. Suspiria (2018)
16: Vampire Circus (1972)
22: Dune (2021)
30: Body Bags (1993)
31. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

One reply

  1. I saw this one a long time ago…. I think I’ll have to re-watch it this Halloween.

    As for the Crypt-Keeper, macabre dad jokes are kind of his thing…. So we expect the film to serve a little corn on the macabre….

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