Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Tales from the Crypt

Tales from the Crypt
Directed by: Freddie Francis
UK/USA, 1972
Horror Anthology, 92min

I’m still watching a lot of anthology flicks, and before the Crypt Keeper was a rotted corpse puppet on HBO (as played by John Kassir), he was Ralph Richardson. Legendary, majestic Ralph Richardson, or God from Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits if you love that flick as much as I do.

Deep down underneath the gothic atmosphere of the British equivalent of Jean Rollin’s beloved Pere Lachaise, Highgate Cemetery (where amongst others Douglas Adams and Karl Marx rest) the Crypt Keeper hosts a series of gruesome fates told to his blissfully unaware visitors. Five short stories and the interweaving wraparound with Richardson and leading cast are shared with us and I’ll be damned if this isn’t amongst the finest ever of Amicus anthology films. British anthology horror at its finest, and nobody did it better than Amicus.

Just like the successful TV series fifteen years later, this Amicus production takes its inspiration and stories from a bunch of Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror short form horror comics.  Five stories kick this racket, five stories right out of the pages of the EC comics Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror and it shows. These stories are everything that made those comics so damned controversial and amazing to start with. You know exactly what you are going to get with this fare, short and to the point horror with creepy atmosphere and ironic twists!

After walking astray in the vaults of the cemetery a bunch of people on the guided tour end up in an underground lair where the Crypt Keeper welcomes them. He starts to show them visions; visions that we pretty soon understand are their untimely demises. This is where the chills start to run down your spine.
The first story out sees Joan Collins once again reminding the audience why she was the hotness of the hot at the time this movie was made telling the tale of violent death and the way fate settles the score. And All Through The House starts with a murder and Collins panicking as she tries to rid all the evidence so that her young daughter doesn’t see what has happened… only to hear over the radio that an escaped maniac [Oliver MacGreevy] dressed as Santa Claus has escaped from the mental institute. Moments later she hears her daughter scream and guess who’s rapping at the window! Tense, fast and ferocious, what a splendid opener!

The second story Reflections of Death sees a scenario not to unlike H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider when Ian Hendry tries to find his way home after a fiery car crash. Short and to the point this is effective storytelling and it delivers a great climax!
The third story and undoubtedly the finest moment of this collection, is Poetic Justice starring Robin Phillips, David Markham and the majestic Peter Cushing. This tells the tale of predjudice and how two fancypants snobs go to extreme measures to rid themselves of the neighbor they presume is a dirty smelly old man. Cushing is  Arthur  Edward Grimsdyke, who still talks to his passed wife, is friendly to the neighbourhood kids and has a few dogs to many. Hence the neighbors, the Elliots presuming that his house is filthy and stinking of dog shit. Wnating to rid themselves of him as to up the value of their own property they scheme a diabolical plan to push the old man over the edge. A series of nasty valentines day cards are sent and realixing that the messages inside are not ones of love, Grimsdyke takes his own life… But one year later to the day, he arises from his grave to take his revenge. This entry is stunning, Cushing is fantastic and this is the epitome of EC horror. A masterpiece in it’s own right and comes with some fantastic moments of shock and awe.
W.W. Jacobs old classic The Monkeys Paw serves as inspiration and is even referenced in the fourth tale of horror, Wish You Where Here as Ralph Jason [Richard Greene] finds himself with a roublesome economy. Taking something of a last look at their many trophies purchased overseas on their many journeys abroad his wife Enid [Barbara Murray] notices an inscripture on one of their many statues… remember the wise words Carefull what you wish for? Well never did they ring more true than here as the economical problems become the least of their worries and a very shocking climax that for many years was cut from the movie startled the audience, has finally found it’s way back into the film. Blood and guts galore!
The final grim tale is all about the new boss in town. Nigel Patrick is Major William Rogers, a vile bastard with a sadistic streak and a passion for sicking his Alsatian dog on the inhabitants of the all male, blind ward he’s just become head of. Although George Carter [Patrick Magee] won’t have it, and after rallying his fellow inmates, the insane, or rather the blind, take over the asylum and Major Rogers get’s to taste his own medicine. If you have a phobia for razorblades, they you’ll probably faint when you see the razorblade infested walls of the tight corridors the callous Major is forced to walk.

With an all star cast, yes I think we can call it an all star cast as it houses many great British actors and actresses, Tales from the Crypt is something of a who’s who of UK low budget horror fare. Upon it’s release, Tales from the Crypt became one of the most successful films of the year in the US. Hence leading Amicus to continu with the great string of anthology anthology horrors that beaome something of a signature style of Amicus.  Another few years later a remake was planned by George A. Romero and Stephen King. Luckily they decided against it and instead came up with Creepshow another example of anthology movies that pay homage to both Amicus and the EC horror comic universe. 

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