TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

TalesCrypt poster

Directed by: Freddie Francis

Written by: Milton Subotsky

(based on the E.C. Horror Comics by Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein & William M. Gaines)

Starring: Ralph Richardson, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice, Richard Greene, Ian Hendry, Patrick Magee, Barbara Murray & Nigel Patrick

Comics were all the rage in the 1950’s. They weren’t all superheroes and detective stories though as horror comics were also extremely popular. One company that owned the monopoly on this horror comic front was E.C. with titles like TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE VAULT OF HORROR, and THE HAUNT OF FEAR. Though E.C.’s horror comics were eventually run out of business due to controversy and outrage, many children were scared senseless and absolutely loved them. About 17 years after the comics disappeared from shelves, Amicus (a British film company that specialized in horror) decided to adapt five stories from the various horror comics into one movie. What resulted is 1972’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT, one of the better horror anthology films out there. The framework concerns five travelers who get lost in some catacombs and come across the mysterious Cryptkeeper. He relates to them five different tales…

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…AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE: The first story of the bunch is set around Christmas time. A conniving wife kills her husband on Christmas Eve and tries to clean up the crime scene. This proves difficult when she finds herself attacked by an escaped maniac dressed in a Santa Claus costume. This is one story that was actually improved upon with HBO’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT series. The acting is alright and there is a nifty dark twist at the end (which is usually the case with any E.C. horror story). However, this segment is weighed down by a not-so-intimidating Santa lunatic. I wish they could have made this guy appear a little scarier than he actually comes across. There’s still a lot to appreciate about this segment though. B

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REFLECTION OF DEATH: An unfaithful husband/father leaves his family for his mistress and gets in a horrifying car accident. Awakening from the wreckage, he finds that (for some reason) when people see him, they scream and run. It only becomes apparent after a while what really happened. It’s not terribly hard to guess the twist of this segment and I remember reading a story like it in MORE SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. However, I do especially like how the latter half of this tale plays out in POV-style that forces you to see the aftermath of the accident through our protagonist’s eyes. B

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POETIC JUSTICE: A pair of rich snobs attempt to drive their elderly lower class neighbor out of his home through intimidation and bullying. Their plan comes to an unexpectedly grim resolution on Valentine’s Day and things only get darker from there. While the first two segments were good but not great, this third story is where TALES really begins to hit its stride. Peter Cushing brings an emotional level to this story that was not present in the previous two tales. He’s lovable and sympathetic as the elderly neighbor. This makes every injustice done to him much more tragic to watch and the climax that much more satisfying. A-

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WISH YOU WERE HERE: A darker, more twisted and (sort of) meta retelling of THE MONKEY’S PAW. This fourth story serves as a quick, nasty, and to-the-point horror tale. A broke businessman and his wife discover an old Chinese figurine rumored to grant three wishes. The first wish is to be rich again. This results in the husband dying in a car accident and the wife receiving a large sum of insurance money. Using her knowledge of THE MONKEY’S PAW story, the wife attempts to use her last two wishes in a way that can’t possibly backfire. Things don’t exactly go according to plan. This segment feels like the shortest of the film and also packs one of the more disturbing climaxes of the five stories. The way in which this tale is executed (including a surprising amount of gore for a PG-rated 70’s horror film) really puts a fresh spin on a familiar story. B+

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BLIND ALLEYS: This anthology film goes out on its strongest segment with a twisted tale of cruelty and revenge. A former army general takes a position as director in a home for the blind. Instead of treating his residents with care and kindness, he cuts the budget (resulting in bad food, no heat, and cheap blankets) and spends money on himself (eating steak, buying expensive artwork, and heating his own office). When one of the blind men dies due to the new director’s incompetence, the remaining residents plan an elaborate revenge. I cannot say enough good things about this final story. The antagonist is one of the most despicable scumbags you’ll see in a horror film and the ending is downright nightmarish. They really send this anthology out on its darkest and best story. I love it for that. A+

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Though it has ups and downs in quality, 1972’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT doesn’t have a single bad story. The first two tales are good and things only get better from there on out, climaxing in one of my favorite segments from any horror anthology. This is a well-constructed adaptation of past horror comics that ranks up there with HBO’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT series. Highly recommended!

Grade: B+

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