Tales From the Crypt (1972)
It seems quite fitting that I should be reviewing this now because last year I chose this film for top holiday viewing. The ‘All Through the House’ segment is quintessential holiday horror.
In 1972, Amicus Films gained the rights to produce a film of shorts based upon the William Gaines comics Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror. Milton Subotsky penned the screenplay himself based on the comic tales. The film stars Peter Cushing, Joan Collins, Patrick Magee and Ralph Richardson and is directed by Freddie Francis. These shorts pushed irony and the ‘surprise ending’ to its jarring best, shocking the viewer in the final moments of each segment. Even though they are somewhat dated, the stories are still entertaining today because of this aspect.
The film starts out with several people on tour through an ancient crypt. Five of them are separated from the group and sealed off in a room. Enter, the Cryptkeeper, who when asked, “What are we doing here?” is all to happy to show them. So, we are introduced to five segments:
All Through the House I love the way this first scene plays out. A woman (Joan Collins) is tending to the fireplace in her home with a brass tool. The husband is in his chair reading his newspaper. He brings the paper up to read it closely, blocking our view of his face. A moment later the newspaper is splashed with blood that quickly seeps through the printed sheets. The paper falls and the woman is standing behind the dead husband with the bloody fireplace ‘poker’ in her hands. What really makes me laugh is that the brass tool is bent from the blow – she must have really hated her husband. Brilliant scene. The story goes on to reveal an escaped lunatic that is wearing a Santa costume loose in the neighborhood. The woman struggles to clean up the evidence of the murder, fight off the psychotic Santa and keep her young daughter in bed. The segment has little dialogue and is made more ironic by the celebratory Christmas music being played throughout its running time. This segment was remade in the Tales From The Crypt series but I prefer this version.
Reflection of Death A man kisses his wife before heading out on a business trip. He and his mistress leave town by car with no intentions of returning. Unfortunately, they have a nasty car crash. The film then switches to first person POV as the man wakes up in a ditch alongside the road and tries to find his way home. You can probably guess what has happened to him by the fact that everyone he sees flees from him in horror. But the reveal to himself is the clincher in this segment and it surely brings a smile to my face every time I watch it.
Poetic Justice Peter Cushing plays the old widower, Arthur Grimsdyke. He is a pleasant man, friendly to all the neighborhood children and townspeople, but living in sorrow over the passing of his wife. A real-estate investor who would like him to sell his home, starts a secret campaign to drive him from the neighborhood. After some particularly cruel acts, Grimsdyke commits suicide. The real-estate investor vows to keep his actions a secret, but secrets like this can never stay buried, if you know what I mean.
Wish You Were Here is probably the weakest segment of all. A man and his wife find a statue that can grant them three wishes. Naturally all these wishes backfire. It is the familiar ‘monkey’s paw’ story and I have seen it done better in other films. When the husband dies the wife wishes him back, but he has already been embalmed. He screams and writhes in pain as the fluid courses through his veins. There is one glaring continuity fault with this segment, which I hadn’t really noticed until viewing it several times.
Blind Alleys is my 2nd favorite segment in the film. The new head of a retirement home for the blind, an ex-Major in the military, makes some harsh changes to the home. In glaring attempt to save money in order to increase his own pay, the Major cuts the heat and rations blankets. When one of the members gets sick the men beg the Major to get him medical attention and to increase the heat. He doesn’t and the man dies. After that, the inhabitants of the home plot their revenge. When they spring their trap the Major must run a gauntlet of danger, a maze that will essentially have him making choices of pain and injury. It’s a nasty but well-deserved demise for the corrupt Major.
The film became the most successful of the Amicus anthologies. It’s legacy lived on for many years to come, spawning an HBO series from 1989 – 1996 and several feature films baring the Tales From the Crypt moniker.
Worth a watch for nostalgia and historical footnote.
The All Through the House segment is fun horror viewing for the Holidays.
Amicus Film Overview
(you can link to all the Amicus Films I have reviewed from this page)
This looks crazy! And a great cast too
It effectively similates the experience of reading a horror comic. Not scary but entertaining stories.
I saw that movie when it came out. My favorite segment (and the only one I can remember with any detail) is Blind Alleys. I was, I guess, 14 when I saw this, and that segment had a definite impact on me. It was probably the scariest thing I had seen up to that point in my life.
It was a cruel ending for the Major but by that point in the story you disliked him so much.
Excellent post, it’s been ages since I last saw this. I may have to check it out after reading your great review.
I like the way the stories unfold. May seem dated now, but I enjoyed it anyway.
They used to show movie to the kids the last of middle school. They showed this one in 7th grade. The girls screamed and guys with any sense were glued to the film. One of Cushing’s best roles ever.
Yeah, you know, when Cushing starts reading those nasty Valentines, you really feel terrible for him and feel it in your gut. They filmed it not long after Cushing’ s actual wife passed away and it shows.
Amicus! Yes!!! I love, love, love this movie. (The cast, including Cushing, are all brilliant) I think I’ll be watching it this weekend with my kid.
I get very nostalgic every time I watch it because I once went to a horror convention in Manhattan as a kid and they screened an awful print of it (with scratches, burns and all) in a ballroom in the hotel.
Great review, Mike! Keep them coming, man!
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I always find it interesting when different people take almost the exact same screenshots of a movie. I agree with your take that Reflection of Death and Wish You Were Here are the weakest. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the TV episode of All Through The House, but I remember it not being one of my favorites so I may be with you on liking this version better. Hoping to go through the entire series of Tales From the Crypt this October.