Tales from the Crypt is a 1972 British horror film, directed by Freddie Francis. It is an anthology film consisting of five separate segments, based on stories from EC Comics. Only two of the stories, however, are actually from EC’s Tales from the Crypt. It was produced by Amicus Productions.
Five strangers go with a tourist group to view old catacombs (Highgate Cemetery). Separated from the main group, they find themselves in a room with the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who details how each of the strangers will die…
…And All Through the House (The Vault of Horror #35) – After Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) kills her husband on Christmas Eve, she prepares to hide his body but hears a radio announcement stating that a homicidal maniac (Oliver MacGreevy) is on the loose. She sees the killer (who is dressed in a Santa Claus costume) outside her house but cannot call the police without exposing her own crimes. Believing the maniac to be Santa, Joanne’s daughter unknowingly lets him into the house, and he apparently starts to strangle her to death…
Reflection of Death (Tales from the Crypt #23) – Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) abandons his family to be with Susan Blake (Angela Grant). After they drive off together, they are involved in a car accident. He wakes up in the wrecked car and attempts to hitchhike home, but no one will stop for him. Arriving at his house, he sees his wife (Susan Denny) with another man. He knocks on the door, but she screams and slams the door. He then goes to see Susan to find out that she is blind from the accident. She says that Carl died two years ago from the crash. Looking in a reflective tabletop he sees he has the face of a corpse. Carl then wakes up and finds out that it was a dream but the moment he does, the crash occurs as it did before.
Poetic Justice (The Haunt of Fear #12, March–April 1952) – Edward Elliott (David Markham) and his son James (Robin Phillips) are a snobbish pair who resent their neighbor, retired garbage man Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing) who owns a number of animals and entertains children in his house. To get rid of what they see as a blight on the neighborhood, they push Grimsdyke into a frenzy by conducting a smear campaign against him, first resulting in the removal of his beloved dogs (while one of them came back to him), and later exploiting parents’ paranoiac fears about child molestation.
On Valentine’s Day, James sends Grimsdyke a number of poison-pen Valentines, supposedly from the neighbors, driving the old man to suicide. One year later, Grimsdyke comes back from the dead and takes revenge on James: the following morning, Edward finds his son dead with a note that says he was bad and that he had no heart– the word “heart” represented by James’ heart, torn from his body.
Wish You Were Here (The Haunt of Fear #22, November–December 1953), is a variation on W. W. Jacobs‘ famed short story “The Monkey’s Paw.” Ruthless businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) is close to financial ruin. His wife Enid (Barbara Murray) discovers a Chinese figurine that says it will grant three wishes to whoever possesses it; Enid decides to wish for a fortune; surprisingly, it comes true, however, Ralph is killed on the way to his lawyer’s office to collect it.
The lawyer then advising Enid she will inherit a fortune from her deceased husband’s life insurance plan. She uses her second wish to bring him back to the way he was just before the accident but learns that his death was due to a heart attack (caused by fright when he sees the figure of ‘death’ following him on a motorcycle). As she uses her final wish to bring him back alive and will live forever, she discovers that he was embalmed. She tries to kill him to end his pain but because she wished him to live forever, every bit of him is alive and well. She has now trapped him in eternal pain.
Blind Alleys (Tales from the Crypt #46, February–March 1955), Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick), the new director of a home for the blind (making up mostly of elderly and middle-aged men), makes drastic financial cuts, reducing heat and rationing food for the residents, while he lives in luxury with Shane, his Belgian Malinois. When he ignores complaints and a man dies due to the cold, the blind residents, led by the stone-faced George Carter (Patrick Magee) exact an equally cruel revenge. After Carter and his group subdue the staff, they lure and trap Major Rogers as well as his dog in two separate rooms in the basement. The blind men then begin constructing in the basement a maze of narrow corridors, some of them lined with razor blades. They starve the Major’s dog, then place the Major in the maze’s center, release the dog and turn off the basement lights…
After completing the final tale, the Crypt Keeper reveals that he was not warning them of what would happen, but telling them what had happened; they have all died, and it is too late for repentance…
“But once you get past the inconsistencies, which most anthology films have in spades anyway, you’re left with five of the best, most horrific tales the genre has to offer, with nasty comeuppances for everyone and strong performances all round (particularly, as is always noted, by Peter Cushing as Arthur Grimsdyke).
‘Reflection of Death’, in particular, has always chilled me – the clever use of the point-of-view camera leaves the audience genuinely worried about what we’re going to see when Hendry finally gets to a reflective surface, but before we’ve had the time to take it in properly, the scene switches and we get that terrifying noise. I love it. All of it.” British Horror Films
“Tales from the Crypt is a perfectly realized entry in (and perhaps, the best example of) the British anthology sub-genre. In a way, I guess you could also view it as one of the earliest (and best) comic book/graphic novel film adaptations.” Oh, the Horror!
Cast and characters:
- Ralph Richardson – The Crypt Keeper
- Joan Collins – Joanne Clayton
- Peter Cushing – Arthur Edward Grimsdyke
- Roy Dotrice – Charles Gregory
- Richard Greene – Ralph Jason
- Ian Hendry – Carl Maitland
- Patrick Magee – George Carter
- Barbara Murray – Enid Jason
- Nigel Patrick – Major William Rogers
- Robin Phillips – James Elliot
- Geoffrey Bayldon – Guide
- David Markham – Edward Elliot
- Robert Hutton – Mr. Baker
- Angela Grant – Susan Blake
- Chloe Franks – Carol Clayton
- Martin Boddey – Richard Clayton
- Clifford Earl – Police Sargeant
- Harry Locke – Harry
- Oliver MacGreevy – Santa Suit Maniac
- Robert Rietti – Radio Announcer
Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Lane, Highgate, London, England
Pyrford Court, Ripley, Surrey, England
Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England