Horror Movie Review: Tales From the Crypt (1972)

An anthology film, Tales From the Crypt is a 1972 British horror directed by Freddie Francis. Each short, five in total, are based on stories from EC Comics.

Horror anthologies were pretty popular in 1970s but Tales from the Crypt stands out thanks to the excellent told stories within.

The wrap-around story sees five strangers (Joan Collins, Ian Hendry, Robin Phillips, Richard Greene and Nigel Patrick) get separated from a group of tourists viewing old catacombs. Lost, they find themselves in a room with the Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson) who tells each one the tale of how they may die.

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…And All Through the House

Joanne (Joan Collins) kills her husband on Christmas Eve, quietly & while her daughter is upstairs. While attempting to dispose of the body she hears an radio broadcast claiming that a killer is on the loose. She sees the killer outside dressed as Santa but can’t call the police seeing as her husband’s body is still in the living room.

Unfortunately for Joanne her young daughter also sees the killer & believes him to be Santa so unlocks the door.

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This story would be later repeated in the Tales from the Crypt TV series to a much better result but it’s still very good here. Collins is great as the unfeeling murderer suddenly realising that she’s in far more trouble then she could have realised. It’s a brief short but it’s effective & the killer (Oliver MacGreevy) really comes across as a sinister individual.

Reflection of Death

An inventive short. Carl (Ian Hendry) leaves his family to be with his mistress, Susan (Angela Grant). While driving away they are involved in an accident rolling down an embankment. When Carl comes too he is disorientated & alone so leaves the car heading home. He attempts to hitchhike but is met with screams of horror.

Eventually he arrives back at his family home only to discover his wife is with another man. When he confronts her she also reacts in horror. Confused, Carl goes to see Susan discovering that she is now blind from the accident they had. She tells him that he died two years ago in the crash & it’s at this moment that Carl sees himself in a reflective glass table. He is nothing but a shambling corpse, rotted & disgusting to look at.

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The best bit about this is Carl’s reaction is shared by the us, as after he awakes, the entire film is shot from the first-person perspective. His first look at his face is our first look at his face and the payoff is worth it.

Poetic Justice

The darkest & most emotionally effective of the shorts sees two snobbish residents of a street try to do everything possible to get their neighbour to sell up & move away. They think Arthur (Peter Cushing) nothing but a stain on their little street so set about dismantling his life in the cruellest ways possible.

Eventually they go to far resulting Arthur committing suicide on Valentine’s Day. A year later he returns from the dead to get his revenge in the most poignant way possible.

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A mesmerising short thanks the talented actors. Cushing is brilliant as the lovable & friendly Arthur. You feel his devastation as all he holds dear is ripped from him bit by bit. On the flip side of that, Robin Philips as the unfeeling & heartless villain is truly effective. Arguably the most memorable of the five.

Wish You Were Here

Playing with the whole consequences of wishes formula, Ralph (Richard Greene) and his wife, Enid (Barbara Murray) find a Chinese figurine. The text on it, when translated says it will grant the holder three wishes. Enid wishes for a fortune & it comes true. Ralph heads off to his lawyer’s office to collect it but is killed on the way. It’s then Enid discovers where the fortune has come from as Ralph’s lawyer informs her that she will now inherit a huge amount of money from her husband’s insurance plan. Clever!

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Desperate to bring her husband back but aware of the tricky nature of wishing she then asks for her husband to ‘be back the way he was before the accident’. Unfortunately, he remains dead as it is discovered that Ralph had a heart attack which is what caused him to crash. He died before the accident!

Thinking carefully she makes her final wish. She wishes for him to be back alive & to live forever. Perfect right? Well, no. Ralph was embalmed & while he is alive, he is in terrible pain. Realising what she has done she tries to kill him but he’s going to live forever now.

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A brief entry but a very entertaining one. It’s really well played out & Barbara Murray is fantastic as she tries to carefully think of a wish that can have no possible bad outcome.

Blind Alleys

The final short is also the most disappointing one. It sees William Rogers (Nigel Patrick) become the new director of a nursing home for the blind. He is a cruel man who cares little for the residents. Having served in the army he believes they have it far too good already so makes cuts to save money. These include reducing heating and rationing food.

However, he lives a luxurious life in his office eating steak and treating his German Shepard dog better then he does the residents. This cruelty eventually results in the death of one of the residents leading the rest to exacting their revenge.

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The payoff of Blind Alleys is well put together & while it is well acted it’s one that drags its heels & feels ineffective compared to the rest of the film.

With that, the wrap-around story concludes with a reveal that should be no surprise to anyone who had been paying attention (there are some nice clues hidden away throughout).

Tales from the Crypt is an excellent anthology that entertains & delights for most of its run-time/ Excellent acting, well told stories, a few frights, decent effects & story payoffs that please. A worthy watch for any horror fan.

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Tales From the Crypt
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