Tales from the Crypt
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFreddie Francis
Screenplay byMilton Subotsky
Based onTales from the Crypt
The Vault of Horror
by Al Feldstein
Johnny Craig
Bill Gaines
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyNorman Warwick
Edited byTeddy Darvas
Music byDouglas Gamley
Production
companies
Distributed byCinerama Releasing Corporation[1]
Release date
  • 8 March 1972 (1972-03-08)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget£170,000[2]
Box officeover $3 million (US)[2] or $1,890,000[3]

Tales from the Crypt is a 1972 British horror film directed by Freddie Francis.[4] It is an anthology film consisting of five separate segments, based on short stories from the EC Comics series Tales from the Crypt by Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, and Bill Gaines. The film was produced by Amicus Productions and filmed at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England.

In the film, five strangers (Joan Collins, Ian Hendry, Robin Phillips, Richard Greene and Nigel Patrick) in a crypt encounter the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who makes each person in turn foresee the manner of their death. It is one of several Amicus horror anthologies produced during the 1970s.

Plot

Intro

While viewing old catacombs in the English countryside, five strangers stumble into a room with a mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who details how each of them will die.

...And All Through the House

The beautiful and glamorous Joanne Clayton kills her much older husband Richard on Christmas Eve. She prepares to hide his body, but is interrupted by a radio announcement of a homicidal maniac lurking in the night. She sees the killer (who is dressed in a Santa Claus costume) outside her home, but cannot call the police without exposing her own crime.

After cleaning up the murder scene, Joanne attempts to phone the police (with the intention of making them believe the maniac killed her husband). However, her young daughter Carol — believing the maniac to be Santa — unlocks the door and lets him into the house, whereupon he strangles Joanne to death by the fire.

Reflection of Death

Carl Maitland abandons his family to be with his secretary, Susan Blake. After they drive off together, they are involved in a car accident. He wakes up, having been thrown clear of the wrecked and burned car, and attempts to hitchhike home, but everyone he meets reacts with horror upon seeing him.

Arriving at his house, he sees his wife with another man. He knocks on the door, but she screams and slams the door. He then goes to see Susan, only to find that she is blind from the accident. She says that Carl died two years ago in the crash. Glancing at a reflective tabletop, he sees he has the face of a rotting corpse and screams in horror. Carl then wakes up and finds out that it was a dream, but the moment he does, the crash occurs as previously seen.

Poetic Justice

James Elliot lives with his father Edward across from the home of elderly dustman Arthur Edward Grimsdyke, who owns a number of dogs and entertains children in his house. While both the Elliots are snobs who resent Grimsdyke as a blight on their neighbourhood, James strongly detests the old man enough to conduct a smear campaign against him: first having his beloved dogs taken by animal control (although one of them returns to him), then persuading a member of the council to have him removed from his job, and later exploiting parents' paranoid fears about child molestation. Unbeknownst to James, Grimsdyke dabbles in the occult and holds a seance by himself to confer with his late wife.

On Valentine's Day, James sends Grimsdyke a number of poison-pen Valentines, supposedly from the neighbours, driving the old man to suicide. Exactly one year later, Grimsdyke rises from the grave and takes revenge on James. The following morning, Edward finds his son dead with a note that reads, "HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY..YOU WERE MEAN AND CRUEL..RIGHT FROM THE START..NOW YOU REALLY HAVE NO.." with the final word represented by James' still-beating heart inside the folded end of the paper on which the note is written.

Wish You Were Here

Ineffective, ruthless businessman Ralph Jason is close to financial ruin. His wife Enid notices, for the first time, the inscription on a Chinese figurine in the couple's collection, which grants three wishes to the owner. Enid decides to wish for a fortune and, surprisingly, the wish comes true, but Ralph is killed, seemingly in a car crash, on the way to his lawyer's office to collect the money. The lawyer, Charles Gregory, then advises Enid she will inherit a fortune from her deceased husband's life insurance plan; however, when he learns of the manner of the wish granted that she made, he warns her not to wish Ralph back since he remembered the consequences of a similar story in which a mother wished her dead son back, only to be horrified by his gruesome appearance and forced to use the last wish to send him back to the grave. Against Gregory's explicit advice, Enid uses her second wish to bring him back to the way he was just before the accident, but he is returned in his coffin, still dead, as his death was due to a heart attack immediately before the crash and caused by fright upon seeing the figure of "death" following him on a motorcycle.

Once more, Gregory warns Enid not to make a final wish and just let Ralph rest in peace. As Gregory goes outside to get some fresh air, she uses her final wish to bring Ralph back to life and to live forever. When Gregory comes back inside, he discovers too late that Enid again went against his warning. Gregory points out to her that Ralph was embalmed and he is suffering from the effects of the embalming liquid. Enid tries to kill Ralph to end his pain but, because she wished for him to live forever, he cannot be killed. As a result, she has now trapped him in eternal agony and thus making her regret those last two wishes.

Blind Alleys

Major William Rogers becomes the new director of a home for the blind, and exploits his position to live in luxury with his German Shepherd Shane, while his drastic financial cuts to food and heating reduce the residents' quality of life. Rogers gets his comeuppance after he ignores the pleas of resident George Carter to both make the living conditions more bearable and later to get medical treatment for fellow resident Greenwood, who then dies from hypothermia. Carter leads a revolt to subdue the staff before locking Rogers and Shane in separate rooms in the basement, and they then construct a small maze of narrow corridors between the two rooms. After two days left to starve, Rogers is released and forced to find his way through the maze for his freedom, getting past one corridor lined with razor blades once Carter turns the lights on; but Rogers finds his last obstacle to be a ravenous Shane who does not seem to recognise him. He flees back towards the razors, only for Carter to turn the lights off. Rogers is heard screaming as the hungry dog catches up with him and kills him.

Finale

After completing the final tale, the Crypt Keeper reveals that he was not warning them of what would happen, but telling them what has already happened: they have all "died without repentance". There is one clue to this twist in that Joan Collins' character is wearing the brooch her husband had given her for Christmas just before she killed him. The door to Hell opens and Joanne, Carl, James, Ralph, and Major Rogers all enter (Ralph enters first and is seen falling down into a fiery abyss). "And now, who's next?" asks the Crypt Keeper, turning to face the camera as he says "Perhaps...YOU?" The scene pulls away as the entrance to the Crypt Keeper's lair is in flames.

Cast

Wraparounds:

"...And All Through the House":

"Reflection of Death":

"Poetic Justice":

"Wish You Were Here":

"Blind Alleys":

Production

Development

Milton Subotsky of Amicus Productions had long been a fan of EC Comics' Tales from the Crypt and eventually persuaded his partner Max Rosenberg to buy the rights. The copyright owner, William Gaines, insisted on script approval.

Funding

The budget of £170,000 was higher than usual for an Amicus production, and was partly funded by American International Pictures.

Casting

Peter Cushing was originally offered the part played by Richard Greene, but wanted to try something different and played the elderly Grimsdyke instead.

Filming dates

Filming started on 13 September 1971 and finished in 1972.

Release

The film premièred in North America on 8 March 1972, and in the UK on 28 September 1972.

Critical reception

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, saying, "It's put together something like the comic books, with the old Crypt Keeper acting as host and narrator. In the movie version, he is played with suitable ham by Ralph Richardson".[5] Vincent Canby of The New York Times felt the film lacked style and was too heavy-handed in its morality.[6]

In retrospective reviews, Craig Butler of AllMovie said, "It has a certain magnetism about it that is hard to resist and which accounts for its enduring popularity. There's something about Crypt that makes even jaded viewers feel like they're kids sitting in their rooms late at night with the lights out, telling eerie tales with the aid of a flashlight."[7] Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine rated it two-and-a-half out of five stars and wrote that "the undercurrent of sternness is tempered by a truly bottomless roster of campy excess".[8] Anthony Arrigo of Dread Central wrote, "The greatest strength in Tales comes not from the acting or directing as both of which are perfectly sound as but in the rich stories culled from the comics."[9] Chris Alexander of Fangoria wrote, "[F]rom its first frames to its invasive final shot, this classic British creeper offers an unrelenting study in the art of the macabre."[10]

As of October 2020, Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reported that 90% of 21 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 7.07/10.[11]

Home media

The film was released on VHS in North America by Prism Entertainment Corp in 1985, then by Starmaker Home Video in 1989, and finally by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, under their Selections label, in 1998.

In the UK, it was released on VHS in 1988 by CBS Fox Video, having been rated 18 without cuts by the BBFC.[1]

It was released on DVD in the United Kingdom on 28 June 2010. It received its first Blu-ray release from Shock Records distribution in Australia on 2 November 2011.

The film, paired with another Amicus anthology, The Vault of Horror, was released on a double-feature DVD on 11 September 2007.[8] Shout! Factory released the same double feature on Blu-ray on 2 December 2014.[12]

Points of interest

Connections to the TV series

This section possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. (February 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

"...And All Through the House", "Blind Alleys" and "Wish You Were Here" were all somewhat remade into episodes for the Tales From the Crypt television show. "Blind Alleys" and "Wish You Were Here" were both changed.

References

  1. ^ a b "Tales from the Crypt". British Board of Film Classification.
  2. ^ a b Ed. Allan Bryce, Amicus: The Studio That Dripped Blood, Stray Cat Publishing, 2000 p 84-93
  3. ^ Donahue, Suzanne Mary (1987). American film distribution : the changing marketplace. UMI Research Press. p. 296. ISBN 9780835717762. Please note figures are for rentals in US and Canada
  4. ^ "Tales from the Crypt". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 30 March 2024.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (15 March 1972). "Tales from the Crypt movie review (1972) | Roger Ebert". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  6. ^ Canby, Vincent (9 March 1972). "'Tales From the Crypt':Richardson Plays Host of 5 Related Stories Theme Are Noted for Ancient Plot Devices - The New York Times". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Butler, Craig. "Tales from the Crypt (1972)". AllMovie. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  8. ^ a b Henderson, Eric (30 September 2007). "Tales from the Crypt | The Vault of Horror". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  9. ^ Arrigo, Anthony (27 November 2014). "Tales From the Crypt / Vault of Horror (Blu-ray)". Dread Central. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  10. ^ Alexander, Chris (28 November 2014). ""TALES FROM THE CRYPT / VAULT OF HORROR" (Scream Factory Blu Review)". Fangoria. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Tales from the Crypt (1972)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  12. ^ Galbraith, Stuart (18 December 2014). "Tales From The Crypt / Vault Of Horror (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 15 February 2015.