Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Freddie Francis directs a lesser Amicus anthology horror starring Peter Cushing and Richard Greene. Fox R1 DVD.

The Film

Throughout their decade long production run Amicus had their best successes with anthology horror pictures, but producer Milton Subotsky was continually trying new things, leading to a disasterous run of sci-fi, arthouse and thriller films in the mid 1960s, and a bizarre attempt to make a 3-D Jekyll and Hyde movie (I, Monster (1971)). Tales from the Crypt (1972) marked their return to the classic portmanteau format and was based on the popular EC horror comics.

Five visitors become seperated from their tour group in some underground catacombs and find themselves in a sealed chamber along with a mysterious man who shows them the horrible deads in their thoughts. All Through the House - on Christmas Eve, Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) murders her husband and plans to throw the body down the fire escape, but things are complicated when an escaped lunatic arrives outside the house. Reflection of Death - Carl Maitland runs away with his mistress, but they are involved in a horrible car wreck, and as he staggers from the wreck he becomes confused as people start screaming and fleeing at the sight of him. Poetic Justice - businessman James Elliott and his father Edward decide to get rid of their very working class neighbour Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing) with a hate campaign, blaming him for lowering their house price. Taking away his dogs and scaring away the children he used to befriend, they leave him a loney and saddened man, until he gets his revenge. Wish You Were Here - businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) is in trouble, having gambled with money that was not his, and lost it all, his wife hopes that their problems would go away, wishing on a small statue they brought while on holiday - but the wish comes very true. Blind Alleys - Major William Rogers is the new superindentant of a home for the blind, and keeps all of the money for himself, leaving the men cold and hungry, but when one of their friends dies of the cold, they plan an elaborate revenge.

The film gets off to a bad start with the simply pointless All Through The House that makes no sense (murdering her husband in a lounge where there could easily be witnesses or traces of blood left behind, instead of killing him in the basement where she takes him anyway) and is quite tiresome - the second part, Reflection of Death is equally uninteresting and drags out its denoument far too long.
Fortunately the film picks up for Poetic Justice which is undoubtedly the best segment of any Amicus horror picture. The script was largely improvised by Peter Cushing and it manages to make the character so incredibly sympathetic that it is almost unwatchably tragic and tear-jerking. The story is very well paced for the format and builds up to a superbly fitting climax. The fourth chapter is a clever little monkey's-paw riff with an amusingly different ending, although a sequence with the doomed Ralph Jason driving his car does seem to go on a little too long. The final chapter is an interesting idea, but too similar to Poetic Justice and generally too slow to be interesting. The link story is pretty typical, showing people their sins, although Wish You Were Here does seem a little forced into this format, coming up with a very brief explanation at the beginning for Jason's crimes.

Director Freddie Francis had worked extensively with Amicus in the mid-1960s, but often fell out with co-owner Milton Subotsky. However, this important big-budget picture needed someone reliable and Francis came back for the last time to helm. He does a superb job throughout - despite the daft story, the first story is a masterpiece of atmosphere and contrasting colours (mostly red blood on white carpets) while three and four both have some wonderful gothic and surreal touches. Special effects are limited but look pretty good (two shots were bad enough to warrant BBFC cuts). As usual Douglas Gamley provides the score and does a generally good job, although Bach's Toccata and Fuge in D minor is a little cliché to open.

Future Dynasty star Joan Collins is top billed here in a rather unimpressive and unbelievable performance, while young Chloe Franks as her daughter gets a lot less to do than in The House that Dripped Blood (1970). Peter Cushing however gives the best performance of his distinguished career, a real tear-jerking role as a kindly old man tortured by his wicked neighbour - surely not a dry eye in the house after this chapter. Robin Hood, in the shape of Richard Greene plays the victim of the monkey's paw, while horror regular Patrick Magee gives a strong performance as the leader of the neglected blind men in Blind Alleys - a pity it was not in a more serious film.

Tales from the Crypt contains the best Amicus anthology chapter (Poetic Justice) and an enjoyable entry (Wish You Were Here) but is otherwise uninteresting. Worth watching for Peter Cushing's performance alone, Amicus captured the comic book feel a lot better in their follow-up Vault of Horror (1973). Partly recommended.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Peter Cushing - the popular British horror star who appeared in all but one of the Amicus horror titles.
Richard Greene - once the beau of Hollywood he gave it up to fight in the war, found fame on TV as Robin Hood.
Directed by anyone interesting? Freddie Francis - a two-time Oscar winning cinematographer who spent the 1960s and 1970s directing cult horror films, from Hammer's Paranoiac (1962) to Legend of the Werewolf (1975) for Tyburn.
Is it scary?Not really.
Any violence/gore? Some blood, and two quite gory shots.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
All Peter Cushing fans should see his performance in the third story, otherwise only of interest to Amicus fans.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is very good, with no print damage and only very mild grain.
Audio English original mono, sounds good throughout.
Spanish dub track.
Subtitles English HOH, Spanish and French.
AvailabilityOnly available in a double bill with Vault of Horror.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Not available elsewhere.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut. In Britain two short gory shots were cut by the BBFC, these are fully restored here.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 12th September 2007. Part of Horror September 2.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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