Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tales from the Crypt (UK, 1972)

Original British horror anthology based on EC's 'Tales from the Crypt' which would eventually lead to the more well known US TV series and films. As usual Amicus are behind the tales of terror.

Being a British version of the old comic its naturally slightly reserved and a little more serious or gloomy. The cast is made up of some classy stalwartly Brits such as Peter Cushing and Ralph Richardson and many well known characters actors of British film, TV and theatre.

The five short stories are interesting but not wild effects packed thrillers as the later movies. The first has Joan Collins murdering her husband at Xmas but being strangled herself by an escaped loony dressed up as Santa who was let in the house by her little girl. Second has a cheating husband seeing his own death and coming back as the undead. Third shows Peter Cushing as an old man being hounded by his snobby neighbours to move as they dislike his scruffy presence next door. The old man commits suicide then comes back from the dead to exact revenge.

Fourth story is a variation on the famous short 'The Monkey's Paw' (also spoofed by 'The Simpsons' so well in their Halloween episodes). A recently widowed woman makes bad choices or wishes with a small Oriental statue causing herself much grief. The last story shows what happens to a mean money pinching man who runs a home for blind men very badly. The residents get their revenge on the Scrooge-like director of the so called care home.

The stories are told as predictions of the future by the Crypt Keeper to a group of people visiting some old catacombs, the frame/wrap plot. The keeper is a much more serious take on what you may be used to these days, very monk like, a normal human face, well spoken, almost like the Grim Reaper. The stories are also quite tame and not overly exciting by today's standards. Some blood on show but its pretty clearly red paint and the odd good bit of makeup/prosthetics on the undead. Peter Cushing's small performance as a zombie is actually extremely unnerving down to the quite ghastly makeup applied to his gaunt face, kudos there.

The film isn't as fun I thought, its kinda dull and takes itself too seriously. The stories are fair but lean more towards simple revenge without much visual gore or goo, that's perfectly fine but I always thought these anthologies need at least one or two good monster/creature features. The finale vignette for example, about the care home for the blind, is very strange. At first you feel sorry for the elderly men being pushed around by the new director, but when they take their revenge it seems way too extreme and nasty frankly, you end up feeling sorry for the director and his dog.

The same can be said for the woman and her Chinese figurine. She's not a bad person, she merely makes wishes that turn sour on her so again you're not too sure how to feel towards that character, you feel for her in the end. As for the Joan Collins short story...that's just unscary and bloody obvious right from the start (no pun intended), just a dull murder tale. The best and most inventive tale must be 'Refection of Death' with the man seeing his own death, brilliant twist at the very end there.

In the end the bookend plot involving all the people in the catacombs has a nice eerie twist which isn't overly original as this twist does pop up in other anthology movies. Never the less it works really well despite the dodgy sets and effects of the time, rather predictable though methinks. An Interesting set of horror stories, not a thrilling set but fun to watch all the over acting and reactions. Certainly one of the better made horror anthologies if a bit bland in places.