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October 18, 2011

Movie Mondays: Tales From the Crypt

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: Tales From the Crypt
Director: Freddie Francis
Writer: Milton Subsotsky(series created by William Gaines and Al Feldstein)
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Starring: Ralph Richardson, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, and Roy Dotrice
Release Date: March 8th, 1972

[Editor’s note: Due to various circumstances, Movie Mondays is obviously being posted on a Tuesday. Our apologies for the delay in your movie goodness.]

Amicus Productions digs up some old EC Horror stories with their 1972 theatrical release of Tales From the Crypt. The Crypt Keeper shows five people visions of their future as a warning. A bad Christmas, an affair driven to the beyond, an attempt of eviction going to the grave, a couple who aren’t careful about what they wish for, and an ex-general turning a blind eye to his clients are all harrowing tales from this anthology film.

Since Halloween is just a few weeks away, I thought it would only be fitting to dig up some old Amicus Productions EC Comics adaptations. And what better way to start off than with the classic 1972 Tales From the Crypt?

For starters, this is not like the HBO show Tales From the Crypt. Yes, the film is faithful to the comics, it’s an anthology of stories, and there’s the Crypt Keeper (although a somber, monk-like crypt keeper). But the similarities end there for the most part.

One of the big reasons is its seventies, British horror style. Somber, slower paced, and it uses more wit than gore. However, just like most seventies films, it has aged horribly. The yellow title cards, film quality, and special effects have graced terribly. One major example is the use of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. You know, that organ composition by Johann Sebastian Bach that gets played in every single cliché with the evil Dracula castle. But the worst offense is the cheesy, bright red blood. Perhaps it was due to trying to avoid censorship (this film isn’t too gory), but it’s some of the tackiest looking blood I have ever seen in a film.

What's black, white, and dead all over?

On the bright side, the story aspect of the film has aged decently. I was expecting this film to be a cheesy, tacky display of horror and bad humor, but instead I got the spirit of EC horror comics. Which is suspense, twisted tales, and plenty of black humor. Of course, there’s five stories, with none of them being a weak link.

…And All Through the House: This one is the classic evil wife story that pops up in many Tales From the Crypt stories. Sometimes it’s also an evil husband (although it’s the wife this time), but it’s the same concept. A secretly not so nice wife kills her unwitting husband, only to get what’s coming to her in the end. This one has a…”merry” twist to it.

Hobo Claus is coming to town!

Reflection of Death: While the other had a killer wife, this one has a cheating husband. Has a few twists, especially the Inception like twist that I won’t spoil for you.

Poetic Justice: This one is by far the best out of all of them. I love this story. This is all thanks to Peter Cushing, who does a brilliant job playing a lovable old man named Arthur Grimsdyke. He’s just an old widow who wants nothing more than to take care of his dogs and fix broken toys for children. But greedy Edward Elliott (David Markham) and his even more ruthless son James (Robin Phillips) want Grimsdyke’s property, and go to great lengths to crush the old man’s spirits and get him out of the way. This short alone is worth watching the film.

Wish You Were Here: Not a bad story, but my least favorite out of all of them. It’s basically a rip on The Monkey’s Paw (which they constantly point out during the short). However, there’s a few twists to give it some originality.

Movie Rule #672: 50% of films prior to 1998 had an inevitable green screen fall of death.

Blind Alleys: The slowest and perhaps longest out of all the stories. It’s about an ex-general who now runs a home for the blind with an iron fist. When he gets out of hand, the old blind men decide to fight back. Despite its drab and long moments, there’s great characters and the prolonged twist keeps your eyes wide open.

The quality of the stories not only has to do with the writing, but is also due to the talented cast. This film has many notable British actors, such as Joan Collins (as Joanne Clayton) and Ian Hendry (as Carl Maitland). All of them do a good job; it’s not a cheesy horror film they did in order to get a check. Ralph Richardson does a good job as the Crypt Keeper, although I prefer my Crypt Keeper to be the wisecracking skeleton from HBO than the somber monk shown here.

Stone Age Jedi.

I admit, Tales From the Crypt surprised me. Rather than finding a bad, throw away, seventies horror film, I instead found a diamond in the rough here. Of course, many mainstream audiences may be turned off by this. It definitely has its seventies tackiness, it’s slow, and it’s more about the twists and turns than the blood and guts (virtually non-existent). But if you’re like me and are up for some good black humor, this just might be your Halloween movie fix.

Andrew Hudson



  1. Awesome write-up. Great movie. I remember presenting “A Reflection of Death” in a class I took, dedicated to comic books/comic book adaptations, with a focus on EC Comics.

    We read “reflection of death”.
    And I was like “Oh Prof! I have the movie version!” and she was completely awe-struck. So, I brought it in.

    Are you gonna do “Vault of Horror” (aka “Tales from the Crypt II”) next Monday?

  2. Billy

    You had me at Peter Cushing…

  3. Andrew Hudson

    Yup Aaron. Next week I’m doing Vault of Horror, followed by an Amicus essay. And then it will be you turn to do Movie Mondays.

  4. […] attached to it.For starters, this has some familiarities with Amicus Productions’s previous Tales from the Crypt, especially since it was done only a year after. And just like its predecessor, it proves that the […]

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