Fox has released through its' "Midnight Movies" series two from the vaults,so to speak.1972's "Tales from the Crypt" and what was intended as its' follow up,1973's "Vault of Horror".I recall vividly sitting in my car and watching these two flicks on a big screen at a local drive in during their first release year."Tales" is definitely far superior in script and execution than "Vault,even with the good acting on hand.
"Crypt" is a five-told story.A group of sight seers are drawn to a tour of a labyrinth of underground crypts.The tour guide warns all to stay together but five find themselves separated from the main group and wander into a large "room".A crypt keeper appears,attired like a monk(played eerily by Sir Ralph Richardson).The group consists of one woman(Joan Collins) and four men(Nigel Patrick,Richard Greene,Ian Hendry and David Markham).All are antsy to leave and the keeper asks each one "Where will you go?" and "Then...?".Then each take turns relating what they had planned to do later that day.First off is Collins who murders her husband on Christmas eve.The radio,which constantly plays seasonal music,announces that an insane and dangerous killer is loose.It is kind of ironic considering Collin's vicious act that she has committed.Nonetheless in the midst of trying to create an alibi for herself,her daughter(who can't sleep) spies a man in a Santa costume outside.She runs to let him in and it is the killer,who proceeds to murder Joan. Next is Ian Hendry who is leaving his wife and two children.As he and his girlfriend are driving away they become involved in an accident.Hendry wakes up to find the car an empty hulk with nothing inside of it.He wanders back home(we see what he sees in the first person) to find his wife has strangely remarried and screams when she opens the door.She slams it shut and he walks back to his girlfriends place.She lets him in but she doesn't react except at his admission of who he is.She is blind as a result of the crash a YEAR before.He looks in a mirror and then we see his horrible face.The next story involves David Markham as a father who lives with his grown up son.The latter is quite snobbish and abhors the neighbour across the street played by Peter Cushing.He is a kind gent who is beloved by the local children but the son is determined to get rid of the "trash",as it were.First he gets the man's dogs removed and then gossip started on his "real" motives concerning children.The coup de gras comes when he sends him hateful valentines,supposedly from the entire neighbourhood.He commits suicide and the local "problem" is solved...or so it seems.One year later revenge is wreaked and the father receives a valentine with the son's heart attached.Richard Greene steps up to the plate next as a businessman whose wife wishes on a Chinese figurine for a financial fortune.As a direct result Greene is killed in a car accident.She inherits his insurance policy but is so grieved that while standing in front of his body in the casket,she wishes him back to life.He comes to life alright,except he screams in constant agony due to the embalming fluid in his veins.Finally Nigel Patrick,is the new head of a home for the blind.He immediately institutes strict budget restraints in food and heating.He lives like a king while his charges starve and freeze.When one man dies they revolt and lock Patrick's dog in one room and him in another.Two days later he is released into a wooden and chicken wire maze.When he reaches what he thinks is a way out it opens and out runs his starved and mad dog.As it pounces the lights go out.When the last story is read the crypt keeper announces these are things they have already done,not what they may do.All walk out into a now open portal leading to Hell.The keeper asks who is next,looks into the camera and asks:"Perhaps you?".
The best of the two offerings here it is tautly directed and edited and keeps the suspense and intrigue up from beginning to end.All the acting is top notch and what I like the most is that much of the gore is left up to ones imagination.What you think might be happening is much more effective than actually seeing the blood,guts and entrails so prevalent in today's film making.
The next film is the follow up "Vault of Horror" released in 1973.Five men,Tom Baker,Daniel Massey,Terry Thomas,Curt Jergens and Michael Craig,get into an office tower elevator which takes them to a sub basement level.When they exit the lift,it closes behind them.They are in a pentagonal shaped room with chairs,a table and drinks provided.Each relates a story they feel is almost "real" but think it is just that...a story.The first is Massey who is quite sadistic.He hires a private eye to track down his sister who has gone missing.Just as the private eye leaves with the info he needs,he kills him.He finds his sister in a queer small town and kills her,to obtain the inheritance she received.When he dines at a local restaurant he finds the food very strange.He has inadvertently stumbled into a clan of vampires.He ends up as the next thing on the menu.Next Terry Thomas reveals a recent marriage and an obsession for neatness.His new wife(Glynnis Johns)takes it for so long but looses it at one point and kills him.Laughing hysterically she says yes everything is neat now,as the camera pans to labeled jars of his remains.Curt Jergens is next and he and his wife are magicians in India looking for new tricks to add to their act.After Jurgens publicly embarrasses a local magician his daughter doesn't take kindly to it.Jurgen's invites the daughter back to their apartment to perform a levitating rope trick he can't explain.He kills her to get it and when the wife climbs the rope she disappears and is killed.The rope attacks Jurgens who also meets the same demise.Michael Craig is a doctor who plans to defraud an insurance company with the help of his friend.He plans to chemically simulate death,have his friend rescue him out of the ground and then both will take off with the resultant insurance money.However two medical students looking for a body to practice on pick Craig's coffin to exhume;just as well as his friend has skipped out on him.At the end of his air he screams as the lid is opened.An excited gravedigger hits him on the head REALLY killing him.At this moment the scared med students running away cause Craig's friend,passing by,t swerve into a tree and to be killed.Finally Tom Baker is a Gauguin-like painter/artist plying his trade alone in Haiti,instead of the South Seas.A friend drops by to say his rep back in London has been ripping him off by undervaluing his works and selling them at high prices while he receives none of the profits.He attends a local voodoo man who gives Baker the power to act through his paintings.He returns home and wreaks revenge on his three betrayers by first painting them,then altering their likenesses in some fashion which kills them.One painting of himself that he has brought with him gets accidentally ruined by turpentine by a nearby workman and Baker becomes his own victim when he is run over.The film ends when the room door opens and a graveyard appears outside.Four of the five walk into it and disappear.The fifth,Jurgens,remains briefly to tell us that "this is the way it is" and that they are doomed to repeat their deeds/stories over and over again for eternity.He walks back into the room and disappears.While some of the stories are interesting enough and the acting is very good throughout,it somehow doesn't have the same effect overall as "Tales" does.And while "Crypt" is a fine print,this one has a few film defects(grainier,slightly more washed in spots).In fact this print is not the original and has been edited;probably for show on TV.The one obvious spot is the vampire restaurant.After Massey is captured he is strung upside down and his blood drained which the vampires drink.In this print the view of him upside down is just a very brief still shot(of all things).The original footage is in the accompanying trailer with this release.You would think releasing for DVD would have been cause to come up with the original film elements but no such luck.Another reason this film loses points.
All in all a pretty good release of a couple of decent horror flicks out of England from the 1970s.The only special features are the accompanying trailers for each,but at least are in their original widescreen formats."Tales from the Crypt" is by far the winner here with "Vault" a distant second.However there is enough to recommend even the latter as a pleasant diversion for fans of the genre,however sanitized it may be.