For years now, I have been anticipating a DVD release of the 1972 Amicus British horror anthology film "Tales From The Crypt." Now, in 2007, my prayers have been answered as the good folks at Fox have packaged the film with another Amicus anthology film titled "The Vault Of Horror." The resulting 2 disk set is a perfect treat for horror buffs.
Before the skeletal Cryptkeeper hammed it up on TV, Freddie Francis directed a feature length "Tales From The Crypt" film based on the EC comic series. The story concerns 5 individuals who are strangely compelled to explore an underground cavern. The group find a mysterious room in which an even more mysterious hooded man (the Cryptkeeper) begins to show everyone how they will eventually die. What follows are 5 stories:
1. "All Through The House"- The plot: A wife murders her husband for his insurance policy on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately for her, an escaped murderous mental patient dressed as Santa Clause stumbles upon her house. This nearly wordless segment is without question the best of the 5 stories. There's something positively chilling about a wife killing her husband downstairs, while her daughter is upstairs trying to sleep. The vibrant colors and the Christmas music that plays throughout the entire story only add to the suspense.
2. "Reflection Of Death"- The plot: A man cheats on his wife which ends in DEADly results. This is weakest story of the bunch as there isn't much substance to it. I don't want to spoil what happens, but I will say that the story relies heavily on a trick ending. Flaws aside, I did admire the first person point of view shots by director Freddie Francis.
3. "Poetic Justice"- The plot: A snooty, mean spirited man ruins a generous old neighbor's life. Grand Moff Tarkin...I mean Peter Cushing carries this story about British class differences. Cushing, who usually plays a villain, goes against cast type here by playing the kind hearted victim. Worth watching for his performance.
4. "Wish You Were Here"- The plot: A man is granted 3 wishes from a statue. As you can guess, the wishes end up being more of a curse than a blessing. If you've seen a Genie story once, you've seen them all. There's very little new material here aside from a wickedly cruel ending that will even unnerve viewers generally unphased by horror.
5. "Blind Alleys"- The plot: Occupants of the Home For The Blind seek revenge on a cruel administrator who runs the place. Revenge stories are a dime a dozen, but how often do you see blind people seeking revenge? Even better, how often do you see blind people setting nasty and sadistic Jigsaw like traps?
"The Vault Of Horror" (also based on an EC comic series of the same name) once again follows 5 strangers who wind up in an underground hotel vault. The 5 share their individual dreams of how they died. The 5 stories are:
1. "Midnight Mess"- The plot: A man tracks down his sister in a secretive creepy town. I wish I could say more about the plot, but I can't. The entire story builds to the final moments. I will say that it leaves you wanting more, which for horror is a good thing. The less you see, the more impact it has on you.
2. "The Neat Job" is a deliciously ironic tale of an obsessive compulsive man (who likes everything organized) that drives his wife mad. This is psychological horror at its best. Very little violence is shown on screen. It's the emotional trauma that gets to you. To make it even creepier, you really get a sense of what the wife feels.
3. "This Trick'll Kill You"- A husband and wife magician team try to rip-off a magician's magic rope trick. This segment starts out promising, but the ending is so rushed and clumsy that you wonder why you even bothered to invest in this tale at all.
4. "Bargain In Death"- A man attempts to fake his own death for insurance money. The problem? He ends up being buried alive. Being buried alive is always an unsettling image, but it's been done better in other films ("Kill Bill" and "The Serpent And The Rainbow" anyone?) Additionally, much like "This Trick'll Kill You," the ending is far too abrupt. This is the only story that could have used more development and a longer running time. It's as if they ran out of money (think "Monty Python And The Holy Grail").
5. "Drawn And Quartered"- An artist dabbles in voodoo and finds that whatever he paints happens in real life. Two words: Tom Baker. Yes, Tom Baker (of "Doctor Who" fame) stars in the fifth and final tale, which also turns out to be the best of the lot. There's nothing quite like a quest for revenge backfiring and coming back to bite you. Note: Look for a small role by Denholm Elliott from the "Indiana Jones" series.
Note: Apparently scenes of violence have been edited out of "The Vault Of Horror."
Both films are presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The picture quality for the 2 films isn't very flattering to say the least. The prints are overly grainy with spots of dust sprinkled here and there. Still, I'm just relieved these films were released on DVD at all.
The Dolby Digital Mono track is one of the few disappointing aspects of this 2 disk set. The dialogue is sometimes garbled which makes it hard to understand the actors and actresses. It's too bad the 2 films weren't re-mastered or had stronger audio tracks.
The only extra is a trailer for "The Vault Of Horror."
For my money, "Tales From The Crypt/The Vault Of Horror" is the finest Fox Midnite Movies release to date. A must buy for any horror fan.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.