Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January and the “31 Days of British Horror” in March , Jules is at it again in May, treating us to the continuation of his chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.
You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.
Starring: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice, Richard Greene, Ian Hendry, Patrick Magee, Barbara Murray, Nigel Patrick, Robin Phillips, Ralph Richardson
Director: Freddie Francis
By the time they had got to the halfway point of their series of portmanteau horror films, Amicus really had nailed the format.
It’s a simple formula really; an atmospheric framing sequence, a strong cast and five short stories to keep the momentum going. This time, they finally went back to the source too, adapting shorts from the already-classic EC Comics horror titles, with the bulk of them coming from the comic that gave the film it’s name…the wonderfully lurid Tales From The Crypt.
Five strangers split off from a tourist group to explore some catacombs, only to find themselves confronted by the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who informs them of their possible demise…
First up is …And All Through The House, a festive little chiller that sees none other than Joan Collins murdering her loving husband (Martin Boddey) on Christmas Eve. Horrific enough, but an lunatic dressed as Santa has escaped from the local asylum and is trying to get in her house and she can’t call the police due to the dead body on her living room floor… As opening efforts go, this is a real treat. Collins is already exhibiting that natural charisma that would make her such a star, while the central idea is beautifully simple, a cat and mouse thriller, but with a novel twist.
Reflection Of Death is even more simple. Carl (Ian Hendry) leaves his family to be with his lover Susan (Angela Grant), but are quickly involved in a serious car accident. He wakes up in the wreck and tries to hitch-hike home, but everyone he meets reacts with horror and revulsion upon seeing him.
Okay, it’s howlingly obvious what’s happened to poor old Carl here, but it’s nicely set up and executed all the same.
Unsurprisingly, the absolute highlight of the five is Poetic Justice, which gives us another chance to marvel at the enormous talent of Peter Cushing.
As Grimsdyke, the kind and gentle old man driven to suicide by his snobby neighbours Edward Elliott (David Markham) and his son James (Robin Phillips), Cushing gives a remarkable performance. He totally sells Grimsdyke’s warmth and humanity, but undercut by a fragile vulnerability, meaning that is genuinely upsetting watching what happens to him. Saying that, the ending is deliciously nasty, but it’s richly deserved too.
Wish You Were Here draws on the old Monkey’s Paw shirt story to come up with a concept that’s truly horrific. Enid (Barbara Murray) discovers a Chinese figurine that says it will grant three wishes to whoever possesses it; so wishes for untold riches to start with, but inadvertently sets into motion a sequence of events that ends with her husband being reanimated from the dead while full of embalming fluid and in eternal agony. Even after she’s chopped him into bits, he’s still alive and will be forever.
That’s a truly horrible idea, but it’s quite brilliant too and one that lingers long in the mind after the film has moved on.
It ends with Blind Alleys, which is one of the lesser efforts, but still packs a punch by dint of its intense ending. A bleak, quiet tale of neglect in a nursing home, it ends on a crescendo of nastiness with a corridor of razor blades and a hungry dog. Decades later the tedious Saw films would make millions from ideas like this, but for a swift, nasty little final flourish, its more than effective.
Tales From The Crypt is that rare animal, a portmanteau horror where every segment is pulling its weight at the very least. Great stuff.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy