Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Article #1288 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-23-2004
Posting Date: 2-20-2005
Directed by Freddie Francis
Featuring Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice

Five people taking a tour of underground catacombs get lost and stumble into a hidden chamber, where a hooded man reveals to them secrets of their lives (and deaths).

This is one of the better anthology horror films out there. The tales are based on comic book stories from E.C. Comics. Generally, the format of each story is pretty standard; a man or woman who has just committed a dastardly act is treated to a horrific comeuppance; only the fourth story here (a variation on “The Monkey’s Paw”) doesn’t quite fit the pattern. The first story (about a woman who kills her husband only to find herself terrorized by a homicidal maniac disguised as Santa) is fairly ordinary, but it does make good use of music (the easy-listening Christmas music adds a lot to the atmosphere), it does have a decent amount of suspense, and it does a good job of telling a great deal of its story visually. The second story (about a married man who has a nightmare while running off with another woman) is the weakest of the bunch. The fourth story does indeed come up with a satisfyingly gruesome variant of its source inspiration. However, it’s the third and fifth stories that are the classics here. The third (about a poor old man who becomes the target of harassment by a rich neighbor) is anchored by a moving and powerful performance by Peter Cushing, and the ending is a great shock moment. Still, the best story is that last one, in which Nigel Patrick plays the neglectful superintendent of an institute for the blind whose cruel policies inspires a truly memorable act of vengeance from the residents (led by Patrick Magee); I saw this movie years ago, but I never forgot this sequence. Ralph Richardson is also on hand and having fun as the Cryptkeeper.


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