amicus productions, angela blake, freddie francis, ian hendry, joan collins, milton subotsky, nigel patrick, Patrick Magee, peter cushing, ralph richardson, robin phillips, tales from the crypt, the crypt keeper
During the early 50s, EC Comics ran a successful horror series known as Tales From the Crypt of which 27 issues were produced on a bi-monthly basis. When co-founder of Amicus Productions, Milton Subotsky came into the position of securing the rights to produce a movie-length feature based on the comics he loved as a kid, he didn’t hesitate.
For me, criminally, I would blur the lines of recollection between this and Creepshow, both franchises having a crypt keeper / the creep taking on hosting or segway duties. It’s iconic status however was not lost on me and for those who have followed my writings or musings through the Surgeons of Horror podcast may know, I’m a huge fan of Peter Cushing’s work, especially with the Hammer Horror scene. Here he teams up with director Freddie Francis, who has been attached to films by both Hammer and Amicus in their history, and another creative with whom I admire. Francis does incredibly well with the 5 segmented stories, all drawn from the TFTC archives. And Cushing actually turned down the initial role offered to him from the script, which was part of The Monkey’s Paw inspired tale, “Wish You Were Here”, instead taking on the role of Grimsdyke in “Poetic Justice”.
The segments are weaved together with 5 souls trapped in a state of purgatory to face up to their evil deeds, by The Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson). One by one we witness these individuals recount their tales which lead to their death, from Joan Collins as Joanne Clayton in “…And All Through The House” in a Christmas inspired murder of a woman killing her husband and trying to hide the evidence form her daughter only to be sprung from a psychotic killer on the loose dressed as Santa.
Then there’s “Reflection of Death” where Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) tries to run away from his family life with his lover, Susan (Angela Blake) only to crash in his car and be taken on a living nightmare where he believes he survived, only to find out that this is far from the truth. This is followed by the aforementioned segment with Cushing, where he plays the loveable, elderly figure Grimsdyke, who is the subject of jealousy by his neighbour James (Robin Phillips) believing him to be a waste of space, and bringing down the neighbourhood. When he takes action to strip down Grimsdyke’s life to bare minimum, he doesn’t expect the repercussions that occur beyond the grave.
The fourth segment, “Wish You Were Here” as stated before is heavily inspired by The Monkey’s Paw and the ramifications when you are not careful or specific about what you wish for when presented with three wishes. The last segment, “Blind Alleys” has Nigel Patrick as a self-entitled Major who gets his razor sharp comeuppance in a dog-eat-dog world where he attempts to rule the roost over the occupants in a home for the blind. The residents also include Patrick Magee hamming it up as always.
There’s a certain appeal to this anthology movie that lures you into each tale. Yes there are some obvious flaws but these can be forgiven for the atmosphere created by the creative team and the actors that give substance to the tales from the crypt.
- Saul Muerte