Directed by Freddie Francis [Other horror films: The Brain (1962), The Day of the Triffids (1963), Paranoiac (1963), Nightmare (1964), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), The Skull (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1966), They Came from Beyond Space (1967), Torture Garden (1967), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970), Trog (1970), Gebissen wird nur nachts – das Happening der Vampire (1971), The Creeping Flesh (1973), Son of Dracula (1973), Tales That Witness Madness (1973), Craze (1974), Legend of the Werewolf (1975), The Ghoul (1975), The Doctor and the Devils (1985), Dark Tower (1989)]
This horror film by Amicus is one of the better examples of a solid anthology. Well-known for their various anthology films (including The House That Dripped Blood, Asylum, and The Vault of Horror), Tales from the Crypt is probably one of Amicus’ best, and ends up a rather classic film.
With five tales throughout, only one is particularly weak, being the second story, or ‘Reflection of Death.’ You can see the twist from miles away, and it’s just not all that good. While the fourth story, or ‘Wish You Were Here,’ isn’t that strong, it at least can boast a pretty shocking ending.
Without a doubt, the two best stories are the third and fifth, being ‘Poetic Justice’ and ‘Blind Alleys.’ The third story works amazingly well due to the sympathy that can easily be felt for the character Grimsdyke (played spectacularly by Peter Cushing). The performance Cushing gives is utterly heartbreaking, and he plays such a likable guy. ‘Blind Alleys’ on the flip-side is notable for it’s pretty solid gore (while there’s not much on-screen, that razor-blade wall just looks hella lethal), and shows a desperate revenge by the downtrodden.
Peter Cushing gave the best performance here, but he was far from alone. Joan Collins was pretty good in ‘…And All Through the House’ (while a good story with a fun conclusion, it doesn’t stack up to the better stories presented), if not a little stilted. Nigel Patrick and Patrick Magee, both of whom were in ‘Blind Alleys,’ really worked well off each other, Patrick able to really pull off an intolerable military-minded individual, and Magee the righteous fury that one would feel in his situation. Ralph Richardson pulls it all together playing the enigmatic Crypt Keeper (in a far more somber tone than the character would later be known for).
All the actors in the film have a wide-range of additions of the horror genre (Cushing is, in fact, one of my favorite actors), appearing in films from Dementia 13 (Magee), The Black Castle (Richard Greene, from ‘Wish You Were Here’), Repulsion (Ian Hendry from ‘Reflection of Death’) to The House That Dripped Blood (Chloe Franks from the first story). There’s a lot of quality here, even with the actors and actresses who didn’t do as much for me. Certainly a cast worth watching.
Tales from the Crypt might come across as a bit slow, perhaps dry, in a way that one might expect from 1970’s British movies, and maybe somewhat generic to the modern-day viewer (and there’s no denying it’s not as fun as Creepshow). Personally, it’s a film I’ve seen many times and always loved, despite the failings of a few of the stories. ‘Blind Alleys’ and ‘Poetic Justice’ alone make this movie worth watching, though, so if you’ve passed this up because early 70’s British horror doesn’t do it for you, I’d recommend reconsidering.