CHRISTMAS CINEMA: Tales from the Crypt (1972)

To finish out this season of movies, allow me to give you the gift of my favorite film ever. There’s nothing better than a portmanteau and there was no studio better at making them than Amicus. This is a monument to that studio, their main director Freddie Francis and British horror royalty Peter Cushing all in one film. And with one of the stories centered on Christmas, it’s perfect to watch right now.

Five people are part of a tour of old catacombs, yet get separated from everyone else. They find themselves in the company of the Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?), who looks nothing like the character from the E.C. Comics or the later HBO series. He begins to tell each of them how they came to be in his chambers.

…And All Through the House (based on Vault of Horror #35)

Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins, Empire of the AntsI Don’t Want to Be Born) has murdered his husband on Christmas Eve. Yet even as she hides the body — scrubbing impossibly crimson blood from her immaculate white fur carpet — a killer dressed as Santa Claus is stalking her. If she calls the police, they’ll discover her crime. If she doesn’t, she’s dead.

Her daughter (Chloe Franks, who is wonderful in another Amicus anthology, The House That Dripped Blood, which we covered on one of our first podcasts) thinks that the killer is Santa and lets him in. Not the best of ideas, as he’s soon chasing Joanna all over the house.

Reflection of Death (based on Tales from the Crypt #23)

Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry, Theater of Blood) has left his family to be with his lover, Susan. That said, as they drive away, they are in an accident and no one will stop to help him after he awakens. His wife is already with another man. Susan is blind and claims he died two years ago. And by the time he figures out the truth, it’s too late.

Poetic Justice (The Haunt of Fear #12)

Edward and James Elliott hate their neighbor Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing is absolutely perfect in this role and if you don’t know who he is, I recommend that you shut down your computer and weep), who has plenty of dogs and loves to entertain the neighborhood’s children. They take his dogs from him, they get him fired from his job and finally convince the parents that he’s a child molester. A widower who speaks to his wife even after death, Grimsdyke can take no more after James sends his mean-spirited Valentines, signing the name of every neighbor. But one year later, Grimsdyke rises from the dead and sends Edward a very personal Valentine’s Day card with the help of his son’s still beating heart.

This part is perfect. From the scorn of the rich toward the poor to Cushing’s emotional pain (he was reeling from the death of his beloved wife Violet Helene Beck and had even tried to give himself a heart attack by repeatedly running stairs in his home, hoping to find a way back to her) and his rise from the earth, this is everything horror movies should be.

Wish You Were Here (The Haunt of Fear #22)

A retelling of The Monkey’s Paw, this story finds businessman Ralph Jason (near bankruptcy when his wife Enid finds a Chinese figure that will give three wishes. The first, for money, comes true when she gets Ralph’s insurance money after he dies in a car crash. Her second is to bring him back exactly as he was before the accident, but she learns that he had a heart attack upon seeing a skeletal motorcycle rider. Finally, she wishes for him to come back alive and to live forever, but as he’s already been embalmed, he awakens to horrifying pain. Even after she chops him up, he remains alive.

Blind Alleys (Tales from the Crypt #46)

Major William Rogers is the new director of the home for the blind, but he immediately cuts the budget. The men must now deal with the constant cold and a lack of food while he lives the high life with his German shepherd. The blind men rise up and turn the tables, putting Rogers in a maze where he is blinded, bloodied and finally murdered by his own dog.

The Crypt Keeper then reveals that this isn’t what may happen. It has already happened and he is there to send them all to Hell. He looks directly at the viewer, breaking the fourth wall and asks, “And now… who is next? Perhaps you?” This ending would be recycled for several Amicus films but gets me every single time.

The band CANT — that I sang for — recorded a song entitled “Tales from the Crypt” that was released on our 2015 demo. It’s opening lyrics, “Like a stain you can’t erase, you left without a trace. Ruining lives, burning inside, left in the cold, going blind” echo the evil of each character in the stories, while the chorus, “Strangled, crushed, torn, burning, blind — you are gonna die” reveals the ending to each story.

Like I said — I really love this movie. The track was originally called “The Strange Bruises You Find on Joan Collins’ Throat,” but it seemed too long and it felt better to tip my hat toward the movie.

Hey everyone! Merry Christmas!

2 thoughts on “CHRISTMAS CINEMA: Tales from the Crypt (1972)”

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