Movie review: Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Synopsis: Five strangers become lost in a crypt and see visions of how they will die, before being given their final judgement from the Crypt Keeper.

Director: Freddie Francis

Starring: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Ralph Richardson

Review:  Before the plethora of comic book adaptations we have today, there was ‘Tales of the Crypt’, an adaptation of the popular pulp comics.

I’d known about ‘Tales of The Crypt’ but hadn’t seen it so when it became available on streaming services, I had to give it a go. The movie features five short stories taken from the comics and I generally enjoyed each story, although some weren’t that original (although that may have been because there has been a number of copies since the original movie came out). The stories featured are:

  1. ‘And All Through the House’ featuring Joan Collins as a murderous wife. However, the tables are turned when she’s locked in her house with a serial killer stalking outside;
  2. ‘Reflection of Death’ where a man leaves town with his mistress until they have an accident. Returning home, seeking help, he’s surprised to find people reacting in horror at his appearance;
  3. ‘Poetic Justice’ sees a widowers life destroyed by a heartless neighbour, but he gets his ultimate revenge on Valentine’s Day;
  4. ‘Wish You Were Here’ is a take on the idea of the monkey’s paw but in this version a Chinese statue grants three wishes, you just need to be very careful what you wish for!;
  5. ‘Blind Alleys’ sees an army Major placed in charge of a care home for elderly blind men. He’s cruel and ignores the men’s pleas for help so they exact their revenge by sending the Major through a series of alleyways, chased by his own starved dog.

I always recognise Ralph Richardson from his role in Time Bandits (1981) and so think of him as a comedy actor but he is arguably more of a serious actor, although I think he plays his role as the Crypt Keeper here slightly tongue-in-cheek. Joan Collins is cold, calculating elegance, whilst Peter Cushing is, well Peter Cushing. The rest of the stars (arguably famous, but sadly unknown to me) are also very good and definitely hold their own. The sets have a slightly shaky quality but that adds to the charms and the editing is tight, with few superfluous lines. Director Freddie Francis would go on to work on other tales of horror and suspense, including Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (1980) and ‘The Doctor and the Devils‘ (1985) but Tales from the Crypt is arguably his most famous work.

Tales from the Crypt has entered into movie lore and rightly so in my opinion. The original comics have been retold many times since but, as is so often the case, the original is the best.

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