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TALES FROM THE CRYPT/VAULT OF HORROR
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice, Richard Greene, Ian Hendry, Patrick Magee, Barbara Murray, Nigel Patrick, Robin Phillips, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dawn Addams, Tom Baker, Michael Craig, Denholm Elliott, Glynis Johns, Edward Judd, Curt Jurgens, Anna Massey, Daniel Massey, Terry-Thomas
Directors: Freddie Francis, Roy Ward Baker
Audio: DTS HD Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Shout! Factory
Features: See Review
Length: 83 Minutes/86Minutes
Release Date: December 2, 2014

Who’s next? Perhaps...you?”

*** (Both Films)

I’ve always been a sucker for horror anthology movies. Like most of my generation, my first encounter with Tales From the Crypt was the HBO series that premiered in 1989. I even remember really liking one of the feature films it spun off, 1995‘s Demon Knight.

It wasn’t until years later that I became aware of a much earlier film version of the E.C. Comics series, released in 1972. Despite numerous opportunities to catch it on cable, I never got around to checking it out. Thankfully, Shout Factory has given me the chance to finally discover it in this new Blu-ray release, and it was well worth the wait!

Watching this made me realize how much I’ve missed not only horror anthology films, but British horror films from the 70s, and Tales From the Crypt might just be one of the very best ones I’ve seen. Even though I have seen a good many of the anthology films that came later down the line, some of which even incorporated the same story arch around the individual tales (including the heavily underrated Tales From the Hood), I still got my money’s worth in the fright and shock department. And it’s a great reminder of just how much a PG rated movie in 1972 could get away with!

We open with five people taking a tour of a catacomb. Suddenly, they get separated from their guide and soon end up in the presence of an old, hooded man known as The Crypt Keeper (Sir Ralph Richardson). He then presents to them five individual tales, each involving one of them and how they will die once they exit the catacomb.

The first tale involves Joanne (Joan Collins, who I must say was quite a looker in her pre-Dynasty days) who plots to off her husband in a plot to grab hold of his insurance money. Little does she know that on this dark Christmas Eve, a deranged killer dressed as Santa Claus is terrorizing the neighborhood. If this tale sounds familiar, it’s because it was featured in the pilot episode of the HBO series and was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who was one of the show’s executive producers.

The second is a very tricky story of a man who leaves his wife for his mistress, only to get into a brutal car wreck. He escapes the accident, only to discover he’s frightening any and everyone he comes across at first glance. It turns out to be a dream when he wakes up in the same car, but could it be a sign of things to come?

The third tale is that of prank played on a friendly old janitor (Peter Cushing) by his next door neighbor, who simply despises him. The prank drives the old man to suicide on Valentine’s Day. However, he emerges from his grave the following year to exact some deadly revenge.

For our fourth one, we are treated to a truly twisted tale involving an immoral businessman in need of surviving bankruptcy. This leads to the involvement of a prized statue that is said to be capable of granting three wishes. It is in this particular story where I was more than surprised to see what I was seeing in a PG rated movie. Times were so different 40 plus years ago.

And for our final tale, there’s the case of the new caretaker at a home for the blind. He is most mistreatful of the residents, who then take it upon themselves to plot some, shall we say, razor-sharp revenge. This made me feel grateful that I haven’t shaved in quite some time.

Also included in this release is a second film, technically the follow up to Tales From the Crypt, titled Vault of Horror. It more or less follows the exact same pattern as its predecessor, as five men find themselves trapped in the basement floor of an office building, and end up sharing with each other some truly demented visions they’ve been having lately.

Though slightly less effective than Crypt, this one does feature some spine tingling moments. We are supplied tales involving vampires, dismemberment and voodoo. By far the best tale is the last one, where an artist gets revenge on those who’ve wronged him by painting their deaths. There’s a very nice finish to this tale, as well!

As someone who is dying to see the horror anthology make a strong comeback, getting to experience these two cult horror movies from the 70s was just the very thing I needed. They may feel a bit dated in some respects, but they definitely haven’t lost any of their bite in terms of fright and shock delivery. Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror make a most ideal horror double bill!

Video ***

Even in high def, I wasn’t expecting these films to look as good as they did, but then again Shout Factory has established themselves as very Criterion-like in their preservation of horror movie classics. Though you do spot a scratch here and there, these films are presented in what has got to be their most clean and crisp presentation to date. Both dark and light settings benefit tremendously, and image detail is surprisingly strong.

Audio **

Both movies have been given a DTS HD mono mix. Despite the added boost for releases with this much age to them, not much emerges beyond the front range channels. That being said, dialogue delivery is nicely balanced with the periodic music playback, and the opening to Tales From the Crypt featuring Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” is indeed the highlight of the presentation.

Features *

The only features we get are with Vault of Horror, which is offered in both Theatrical and Unrated versions. Included is a Trailer and an Alternate Opening.

Summary:

Shout Factory continues their wonderful streak of Blu-ray horror titles with this double feature release of Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror. If you’re like me and have been craving some truly classic anthology style horror, then look no further than the two films that got this genre rolling more than 40 years ago!

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