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TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972)

"To Joanne - the best wife in the world...."

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Director: Freddie Francis

Starring: Ralph Richardson, Joan Collins, Ian Hendry, Peter Cushing, Robin Phillips, Barbara Murray, Richard Greene, Nigel Patrick, Patrick Magee

Screenplay: Milton Subotsky

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Synopsis: While visiting some catacombs, five people become detached from the main party and encounter a monk-like crypt keeper, who shows them a vision of their lives. A wife (Joan Collins) murders her husband on Christmas eve, then must contend with a child upstairs and a homicidal maniac dressed as Santa Claus outside the house. A man (Ian Hendry) leaving his wife and children for his mistress has a vision of his own death - and life after death. A kindly old man (Peter Cushing) is driven to suicide on St Valentine’s Day by a neighbour (Robin Phillips) who covets his property. But the old man was interested in the occult.... A statuette grants a woman (Barbara Murray) three wishes. The first inadvertently causes the death of her husband (Richard Greene). She uses the other two to bring him back to life - and succeeds too well. The new head of a home for the blind (Nigel Patrick) lives it up while depriving his charges of food and blankets, informing them that "in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". Which is fine, until the lights go out....

This is the third in Amicus’ series of omnibus films, using stories adapted from Bill Gaines’ comics "Tales From The Crypt" and "The Vault Of Horror". Like most of these films, it’s a lot of fun, walking the line between gruesomeness and black humour with the help of a cast who plays it straight.

Fitting five tales into approximately ninety minutes, the film moves briskly from shock to shock, none of the tales outstaying its welcome. As always, the stories appeal to our worst natures, drawing characters who we really want to see get it, and then giving it to them. In this respect the final story, "Blind Alleys", is particularly effective, taking the concept of "between a rock and a hard place" to new heights.

The third segment, "Poetic Justice", is best remembered for Peter Cushing’s performance, but also contains an interesting characterisation by Robin Phillips as a man suffering advanced Dr Fell-itis: his subsequent confession to the Crypt-Keeper ("It’s true, I didn’t like Grimsdyke...") is a masterpiece of understatement.

Joan Collins, who was a mainstay of these films, is also great fun: the smirk she produces when reading the Christmas card from the husband she has just murdered is a moment to be treasured. The main problem with Tales From The Crypt, as was so often the case with British horror films of this period (correction: with all horror films of all periods) is its sexual conservatism. The only one of the "sinners" specifically admonished for his conduct by the Crypt-Keeper is the man who was leaving his wife for his girlfriend. There are those who consider bonking your husband on the head with a poker, driving a harmless old man to suicide and torturing blind people worse crimes than infidelity, but the producers of this film obviously aren’t among them.

Check out all the details of this movie on the IMDB