12/21/08

The Grab Bag: Tales From The Crypt (1972) (and the results of The Top 25 Horror Films are in!)

Heya folks and welcome to The Grab Bag for this week. Luckily the Killer Bag seems to have given me a reprieve this week and won't be chasing me around. It must be a Christmas miracle. That gives me some time to mention The Vault of Horror. No, not the related title to today's movie. I'm talking about B-Sol's excellent site. It seems the results are in for The Top 25 Films of the Modern Era, and I am overall fairly pleased with them. 

My number one choice The Decent ended up coming out on top, and the list also included Dead Alive, Shawn of the Dead, and Army of Darkness.  I was a little surprised that House of 1000 Corpses didn't see any love, but there are a lot of Zombie haters out there. Some of the more surprising movies to make the list were The Silence of the Lambs which I consider more of a thriller and Eyes Wide Shut which I can't explain the inclusion of at all. There are also a couple of pictures on the list, Blair Witch and The Ring  I'm looking at you, that I outright loathe, and also a couple of pictures (Let the Right One In, Session 9, and Inside) which I have yet to see. After they made it on this list, I suppose I might want to check them out. 

As always with lists, this only encompasses the opinions of a select few bloggers and writers, and it's by no means definitive. However, it was an interesting process, and if B-Sol does any more of these kind of things I hope he continues to include me in this process. 

Now it's time to get down to the business of tonight's flick. Keeping with the holiday season, this movie gives up some lovely gifts in the form of a killer Santa, some Hammer-esque blood, and a incredible performance from Peter Cushing as we hear some....
Tales from the Crypt (1972) starring Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, and Patrick Magee. Directed by Freddie Francis. 

Several people feel drawn to take a tour of an underground crypt, but when five of them get separated from the group they encounter The Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson). The Keeper spins a tale for each of them that tells of their future fates. Joanne (Collins) will kill her husband on Christmas Eve only to end up at the mercy of a killer Santa. Carl (Ian Hendry) will attempt to run off with his mistress, but suffers an accident with unexpected consequences. James will try to run junk dealer Mr.  Grimsdale (Cushing) out of his neighborhood even at the cost of the old man's life and possibly his own. Ralph (Richard Greene) will recall the story of "The Monkey's Paw", but not learn anything from it when he is granted 3 wishes. And finally, when Major Rogers (Nigel Patrick) takes over as superintendent of a home for the blind he learns that in the land of the blind sometimes the blind are still the king.

Film Facts
--Although called Tales From the Crypt only two of the stories appeared in the original EC title of that name. The other tales came from stories in The Vault of Horror, another EC Comics title. 

--Peter Cushing lobbied for the part of Mr. Grimsdale over the role offered to him after reading the script and seeing Grimsdale was a widower, as Cushing himself had also recently lost his beloved wife. 

--Director Freddie Francis' last directorial credit was an episode of HBO's Tales from the Crypt entitled Last Respects. 

--Patrick Magee also appeared in genre film favorites A Clockwork Orange and Dementia 13. 

The Bug Speaks
This film while overall not as powerful as many of the original comic tales or the later HBO series does tend to shine in many parts. Amicus Productions had already been to the well of anthology horror only a year prior with the film The House that Dripped Blood (and would return to the formula in 1973 with The Vault of Horror) and they put together a nice ensemble cast for this picture. Sadly the stories are so truncated that for the most part they never are given time to develop any notable suspense before they are over.

In the first story, "All Though the House", Joan Collins not only gives a good performance as the murderous wife, but shocked me when I learned that not only was Ms. Collins once young, but quite a looker as well. This story above all is far too short, but the Hammer style red/orange paint blood is always fun to see and the ending of the tale where the wrongdoer gets their just deserts does set up the classic EC Comics formula very succinctly.

The second tale "Reflection of Death" is forgettable at best, but it is also quite short and gives way to perhaps the best part of the film. Peter Cushing's touching performance as Mr. Grimsdale in "Poetic Justice" only becomes more so when coupled with the events of his own life. the story itself if quite good with Robin Phillips doing a bang up job himself as Jason, the man intent on getting the junk dealer out of his neighborhood. He does everything in his power to strip the old man of his pride, his dogs, his job, and his friends until the poor old fellow hangs himself. Naturally if you know anything about EC comics you can predict how the story will end up, but it is still quite entertaining and I really enjoyed it.

Next up, "Wish You Were Here" plays like an inferior version of "The Monkey's Paw", and the film even knows it as it goes so far as to mention the story several times. While the "gore" effects are the most gruesome in this part for a modern audience they will be laughable at best. Finally the movie hits it's other high point with "Blind Alleys". The story of a new superintendent, Major Rogers, of a home for the blind who lives high on the hog while the blind men around him suffer and starve. Rogers gets what he deserves when the blind men devise a trap for him which the writers of Saw may have taken notice of. It's so ingenious I don't want to spoil a second of it so I won't. Suffice it to say that the performance by Patrick Macgee as the leader of the men is the other great performance to be found here. The whole time I watched him I knew I recognized his face, and it was only after I looked him up that I realized he was the writer in Clockwork Orange which Alex and his droogs terrorized. 

The film is not shot terribly well and the stories while many are entertaining are unlikely to horrify anyone. Yet there was a subtle charm to the movie that I appreciated. Some of the segments especially "All Though the House", "Blind Alleys" and "Poetic Justice" did contain some well put together shots and ideas. Cinematographer Norman Warwick who also worked on the Vincent Price film The Abominable Dr. Phibes really hit his stride in the final segment with some shots that were both stunning and chilling to see. 

This is one of those films which is only slightly better than average fare, but it is one that I would recommend any Peter Cushing fan to see. In the end it is his sensitive portrayal that will stick with me long after I've forgotten the majority of the rest of this film, and it is probably the reason I will end up watching it several times in the years to come. Also with Christmas upon us the addition of a killer Santa segment is always a welcome sight. So check this one out and I think you Moonies will enjoy it. 

Bug Rating

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