Tales from the Crypt (1972)

So it’s the early 70s, times are changing for the horror genre and the British film industry in general. Hammer are struggling to work out what to do next, and so are their competitors at Amicus. Amicus’ solution is to look back at what’s worked for them lately and just do a lot more of it; having had a mid-60s hit with Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, that meant making more anthology films like it. The House that Dripped Blood was the first, and it was swiftly followed by Tales, but unfortunately I didn’t like it nearly as much as its immediate forerunner. This time, rather than Robert Bloch writing it, Amicus looked to the old EC Comics of the 1950s (as evinced by this film’s title and that of its successor, Vault of Horror), and so we get five people who converge on a mysterious crypt, where they’re waylaid by a mysterious robed figure who warns them of the assorted unpleasant fates awaiting. The five people are of varying degrees of ghastliness and commit acts of varying degrees of nastiness, and all five tales basically boil down to the old moral about the wages of sin being death of a preferably violent nature. I don’t know, though, I missed the mix of the straight and the comic that House found; instead, I was kind of struck by ho-hum writing and ho-hummer acting. Freddie Francis was probably better known as a cinematographer, which is no doubt why the film at least looks nice at all times (Amicus evidently aspired to Hammer’s production values as well). It was the biggest hit to date, but I can’t really work out why. And I definitely don’t get the assertion here about the 50s American comics being used to reflect the anxieties of 1972 Britain. Maybe you really did have to be there at the time…

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