Of all the Amicus portmanteau collections that made it onto TV in the mid seventies the film that sticks in my memory of illicit late night sessions spent inches from the glowing screen, volume turned down to avoid detection is the aptly named Tales From The Crypt (1972).

A number of things elevate this particular branch of the horror tree when its done well. In TFTC these components come together very nicely indeed to provide a chilling journey towards the end credits.

Established ‘genre’ music suggests a pedigree. ‘The Last Judgement’ is a widely used favourite. The musical choice also provides a spine tingling clue to the setting. If you’re listening to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition or the Great Gates of Kiev odds on you’re in a gallery about to close. When Toccata and Fugue in D minor thunders in under the opening frames -  it was composed to put the fear of God in to the congregation – you’re guaranteed a nervous subterranean stroll through the valley of the shadow of death.

Next on the list of things you must not forget to pack are the assembled cast of travellers for whose stories you will bear witness. You’ll be meeting a nice mix of familiar faces some fresh some fading all assigned easily recognisable cameos, the arrogant military type (Nigel Patrick), the flamboyant art lover (Richard Greene), the scheming wife (Joan Collins), the unfaithful husband (Ian Hendry), the suburban snob (Robin Phillips), they’re all here. You probably know people just like them so its going to fun watching what happens.

Last on the list of essentials for the journey into darkness the guide to ensure his charges don’t find their own way home just yet. In TFTC a catweasly Geoffrey Bayldon dons a peaked cap to ensure the group follow him deeper into the vaults until they come face to face with the crypt keeper the seer who knows more about his guests than is comfortable for them to know about themselves, yet! Remember he’s not here to make these folks feel at home or is he. Tales from the Crypt features a suitably enigmatic oracle in veteran Ralph Richardson as the crypt keeper. What prophecies lie behind those eyes set, with a crafty twinkle, in an otherwise poker face.

The middle-aged dandy who makes a wish too far, christmas gone badly wrong for our duplicitous housewife, a car accident with a difference for the cheating hubby, how about a midnight visitor you didn’t expect for the stuck up neighbour and my favourite just deserts for a canine loving major who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with those under his care.

Drawing its inspiration from the fifties horror comic of the same name, stylistically Tales From The Crypt is rooted in the seventies. Only the underlying moral of each tale remains timeless. Its very witty and boasts some great performances. Worthy of particular merit Peter Cushing as Grimsdyke the put-upon pensioner who turns up with a valentine card no-one wants to receive and Nigel Patrick who ends up at the sharp end of Patrick Magee’s sightless avenger.

Now which way is out…

Review by Dancemakr

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