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The Vault of Horror (otherwise known as Vault of Horror, Further Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Crypt II) is a British anthology horror film made in 1973 by Amicus Productions. Like the 1972 Amicus film Tales from the Crypt, it is based on stories from the EC Comics series written by Al Feldstein. The film was directed by Roy Ward Baker, and filmed on location and at Twickenham Studios.

The Vault of Horror
Vault of Horror (1973).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoy Ward Baker
Produced byCharles W. Fries, Max Rosenberg
Written byMilton Subotsky (screenplay)
StarringTerry-Thomas
Curd Jürgens
Tom Baker
Dawn Addams
Denholm Elliott
Daniel Massey
Music byDouglas Gamley
CinematographyDenys N. Coop
Edited byOswald Hafenrichter
Production
company
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Cinerama Releasing Corporation
Release date
  • March 1973 (1973-03)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

It stars Terry-Thomas, Dawn Addams, Denholm Elliott, Curd Jürgens, Tom Baker, Michael Craig, Terence Alexander, Glynis Johns, Mike Pratt, Robin Nedwell, Geoffrey Davies, Daniel Massey and Anna Massey.

None of the film's stories are actually from Vault of Horror comics. All but one appeared in Tales from the Crypt, the exception being from Shock SuspenStories. The film omits the Vault Keeper character from the comics.

PlotEdit

Framing Story

Five strangers board a descending lift, one by one, in a modern office block in London. They reach the sub-basement, though none of them have pressed for that destination. There they find a large, elaborately furnished room that appears to be a gentlemen's club. The lift door has closed; there are no buttons to bring it back, nor any other exit. Resigned to waiting for help, they settle down with drinks and talk. The conversation turns to dreams, and each man tells of a recurring nightmare.

Midnight Mess (Tales from the Crypt #35)

Harold Rodgers tracks his sister Donna to a strange village, and kills her to claim her share of the family inheritance. After settling down to a post-murder meal at the local restaurant, he discovers the town is home to a nest of vampires: Donna is not as dead as he thinks, and he becomes the dish of the night when his jugular vein is tapped out as a beverage dispenser.

The Neat Job (Shock SuspenStories #1)

The obsessively neat Arthur Critchit marries Eleanor, a "young" trophy wife who is not quite the housekeeper he hoped for. His constant nagging about the mess she makes eventually drives her mad. Upon his shouting at her, "Can't you do anything neatly?", she kills him with a hammer and cuts up the corpse, putting all the different organs into neatly labelled jars.

This Trick’ll Kill You (Tales from the Crypt #33)

Sebastian is a magician on a working holiday in India, where he and his wife Inez are searching for new tricks. Nothing impresses until he sees a girl charming a rope out of a basket with a flute. Unable to work out how the trick is done, he persuades her to come to his hotel room, where he and his wife murder her and steal the enchanted rope. Sebastian plays the flute, and the rope rises; realizing that they have discovered a piece of genuine magic, the couple begin plans to work it into their act. Inez experiments with climbing the rope, only to disappear with a scream. An ominous patch of blood appears on the ceiling, and the rope coils round Sebastian's neck and hangs him. Their victim reappears alive in the bazaar.

Bargain in Death (Tales from the Crypt #28)

Maitland is buried alive as part of an insurance scam concocted with his friend Alex. Alex double-crosses Maitland, leaving him to suffocate. Two trainee doctors, Tom and Jerry, bribe a gravedigger to dig up a corpse to help with their studies. When Maitland's coffin is opened, he jumps up gasping for air, scaring Tom and Jerry who run out into the middle of the road in front of Alex's car, which crashes into a tree and explodes. The gravedigger kills Maitland, and when trying to close the sale of the corpse apologizes to Tom and Jerry for the damage to the head.

Drawn and Quartered (Tales from the Crypt #26)

Moore is an impoverished painter living in Haiti. When he learns that his paintings have been sold for high prices by art dealers Diltant and Gaskill after being praised by critic Fenton Breedley, all of whom told him that they were worthless, he goes to a voodoo priest and his painting hand is given voodoo power; whatever he paints or draws can be harmed by damaging its image. Rather awkwardly, these events coincide with his completing a self-portrait, which he keeps under lock and key to prevent the magic from turning on him. Returning to London, Moore paints portraits of the three men who cheated him, and mutilates the paintings to exact his revenge. He is also obliged to put his own portrait out in the open, because leaving it in an airless strongbox nearly suffocated him. A workman subsequently drops a can of paint thinner on the picture through a skylight, and Moore, as a result of the voodoo, suffers a correspondingly messy death.

When the story of the final dream is told, the five ponder the meaning of their nightmares. The lift door opens, and they find themselves looking out onto a graveyard. Rodgers, Critchit, Sebastian and Moore walk out into the graveyard and disappear one by one. Sebastian remains behind and explains that they are all damned souls compelled to tell the stories of their evil deeds for all eternity. He then turns back into the room, which is now a mausoleum, walks towards the casket and disappears himself. Then the door slams shut.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

In the segment "Bargain in Death", Maitland can be seen reading a copy of the novelisation of the earlier Amicus film Tales from the Crypt. The same instalment features Geoffrey Davies and Robin Nedwell, who both appeared in the British TV show Doctor in the House. "Midnight Mess" features a brother and sister as characters. They are played by real-life brother and sister Anna Massey and Daniel Massey, whose father was actor Raymond Massey. The tower featured in the opening scenes is the Millbank Tower in London.

ReceptionEdit

Roger Greenspun of The New York Times was dismissive, writing that of the several distinguished actors who appeared in the film, "none is ever quite so bad as the material warrants."[1] Variety wrote, "Quality for the material is uneven, ranging from camp comedy to the belabored grotesque ... Performances, given the limited nature of the script, are above par for this sort of exercise."[2] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called the film "a very tepid, static affair despite the presence of many luminaries of the English stage and screen."[3] Tom Milne of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that the film was "even less satisfactory" than Tales from the Crypt, "mainly because the Freddie Francis atmospherics have been replaced by pedantically flat direction by Roy Ward Baker in which each story plods squarely through yards of exposition before erupting in all too brief explosions of Grand Guignol."[4]

Halliwell's Film Guide described the film as "plainly but well staged."[5] Radio Times gave the film two stars out of five, describing it as a "formulaic horror movie...British actors such as Terry-Thomas and Daniel Massey bring a touch of class to an otherwise pedestrian production."[6] However, the same magazine later revised its rating, giving the film three stars.[7]

DVD releaseEdit

 
A shot from the possible deleted scene

Together with Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror was released on a Midnite Movies double feature DVD on 11 September 2007. The version used is the edited, US theatrical PG re-release (the original theatrical release in the US was the uncut, R-rated version), which replaces some of the gorier scenes with still images (notably the final shot of "Midnight Mess" showing Daniel Massey's neck being tapped for blood, and Terry Thomas dropping from a hammer blow in "The Neat Job") to receive an MPAA PG rating. The UK Vipco DVD release featured the original uncut UK print.

An uncensored version was first shown on the British TV channel Film4 on 25 August 2008, and later released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory. Questions have been raised as to if these prints are still missing a scene in which the characters who walk to the graveyard are seen with dead, skeletal faces. It may be that this shot has been lost; no prints containing it have ever surfaced, and there is no evidence it was ever included in the final release prints, as even the original uncut prints that have surfaced do not include a scene resembling the photo. It also has been widely speculated that the image was just a photo taken for promotional purposes and was never a filmed scene, as Curt Jürgen's character is portrayed by a different actor in the photo. Jürgen's character is the main focus of the end sequence; hence, some have stated that a scene is unlikely to have been filmed with a different actor portraying the character, for audiences would have noticed the change.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Greenspun, Roger (17 March 1973). "The Screen: 'Vault of Horror' Opens". The New York Times: 17.
  2. ^ "The Vault of Horror". Variety: 26. 21 March 1973.
  3. ^ Thomas, Kevin (April 5, 1973). "Elevator Ride to 'Horror'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 16.
  4. ^ Milne, Tom (November 1973). "The Vault of Horror". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 40 (478): 234.
  5. ^ Halliwell's Film Guide, 13th edition – ISBN 0-00-638868-X.
  6. ^ "The Vault of Horror". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  7. ^ December Xmas week 2015 issue, film showing on 30th Dec.

External linksEdit