Written by: John White on April 14th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: United Kingdom, 1973
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Writer: Milton Subotsky
Cast: Tom Baker, Curt Jurgens, Denholm Elliot, Terry Thomas, Michael Craig, Daniel Massey
DVD released: October 13, 2003
Approximate running time: 86 mins
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Vipco
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL
Retail Price: £5.99
Five men find themselves stuck in the basement of a building they are visiting. To pass the time they talk about recurring dreams they are having. One has a dream about visiting a town of vampires and finding himself à la carte; another dreams of his wife not meeting his fastidious standards and his ending up categorised by body part; another dreams of being revenged by an Indian magician; yet another dreams of faking his death only to end up buried alive, and finally the painter dreams of avenging himself through voodoo only to fall victim himself. They discover an exit from the basement but only to their graves.
The Amicus factory of portmanteau horror movies began with Dr Terror’s House of horrors in 1965 and continued through films like the Tales From The Crypt, The House that Dripped Blood, Torture Garden, Asylum, this film and finished with the Monster Club in 1983. This film takes the template of Tales From The Crypt and plunders the same comic source for 5 more tales of the macabre. The film was written by one of the founders of Amicus, Milton Subotsky.
As is usual with these collections of stories, the quality varies throughout the film and the brevity of the tales can give a certain glibness to the end of the tales. The first story with Daniel Massey takes his murdering bounder to a town of vampires to kill his sister and thus not share his inheritance. Once the act is done, he finds himself a table in the local restaurant and is treating to blood soup and roast clots, only to find he is the only human eating there and he becomes the wine list. The second tale is more comic with Terry Thomas as a husband who can’t abide messiness and his demands become too much for his laid back wife who exacts revenge by first killing him and then categorising him in jars.
The third tale with Curt Jurgens is the tale of a plagiarising magician who eager to steel an Indian rope trick finds his wife murdered and himself hung by the magic rope. The fourth story with Michael Craig is a bit of an afterthought really with Craig faking his death to pocket the insurance money but finding himself interred, betrayed and finally the subject of medical students’ research.
The final story is one of a painter exiled because of perceived lack of success to the Caribbean only to find himself defrauded and returning to london to practise a bit of voodoo to get his revenge. This is one of the finest of all Amicus’ tales with Tom Baker splendidly obsessive and compelling as the painter. An axiom of actors used to be “never work with animals, children or Denholm Elliot” because of Elliot’s legendary scene-stealing, but here Baker leaves Elliot standing in the acting stakes. What a fine actor Baker could have been if his screen career had not been so brief.
Vault of Horror is patchy but never less than enjoyable. The Craig story is rather flimsy, but the voodoo painter and misadventuring magician are mighty fine work. Witty stuff and an essential addition for any fan of Brithorror.
In the world we live in, there are some mighty odd treatments of fine films on DVD alongside lavish treatment of poor movies. Take for instance the care shown in the multiple versions of Hollywood blockbusters, you can have several different cuts and commentaries and great anamorphic pictures for films of the quality of the Girl Next Door or Charlies Angels 2. But heck a gem of horror like this one is treated to one measly R2 release from Vipco. This release is shocking. It looks like a video port, has motion shake throughout, the colours are washed out, the transfer is too dark and the sound pops and hisses like a snake with hiccups.
There are trailers as extras but that’s your lot.
This is very cheap but it would be better for someone to release this and the much neglected Tales From The Crypt properly. Until then you will have to squint through this disc.