Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tales from the Crypt (1972)

The discussion that follows is about the 1972 British movie and not the HBO TV series. More on that later.
 
During the month of October, when everyone is anticipating Halloween, I like to take a second look at horror stories with a Christmas connection. There are quite a few frightening movies set at Christmas time--even Charles Dickens' most popular story A Christmas Carol includes the visit of four ghosts!


The lesson here: Don't get separated from your tour group!


One classic that I turn to again and again is the Amicus Productions portmanteau Tales from the Crypt, directed by Freddie Francis in 1972. I wrote about this movie on the website many years ago, but I thought I'd expand the discussion and include photos. Tales from the Crypt is a British film made up of five individual stories adapted from horror stories in comic magazines. The five stories are strung together by a narrative about a crypt keeper addressing five tourists separated from their group while visiting the catacombs beneath a cemetery. The crypt keeper introduces each of the five stories as a warning to each of the tourists.


Recognize the crypt keeper? That's Sir Ralph Richardson.

Of interest here is the first of the five segments. It is entitled "And All Through the House." The story first appeared in the horror comic The Vault of Horror, issue #35, first published in 1954. A woman named Joanne murders her husband on Christmas Eve in order to collect his life insurance money. Joanne is played by actor Joan Collins--she clearly knows how to play a cold, calculating character!


Startled by noises downstairs, Joanne tucks her daughter Carol--who is eager for Santa to arrive--back in bed to keep the child from her murderous deed.


As Joanne cleans up the mess and the blood, she hears a warning on the radio about a homicidal maniac who has escaped from a nearby hospital for the criminally insane. Local residents are warned that the killer may be dressed in a Santa suit.


Who would kill someone on a white rug? You're never going to get away with it, Joanne!

He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake.

As she continues to clean that white rug, Joanne hears a knock at the door. Someone is trying to get in! Joanne peeks out the window--it's the man in a Santa suit mentioned on the radio! Joanne runs to her telephone to call the police but she stops herself--her husband's dead body is on the floor in front of her. She doesn't want the police to come and discover what she's done. She frantically runs around the first floor closing the curtains and locking the window shutters. She wants to keep the homicidal maniac out.


He knows if you've been bad or good.

Joanne dumps her husband’s body down the basement steps, making his death look like an accidental fall. She tries to do this as quietly as possible so as not to disturb her sleeping daughter upstairs. After carefully cleaning up the murder scene and staging the bottom of the basement stairs, Joanne finally finishes her hard work. She glances one more time to her daughter's bedroom door--but it's open! Joanne calls out, looking for her daughter.


Carol can barely contain her excitement to see Santa Claus.

Joanne finds her daughter Carol in the entryway. "Guess who's here?" the child asks. The innocent young girl is so excited to see Santa Claus, she's let him in the front door.


It looks like the murderer Joanne isn't going to live long enough to cash in her husband's life insurance policy.

Young Carol is played by Chloe Franks, who also plays Katy in the creepy 1972 movie Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? which takes place at Christmas. Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? also includes Ralph Richardson.

As I mentioned before, "And All Through the House" is just the first of five segments within the 1972 movie. I think this is my favorite of the five but I also enjoy the third segment entitled "Wish You Were Here" which references the popular turn-of-the-twentieth-century short story "The Monkey's Paw." Note: only the first of the five stories in the movie takes place at Christmas time.


Remember the TV anthology series?

TV fans may recognize that the story "And All Through the House" was adapted once again in 1989 for the HBO TV series Tales from the Crypt. Click here to read my discussion of that.

Merry Halloween!


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