Film / EC Comics

In 1972, five tales from EC Comics were adapted into the anthology film Tales from the Crypt by the British Amicus Productions. In spite of the name, only two of the stories came from the actual Tales from the Crypt comic, with the others coming from The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror.

Tales from the Crypt Synopsis (From Wikipedia, with additions):

Framing Story (Opening)

Five strangers go with a tourist group to view old catacombs. Separated from the main group, they find themselves in a room with the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who details how each of the strangers will die.

...And All Through the House (The Vault of Horror #35)

After Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) kills her husband on Christmas Eve, she prepares to hide his body but hears a radio announcement stating that a homicidal maniac (Oliver MacGreevy) is on the loose. She sees the maniac outside her house but can't call the police because of her husband's body.

Reflection of Death (Tales from the Crypt #23)

Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) abandons his family to be with Susan Blake (Angela Grant). After they drive off together, they are involved in a car accident. He wakes up in the wrecked car and attempts to hitchhike home, but no one will stop for him. Arriving at his house, he sees his wife (Susan Denny) with another man. He knocks on the door, but she screams and slams the door. He staggers to his lover's house and is received, but she reveals she was blinded in the same car crash that killed her lover...

Poetic Justice (The Haunt of Fear #12)

Edward Elliott (David Markham) and his son James (Robin Phillips) are a snobbish pair who resent their neighbor, retired garbage man Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing) who owns a number of animals and entertains children in his house. To get rid of what they see as a blight on the neighborhood, they push Grimsdyke into a frenzy by conducting a smear campaign against him, first resulting in the removal of his beloved dogs (while one of them came back to him), and later exploiting parents' paranoiac fears about child molestation. Grimsdyke, in despair, eventually hangs himself, but one year later...

Wish You Were Here (The Haunt of Fear #22)

A variation on W. W. Jacobs' famed short story "The Monkey's Paw". Ruthless businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) is close to financial ruin. His wife Enid (Barbara Murray) discovers a Chinese figurine and wishes for a fortune. Ralph is killed on the way to his lawyer's office, the lawyer then advising Enid she will inherit a fortune from her deceased husband's life insurance plan. She uses her second wish to bring him back to the way he was just before the accident but learns that his death was due to a heart attack (caused by fright when he sees the figure of 'death' following him on a motorcycle).

Blind Alleys (Tales from the Crypt #46)

Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick), the new director of a home for the blind, makes drastic financial cuts, reducing heat and rationing food for the residents, while he lives in luxury with Shane, his Belgian Malinois. When he ignores complaints and a man dies due to the cold, the blind residents, led by George Carter (Patrick Magee) exact revenge.

Framing Story (Ending)

The confused and baffled strangers ask why they were shown these visions, and the Crypt Keeper reveals that he wasn't warning them of future events, but explaining why they had been sent to Hell.

Three of these stories ("All Through the House", "Blind Alleys" aka "Revenge is the Nuts", and "Wish You Were Here") were later adapted into episodes of the Tales from the Crypt television series.

In 1973 Amicus followed up Tales from the Crypt with a sequel film, Vault of Horror. As before it features five different stories, taken from various EC works. (Though ironically enough, not a single one actually came from the actual Vault of Horror comic.)

Before, only the Bowdlerized PG version of Vault of Horror was available on DVD, but thanks to Shout Factory, the uncut version is available on blu-ray as a double feature with Tales from the Crypt.

Vault of Horror Synopsis (From Wikipedia):

Framing Story (Opening)

Five strangers board a descending lift, one by one, in a modern office block in London. They reach the basement, though none of them have pressed for that destination. There they find a large, elaborately furnished room which appears to be a gentlemen’s club. The lift door has closed and 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 Rogers (Daniel Massey) tracks his sister Donna (Anna Massey— his real sister!) to a strange village and kills her to claim her inheritance. After settling down for a post-murder meal at the local restaurant, he discovers the town is home to a nest of vampires: his sister 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 (Terry-Thomas) marries Eleanor (Glynis Johns), a young trophy wife who is not quite the domestic goddess he hoped for. His constant nagging about the mess she makes eventually drives her mad. She hits him over the head with a hammer then cuts him up, storing the pieces in neatly labeled jars – including his “odds and ends.”

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

Sebastian (Curt Jurgens) is a magician on a working holiday in India, where he and his wife (Dawn Addams) are searching for new tricks. Nothing impresses until he sees a girl charming a rope out of a basket with a flute and climbing it. 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; his wife climbs it, 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 (Michael Craig) is buried alive as part of an insurance scam concocted with his friend Alex (Edward Judd). Alex double-crosses Maitland, leaving him to suffocate. Two trainee doctors (Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies) who live in the same boarding house as Maitland bribe a gravedigger (Arthur Mullard) to dig up his body to help with their studies. When Maitland's coffin is opened, he jumps up gasping for air, causing the doctors to run out into the middle of the road in front of Alex's car, which crashes. The gravedigger kills Maitland and when trying to close the sale of the corpse apologizes to the doctors for the damage to the head.

Drawn and Quartered (Tales from the Crypt #26)

Moore (Tom Baker) is an impoverished painter living on Haiti. When he learns that his work has been sold for high prices by dealers and critics who told him that it was 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. Returning to London, Moore paints portraits of the three men who cheated him, and mutilates them to exact his revenge. However, he has previously painted his own self-portrait, and he must protect it to prevent himself being harmed.

Framing Story (Ending)

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. They walk out and disappear one by one. The last (Jurgens) explains that they are damned souls doomed to tell the story of their evil deeds for all eternity.

Tropes used in These Films:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Major Rogers's name was Mr Grunwald in the original comic.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Compared to the comic, most characters are attributed some terrible deed to justify their suffering.
    • Harold in the original "Midnight Mess" comic was just a poor schmoe who wandered into the wrong restaurant while visiting his sister. Here he murders his sister so we don't feel too bad for him.
    • "Reflection of Death"'s main character is given an extramarital affair he didn't have in the comic.
    • An off-hand reference in "Wish You Were Here" implies that Ralph was a former arms trafficker instead of just an unlucky guy as in the comic.
    • Oddly, inverted in "Blind Alleys". Although the home directors are selfish and neglectful in both, the comic version actually plays cruel pranks on his blind charges while the film version does not.
  • All Just a Dream / Dreaming of Things to Come
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: The memories of the people in the framing stories have been rolled back to the point before they committed their misdeeds. They're all pretty shocked and confused about what they did.
  • And Show It to You: The epic conclusion of "Poetic Justice."
  • Aside Comment: During "Bargain in Death", Maitland glances at the camera and remarks, "There's no money in horror."
  • Asshole Victim:
    • All the main characters really, but especially Major Rogers, James Elliot, and Vault's Arthur Critchit.
    • Nearly averted by Maitland in Tales. When he's about to go off with his mistress, he's momentarily reluctant to leave his wife and children, and seems to be reconsidering. But, he goes ahead with his plan anyway, and later looks pretty satisfied with his choice.
  • Back from the Dead: Carl Maitland does this without realizing it in his story.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: For something like eight or nine hours, actually.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Grimsdyke is put through a painful Trauma Conga Line, and when he comes back he has something to say about it.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For
  • Berserk Button: After days of putting up with Arthur's crap on neatness, the words "Can't you do anything neatly?" drive Eleanor to kill him with a hammer and neatly place chopped up parts of his body into labeled Mason Jars.
  • Buried Alive: Maitland, in "Bargain in Death".
  • The Dead Have Eyes: Notably averted in "Poetic Justice" (even if the makeup effect is a little primitive).
  • Dead to Begin With: Everyone in the framing story.
  • Disability Superpower: Invoked in "Blind Alleys", but it's definitely a Blessed with Suck situation.
    Carter: With all due respect, sir, we are not soldiers. Blind people are not like people with sight. We have lost one sense but the loss of that sense only tends to sharpen the others. Do you know what that means? We feel things more acutely! If food tastes bad it tastes worse to us, if a room is dirty we feel every speck, if an insect scurries across the floor we hear it, and if it's cold we feel the cold more. Why don't you sell that painting and buy us fuel or extra blankets?
  • Disaster Dominoes: Eleanor Pritchit's frantic efforts to tidy up the house before her husband comes home.
  • Disposing of a Body: Joanne Clayton needed to find a way to do this before she could call the police about the Serial Killer outside her house.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Sure, they did terrible things, but the people in the framing story cannot actually remember committing their various misdeeds at all. Nevertheless they still get sent to Hell. Then again, they're already dead, and therefore presumably beyond any chance of repentance or atonement. The Crypt Keeper himself tells them that this is the place for the people who have died without repentance and showed them why they are there.
  • The Dog Bites Back: "Poetic Justice" and "Blind Alleys" (in the first film) and "The Neat Job" and "This Trick'll Kill You" (in the second) couple this with Pay Evil unto Evil as the victims of the wicked turn into their punishers.
    • By contrast, "...And All Through the House", "Wish You Were Here", "Midnight Mess", and "Bargain in Death" are more along the lines of Kick the Son of a Bitch, with the just-as-evil punishers just happening to encounter the characters and unknowingly making them pay.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The sole redeeming feature of most of the damned ones, is that in life, they had someone they cared about. Joanne had her daughter, the Elliots each other, Jason his wife, and Major Rogers his dog.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Elliots are genuinely unnerved and uncomfortable when their plan drives Grimsdyke to suicide in "Poetic Justice". Edward even pays for the funeral out of guilt and a year on they're still very uncomfortable about it.
  • Evil Versus Evil: In "...And All Through the House" there is the financially motivated murderous wife against a serial killer with a fixation on killing random adult women. In "Midnight Mess" it's a greedy murderer versus a colony of bloodthirsty vampires. Take a wild guess who wins in each.
  • Faking the Dead: Vault of Horror's Maitland.
  • Fan Disservice: The wife in "The Neat Job" mixes up the underwear drawers at one point. Terry-Thomas is not flattered by pink women's panties.
  • Framing Device: The characters are all learning why they're in Hell/paying for their sins by being forced to relive their stories.
  • Genre Savvy: The characters in "Wish You Were Here" are familiar with "The Monkey's Paw" story and try to proceed accordingly. (Not that it does them any good...)
  • The Grim Reaper: Shows up to give Ralph Jason a heart attack.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Maitland seemingly gets stuck in one of these in "Reflection of Death".
  • Hollywood Voodoo: "Drawn and Quartered".
  • Hope Crusher: This is what Elliot did to Grimsdyke by taking away from him everything that he loved. He took away his dogs by using the law and framing them for his vandalism, the neighborhood children by indirectly accusing him of being a pedophile and the feelings of accceptance by making him believe that everyone hated him and wished he was dead. Ironically and hypocritically, he didn't when Grimsdyke obliged to that last one.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Christmas for "...And All Through the House," and Valentine's Day for "Poetic Justice."
  • I Ate WHAT?!: In "Midnight Mess", after Harold Rogers samples the restaurant's "juice" and "soup" courses and finds both to be rather peculiar-tasting:
    Waiter: And now, how would you like your roast clots? Well done, medium, rare?
    Rogers: Roast what?
    Waiter: Clots. Blood clots.
    Rogers: [*spit take*]
  • Inheritance Murder: Harold's motive for killing his sister (or trying to, anyway) in "Midnight Mess".
  • Insurance Fraud: Joanna's motive for killing her husband in "...And All Through the House", and the object of Maitland's scheme with Alex in "Bargain in Death".
  • Jerk Ass: James Elliot and his son did what he did to poor Grimsdyke because he looked scruffy. That's it. Rogers also treats his charges like shit and kills one of them indirectly because of it.
  • Lighter and Softer: Not by far, since there is still extreme violence and the same dark themes, but Vault of Horror has more tongue-in-cheek Black Comedy compared to the grim and bleak Tales from the Crypt. Some scenes are deliberately campy and even the ending condemnation is downplayed.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Joanne Clayton does this with her husband's body in "...And All Through the House", so she can phone the police about the Santa-killer. Unfortunately for her, she never gets the chance to do so.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: How Harold Rogers learns he's dining in a restaurant full of vampires... and how they learn he's not one of them.
  • Neat Freak / Super OCD: Critchit, in "The Neat Job".
  • The Neidermeyer: Major Rogers was one of these, and runs the Home for the Blind in exactly the same way.
  • Nightmare Face: Grimsdyke doesn't look too well after returning from the dead.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: In "Bargain in Death", Maitland plans to double-cross Alex by killing him and keeping all the insurance money for himself. Then he discovers that Alex has double-crossed him by leaving him buried alive.
  • Pædo Hunt: A trumped-up one of these helps drive Grimsdyke to suicide.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Used for part of the "Reflection of Death" segment.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Tales from the Crypt utilizes Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" as a theme tune, while Vault of Horror uses "Dies Irae".
  • Recursive Canon: During the "Bargain in Death" segment of Vault of Horror, Maitland passes time by reading... a paperback novelisation of Tales from the Crypt.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The Christmas carols on the radio throughout "...And All Through the House".
  • Spooky Séance: Averted. Grimsdyke actually has a rather sweet relationship with his deceased wife.
  • Sympathetic Magic: Used with paintings in "Drawn and Quartered."
  • Thematic Series: The movies are loosely connected but are still a part of the same series.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Carter finally has enough of Rogers' bullshit after one of the blind people dies because of it, he exacts revenge in a cold and calculating manner, with his features almost utterly expressionless as he traps Rogers, drives his dog mad with hunger, and sets him through a torture maze before setting his crazed dog on him.
  • Theme Serial Killer: Likes to wear a Santa suit. Got a kid who can open the door? Uh-oh.
  • Villain Protagonist: Every single main character in the stories.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Leads Carl Maitland to abandon his family.