FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Nov 12, 2007

Amicus Week: Day 1

I'm a-kickin' off Amicus Week by taking a look at what is perhaps the production company's best-known anthology film, Tales From the Crypt (1972). Yes, young'uns, gather 'round to hear tell of the pre-HBO Tales From the Crypt film- that directed by Amicus/Hammer stalwart Freddie Francis, that sans a bordello, that with a flesh and blood Cryptkeeper who doesn't have an annoying voice.

And yes, that Tales from the Crypt with Joan Collins. You know, my limited encounters with Joan Collins stem from Dynasty where she was shoulder-padded to high heaven and totally eightiesed-out (yes, that's a word)- call me naive, but I had no idea that her reputation as a fox was actually rooted in reality. She was totally '70s-a-licious, and her outfit is effing rad. You know, I guess Alanis Morrisette was lives, one learns.

But I digress! Miz Collins (if you're nasty) is Joanne Clayton, one of a group of tourists partaking in the wonders of some catacombs. My first thought upon realizing that people were indeed touring catacombs was "Hmm. That's sort of weird and morbid!" second thought, however, was "Omigod I would so totally do that!" What that says about me, I have no clue. A small group of peeps ends up sealed in a tomb with some weird dude in a robe who gets them all to sit and listen as he tells the future for each of Cryptkeeper (Sir Ralph Richardson)!

Nope, he's not a dessicated corpse...depending on how you look at it, this is either a disappointment or...err, not a disappointment. I was just thankful, as I said earlier, that he didn't have that annoying voice. Sorry, Cryptkeeper lovers, but it always got on my nerves. There, I said it. At any rate, it's time for the first story...


The aforementioned Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) gives her darling hubby a fatal conk on the head for Christmas. Isn't that nice? But look, she killed him for a reason; his nice big fat insurance policy. It's not like she's crazy or anything.

But you know who is crazy? The escaped mental patient who's dressed up like Santa Claus...the guy who's right outside Joanne's house right this very second!

Ahhh! Whatever will happen in this Joan Collins vs Psychotic Santa Claus showdown...a showdown which is, incidentally, one the world has long been waiting for?

I shall not tell! I will tell you, though, that And All Through the House is the one segment that I wished were longer. The tale, while it's clever and has a nice little twist, is little more than ten minutes. Had it been fleshed out a bit further, the tension would have been much greater and the payoff that much better. Still, though, Joan Collins vs Psychotic Santa Claus. Really, it's a win-win, wouldn't you say?


Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) kisses his wife and children goodbye before he embarks on a lengthy business trip. What his wife and children don't know, however, is that when Carl said "lengthy business trip" he really meant "a new life with his young mistress Susan (Angela Grant)". Tsk tsk, Carl...tsk tsk.

During their late-night drive to greener pastures, Susan and Carl end up in a big ol' car accident. The camera switches to first-person perspective as Carl wanders away from the fiery crash, and it seems that everyone Carl encounters is afraid of him. Is it his breath? Perhaps.

Or perhaps Carl died in the car accident and now he's a zombie. Take your pick.

Either way, it's chock full of awesome. Poor Carl. Not to be a looks-ist or anything, but who's going to befriend a grody zombie? No one, that's who. Let that be a lesson to everyone: that's what happens when you cheat!


Peter Cushing (yay) is Arthur Grimsdyke, a kindly old widower who fixes up broken, discarded toys for the neighborhood children. Naturally, most of the adults in the neighborhood can't stand him- particularly James (Robin Phillip), who really, seriously has a hate-on for poor Arthur. In the span of a few weeks, James has all of Arthur's beloved dogs taken away, gets Arthur fired, turns all the parents in the neighborhood against him so the children can't visit him anymore, and sends him a stack of nasty valentine's cards, full of eeeevil and hurtful poetry. Sadly, Arthur is driven to suicide...but this being Tales from the Crypt, we know that this isn't the last we'll see of Mr Grimsdyke!'s Peter Cushing as a zombie. Does it get any better than that? I'd have to say, it doesn't. Call me greedy, but in the end I wanted more Zombie Grimsdyke action- I wanted him revengenin' against the whole town! Oh well...maybe I'll write some Zombie Grimsdyke fanfiction. I'll somehow cross it with Star Trek or Harry Potter!


...or, the obligatory Monkey's Paw segment.

Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) is deeply in debt and must sell off all of his collectible crap, lest he lose his house. He and his wife Enid (Barbara Murray) discover that one piece of his collectible crap, a statue of a Chinese dude, seems to have the power to grant wishes. Ralph and Enid are no fools, however, for they've read WW Jacobs's The Monkey's Paw! What Wish You Were Here proves, though, is that no matter how careful you are regarding what you wish for, you'll still get screwed over in the end.

This segment was short, sweet, and a little gory. It kept me guessing as to how each wish would come back to bite the Jasons in the ass, and the payoff was good. Oh, and there was this guy riding a motorcycle- I couldn't tell if he was actually supposed to be a skull, or simply wearling a weird skull mask. No matter- either way is kickass!

I'd like to get one of those for when I'm tooling around on my Vespa. Step one, of course, is actually getting a Vespa.


Finally, a story I remember reading in the EC Comics! Not that that has any bearing on anything beyond me saying "Hey, I remember reading this one!", but you know, it's the little things in life.

Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick) is, for reasons unknown, made administrator of a home for old blind men. Before you can say "Hey! That's really mean!", Rogers is scrimping on the food and the heat for the men whilst he and his dog live like kings. The men complain, but Rogers continues on cutting rations and the such due to the "budget". What a load!

When one of the men dies, the rest of the blindies get their revenge on the Major. They lock him and his dog into separate rooms in the basement and spend the next few days building...something. Eventually they release the Major and he finds out that the blind men aren't handicapped- they're handiCANS, as they've managed to build a gauntlet he must traverse to escape the basement.

Did I mention that the gauntlet is deadly, full of narrow razor-lined passages and the Major's own very hungry doggie? Well, it is.

Take that, Major, you stingy arrogant jerk!


The Cryptkeeper informs everyone that he's not foretelling the future of all of these travellers- he's telling them the past...or something. Not that any of them have actually carried out any of these evil deeds, but they're all being punished anyway, I guess because they were intending to do all these evil deeds? Eh, it's a little vague and nonsensical. What matters is that they've all become superimposed in the flames of Hell! Yay!

Now, we all know that I tend to be quite lenient on anthology flicks because I do love them so. Tales From the Crypt, however, really is a superlative anthology flick, no lie! The stories aren't too long or dull- if anything, I would have liked a few of them to be longer. This is perhaps the first anthology flick I've seen where there isn't a stinker in the bunch. Wow! There's zombie action, revenge action, and psychotic Santa Claus action. And there's Joan Collins's outfit! What more do you need?


Alan said...

Yes! Definitely one of the best of the 70s anthologies, though I do enjoy Dr Terror rather a lot too. Your review is spot-on, right down to the revelation that, yes, Joan Collins was indeed quite attractive in the 70s.

I gather that the new DVD has been botched slightly (some edited TV version or something?) but on the plus side, one of my local cinemas is showing the film on the big screen next month, so I can get hopelessly excited about that instead.

Looking forward to the rest of the Amicus coverage.

Stacie Ponder said...

"...right down to the revelation that, yes, Joan Collins was indeed quite attractive in the 70s."

It IS a revelation when I see all these stars I got to know via 80s nighttime-soaps in their heydays. Gone is the overly-madeup, bedazzled, shoulder-padded monstrosity! Welcome the former glory! See also: Joan Van Ark.

I've heard that this version is edited- as is the Vault of Horror DVD release, though I know not what has been cut or why. It's not as if they're full of gore or nudity. But I'm jealous you're seeing this on the big screen!

Alan said...

Actually, now that you mention it, I went and checked my facts and I believe it's only the Vault of Horror disc that was released in the double pack that is edited - I think Tales from the Crypt has been released unscathed.

Apologies for any confusion and I will slap my wrist accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Zombie Grimsdyke looks a bit like Mr. Burns...

Pax Romano said...

Wonderful choice!

I saw this at a drive in back in the day and the Blind Alleys segment really stayed with me.

Thanks for the memories.

Azathoth100 said...

Wow, I so remember this one. I almost thought I'd made it up in my mind because I couldn't explain this away in the face of the HBO show. But here it is once again. Thanks for reawakening this memory for me, now I have to go see if I can find a copy.

Aaron W. Graham said...

The most offensive and annoying edit on the newly released "Midnite Movies" disc of VAULT OF HORROR takes place during the first tale, with the blood-sucking spigot inserted into Daniel Massey's neck being blackened out to cover up all of the dripping crimson!

Anonymous said...

Oh, that hall of razors still creeps me out.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing this in the theater when I was a kid. This was some scary shit back then, people.

I think Stacie already has my opinion of this flick on file, so I'll just say,
"Great job, Ponder! Keep 'em coming."

Greg Baty said...

I've never had any interest in the Amicus films, but this write-up has made me rethink that. Looking forward to more!

Sarah said...

This was another staple at childhood slumber parties that I haven't seen since. I have to see this again soon, one of the characters shares my last name!

Awesome post Stacie!

Bob Turnbull said...

Great stuff...I just watched this for the first time a week or so ago and loved it. Vault Of Horror was great too, but that one edit was pretty damn annoying.

I'm compiling a post right now of horror stuff I've watched since November has started (the October Horror fun continues!) and I'm including those two and another recent Amicus delight --> "Madhouse". Love the references and film snippets of Vincent Prices previous films.

By the way, I ordered that Amicus Collection minutes after seeing your post. can't wait to see your remaining reviews...

Stacie Ponder said...

"Zombie Grimsdyke looks a bit like Mr. Burns..."

Wow, good call! :D

Jeff Allard said...

The Amicus movies were always my favorites as a kid and TFTC is definitely one of the best of the bunch! Great write-up - hope you get around to giving props to Asylum before the week is over.

Anonymous said...

"All Through the House" was remade in the first season of the HBO TFtC, with pretty much the same plot, but at 22 minutes they were able to build the suspense better. Belinda Bauer and Larry Drake starred.

Anonymous said...

If it's intentional I'm scared of you.
I have been staring at the mad juxtaposition of two images. The guy falling down into the pit (above) and mario cantone flailing about (below) They strangely echo each other! Synchronicity? Ponder genius? or do I just need more coffee?

Stacie Ponder said...

"If it's intentional I'm scared of you."

Don't worry- I'm not nearly that clever! I didn't even notice it.

And that can't be Mario Cantone- I'd never intentionally put a picture of Mario Cantone on my site!

Jason said...

And just how aweomse was Joan Collins' house in the first story? Pretty effin' awesome, if you ask me.

Tales from the Crypt is great stuff, and I much prefer Ralph Richardson's grumpy old guy in a monk's robe take on the Crypt Keeper to the animatronic wisecracker from the TV show. Maybe I just like watching grumpy old guys.

Vault of Horror, sadly, isn't nearly as strong, although it's worth watching just for the final story with Tom Baker (and his truly amazing beard) and Denholm Elliott.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorites too. So many stories or bits of them have stayed with me for keeps; the gauntlet of razors, the final, horrific, eternal monkey's paw wish, and the heartbreak of Grimsdyke's life and death (when they showed the Valentines, I actually teared up.

But what really stayed with me was the visceral rocking-my-face-off-ness of Joan Collins looking like a vision of pure '70s heaven. I have dim memories of her killing her husband and dodging Santa. What I really remember is paying close attention to her hair and planning how to pull that off myself and wondering where I could get that sweater.