Gruesome Galleries: 1972’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT

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SHOCK digs up a series of macabre images from 1972’s terrifying TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

Everyone knows that pulp legend William Gaines’ EC comics horror line was the scourge of parental groups during the 1950s but man, did kids eat them up…

The mother of them all was their flagship and now most recognizable title, TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

Inside the pages of TALES you’d find gruesome stories of bleak, battered morality and savage revenge from beyond the grave, fully illustrated romps that left children in states of ecstatic terror.It goes to follow that, if the kids liked ’em, mom and dad didn’t and thus, TALES and its sister mag THE VAULT OF HORROR soon went the way of the undead dinosaur.

The EC formula eventually influenced the genre in profound ways, starting here with this nightmarish Freddie Francis-directed classic from lamented British horror factory Amicus Studios.

In it, Sir Ralph Richardson plays a less rotten version of The Crypt Keeper than in both the comics and what we’d see years later on the beloved HBO series; here, he’s a somber undead elder who traps a gaggle of British lads and ladies in his cave and tells them – and in turn, us – tales of their grim fates.

Highlights include Joan Collins being menaced by a psycho Santa on Christmas Eve, mere moments after bludgeoning her hubby to death while her child sleeps in the next room; Peter Cushing as a kindly old man whose love of children and animals makes him the target of cruelty; Patrick Magee as an institutionalized blind man who leads his sightless brothers in an elaborate revenge plot; Roy Dotrice in a riff on The Monkey’s Paw that climaxes in absolute terror.

While these are indeed some of the most memorable tales, none are better than others, all offer maximum chills, perfectly capturing the horror of their comic book origins while blending that with dry, British wit.

And while TALES was only rated PG in the US, in its slightly longer British version it’s just dash or three nastier and bloodier. Still, it’s not an especially gory film. What it is is cruel, incredibly dark and operatically macabre, filled with unforgettable imagery.

Amicus followed the success of TALES FROM THE CRYPT with 1973’s THE VAULT OF HORROR (also known in some circles as TALES FROM THE CRYPT II) and directed by Hammer vet Roy Ward Baker. But, save for an amusing segment (“The Midnight Mess”) in which actor Daniel Massey kills his sister only to find out she is a vampire, as is the entire restaurant in which he’s opted to dine, VAULT is a tepid cuppa tea.

But TALES FROM THE CRYPT is one of the scariest horror movie ever made.

It’s a worthy addition to our ongoing series of Gruesome Galleries.