THE VAULT OF HORROR (1973) Reviews and overview

 

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‘Everything that makes life worth leaving!’

The Vault of Horror is a 1973 British anthology horror film made by Amicus Productions. Like the Amicus film Tales from the Crypt, it is based on stories from the American EC Comics written by Al Feldstein. The film was directed by Roy Ward Baker (The Vampire LoversScars of Dracula; Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde) from a screenplay by Milton Subotsky.

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None of the stories is actually from Vault of Horror comics. All but one appeared in Tales from the Crypt, the exception being from Shock SuspenStories.

The film is also known as Further Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Crypt II.

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The movie stars Terry-Thomas (The Abominable Doctor Phibes; Doctor Phibes Rises Again), Dawn Addams (The Two Faces of Doctor Jekyll), Denholm Elliott (To the Devil a Daughter; Hammer House of Horror), Curd Jürgens (The Sleep of Death), Tom Baker (The Mutations; Doctor Who), Michael Craig (Inn of the DamnedTurkey Shoot), Daniel Massey (Shadows of FearThe Cat and the Canary) and Anna Massey (FrenzyHaunted).

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Framing Story

Five strangers board a descending lift, one by one, in a modern office block in London. They reach the sub-basement, though none of them has pressed for that destination. There they find an elaborately furnished room that 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, each tells of a recurring nightmare…

Midnight Mess (Tales from the Crypt #35)

Harold Rodgers (Daniel Massey) tracks his sister Donna (Anna Massey) 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…

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The Neat Job (Shock SuspenStories #1)

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. Upon his shouting at her, “Can’t you do anything neatly?”, she kills him with a hammer and cuts up the corpse, putting all the different organs into neatly labelled jars.

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

Sebastian (Curd Jürgens) is a magician on a working holiday in India, where he and his wife are searching for new tricks. Nothing impresses until he sees a girl (Jasmina Hilton) charming a rope out of a basket with a flute. Unable to work out how the trick is done, he persuades her to come to his hotel room, where he and his wife Inez (Dawn Addams) murder her and steal the enchanted rope. Sebastian plays the flute, and the rope rises; Inez climbs it, only to disappear with a scream…

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 Tom (Robin Nedwell) and Jerry (Geoffrey Davies) bribe a gravedigger (Arthur Mullard) to dig up a corpse to help with their studies. When Maitland’s coffin is opened, he jumps up gasping for air…

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Drawn and Quartered (Tales from the Crypt #26)

Moore (Tom Baker) is an impoverished painter living in 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…

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When the story of the final dream is told, the five ponder the meaning of their nightmares…

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Reviews:

“All in all, The Vault of Horror contains enough to warrant repeat viewings. Whilst it is sometimes a product of its time and the film’s twist can be seen from space, it has that strangely comfortable feeling you only get from the output of companies like Amicus and Hammer Horror. It’s like settling down into a cracked leather chair next to a roaring fire with a glass of brandy. It just seems to work.” Horror News

Vault of Horror is a great anthology – more camp than Asylum or Tales from the Crypt, but infinitely more enjoyable than the turgid Torture Garden. A surfeit of 70s locations, some great character actors, and a healthy dose of humour don’t hurt, either.” British Horror Films

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“Whereas Francis often managed to inject some atmosphere into his Amicus omnibus movies, Baker’s flat direction can’t overcome the lengthy and plodding expository scenes, making this the least interesting of the series in spite of the excellent photography and Tony Curtis’s pleasing sets.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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“Art direction, music and photography are all uniformly impressive, and Roy Ward Baker pulls the directional strings with consummate professionalism. Added to this is a smart line in grim humour (and an amusing in-joke that sees Michael Craig flicking through the paperback tie-in to Tales from the Crypt), which at times succeeds in achieving a little of the EC Comics style…” Allan Bryce, Amicus: The Studio That Dripped Blood

“The first story is the most memorable and Glynis Johns does a wonderful comic turn in the second. The rest of the film has little to offer in the way of thrills.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956-1976

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” … director Roy Ward Baker goes through the paces in a somewhat workmanlike manner, relying mostly on the writing, editing and performances to carry the stories, with minimal instances of clever staging or stylised atmosphere. This is all the more unfortunate when Baker actually does flex his directorial muscles, as these snippets of visual inspiration call deeper attention to how flat the rest of the film often is. Having said that, it’s still worlds more stylish than Freddie Francis’ uncharacteristically flat direction in most of Crypt.” Ten Years of Terror: British Horror Films of the 1970s

“Overall, this EC horror comics-based omnibus of terror isn’t as strong as the studio’s Asylum but certainly is a solid companion piece to Tales. The surprise frame ending, though a tad uninspired, is still cool and workable.” The Terror Trap

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Cast and characters:

Daniel Massey … Rogers (segment “Midnight Mess”)
Anna Massey … Donna (segment “Midnight Mess”)
Mike Pratt … Clive (segment “Midnight Mess”) (as Michael Pratt)
Erik Chitty … Old Waiter (segment “Midnight Mess”)
Jerold Wells … Waiter (segment “Midnight Mess”)
Terry-Thomas … Critchit (segment “The Neat Job”)
Glynis Johns … Eleanor (segment “The Neat Job”)
Marianne Stone … Jane (segment “The Neat Job”)
John Forbes-Robertson … Wilson (segment “The Neat Job”)
Curd Jürgens … Sebastian (segment “This Trick’ll Kill You”) (as Curt Jurgens)
Dawn Addams … Inez (segment “This Trick’ll Kill You”)
Jasmina Hilton … Indian Girl (segment “This Trick’ll Kill You”)
Ishaq Bux … Fakir (segment “This Trick’ll Kill You”)
Michael Craig … Maitland (segment “Bargain in Death”)
Edward Judd … Alex (segment “Bargain in Death”)
Robin Nedwell … Tom (segment “Bargain in Death”)
Geoffrey Davies … Jerry (segment “Bargain in Death”)
Arthur Mullard … Gravedigger (segment “Bargain in Death”)
Tom Baker … Moore (segment “Drawn and Quartered”)
Denholm Elliott … Diltant (segment “Drawn and Quartered”)
Terence Alexander … Breedley (segment “Drawn and Quartered”)
John Witty … Gaskill (segment “Drawn and Quartered”)

Choice dialogue:

Maitland (Michael Craig): “There’s no money in horror.”

Filming locations:

Millbank Tower, London, England
Sheen Lane, Richmond-Upon-Thames, Surrey, England
(Where Tom Baker’s character, Moore, hails a taxi)
Twickenham Studios, London, England

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Beyond the Vault of Horror:

There is a shot that isn’t in released prints, apparently from the original closing sequence, in which the characters walk to the graveyard with dead, skeletal faces. It may be that this shot was lost, or was deemed too crude, edited out and used for publicity purposes only.

Trailer:

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