In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_large_kfsd6ah9xdkz43jhnddlvw3incw

Fist Fight

A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…

Thumb_cure_for_wellness

A Cure for Wellness

As a fetish object, it’s impressive. But as a fully satisfying feature-length drama, it’s a bust.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Sundance Archives

Reviews

Tales from the Crypt

  |  

The horror comics of the early 1950s etched themselves upon my mind in a series of disconnected scenes: a hand pushing up from a grave, a grinning skull with rubies for eyes, a little boy who didn't like cats. I devoured this stuff, and after a while I began to realize that some of it was superior to the rest. The titles published by E. C. Publications were more dramatically drawn, scarier and unsurpassed in the department of divine retribution.

Advertisement

Six months or a year after I discovered "Tales from the Crypt" and the other E. C. comics, they were taken off the stands during a national anti-comics frenzy. Dr. Frederick Wertham's "Seduction of the Innocent" charged that kiddies were becoming sadists because of horror tales, and overnight we were flooded with talking magpies.

And so, alas, my career as a sadistic madman was nipped in the bud. It was not until 1969 that Richard Shickel's "The Disney Version" fearlessly exposed the sadomasochistic tendencies of Mickey Mouse and friends, and by then it was too late. The E. C. comics had become collector's items.

There the story might have rested, if it weren't for Milton Subotsky, British producer of horror movies and old-time E. C. fan. Subotsky bought the movie rights for all the E. C. horror titles from their publisher, William M. Gaines, and "Tales from the Crypt" is the first film made from the material.

Advertisement

It's put together something like the comic books, with the old Crypt Keeper acting as host and narrator.

In the movie version, he is played with suitable ham by Ralph Richardson. Five people are taking a conducted tour of a crypt (actually, London's Old Highgate Cemetery) when they suddenly find themselves in a creepy stone throne room. The Crypt Keeper enters, they ask what the hell is going on and the answer is - wouldn't you know - hell itself.

The five stories all work on the principle that an evildoer should be punished ironically by his own misdeed. I don't want to reveal the punishments, of course; but I will say that the inmates of a home for the blind (led by Patrick Magee, the writer in "A Clockwork Orange") plan a particularly painful revenge upon their cruel superintendent (Nigel Patrick).

Advertisement

In addition to such distinguished names as Richardson, Magee and Patrick, the movie also features good old horror-film superstars like Peter Cushing, Joan Collins and (unless I'm mistaken) Vincent Price in an unbilled walk-on. The direction is by Freddie Francis, who has something of a cult following among horror fans, and the visuals and decor have been planned in bright basic colors and gray, so they look something like comic panels. One further note: If Santa Claus knocks at your door tonight, don't answer.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

How to Live in This World: On “The Brother From Another Planet”

A look at John Sayles' brilliant "The Brother From Another Planet."

Oscar's History of Pickiness

At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus