Thursday, November 27, 2014

Amicus Portmanteau Double Feature: Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

I am an impassioned Amicus fan. It makes me critical of all portmanteau movies (anthology horror pictures). It means that I wrap myself up with horror celebrities as if they were warm blankets and am allowed to view four to five tales of horror in a row told by master story tellers with updated settings to keep the cost down. Think of the Monkey’s Paw revisited or go to your favorite EC comic and turn the page. You will find the horror I speak of in abundance. No single company tells short tales as well as Amicus regardless of time period, acting troupe or budget. Like I said, I’m a fan. That makes the Scream Factory Blu-ray release of the double feature presentation of Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror Important to me. It means I beckon for them to consider Asylum, Torture Garden and of course, my beloved, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors.

I own the MGM double feature DVD of these two movies and the picture quality is an upgrade to be sure, and for that I am grateful. I’m also happy to have the chance to enjoy a more violent cut of The Vault of Horror, but despite my enthusiasm over parts of this release I am left slightly bewildered. My expectation for this release should have been set at the time of press release. The only real extra to speak of was supposed to be the uncut version of The Vault of Horror. This nearly did not happen at no fault of Scream Factory, but our hero company came through. They have delivered The Vault of Horror as promised. Uncut.  This is not a problem nor is the alternate title card edition that shows the Tales from the Crypt 2 name. I saw this first at a 35mm screening at the Exhumed Films Horrorthon a few years back. It’s a pleasure to own.

So where are the extras for Tales from the Crypt? This is arguable one of the most important releases in anthology horror history from a prominent horror studio that has spawned countless books about it. You mean to say we couldn’t get a film historian to talk about each entry (no matter how bland). No stills? No theatrical trailer? Nothing from the Peter Cushing Society of Beloved Followers (made up society to be sure)? Just give me something to go along with one of the most important releases of our age.

Scream Factory gave me a beautiful version of the films and a long lost uncut versions of The Vault of Horror. Versions. This is a two disc set. Disc 1 includes The Vault of Horror theatrical (1.85:1 AR) and The Vault of Horror open matte uncut version (1.33:1 AR). Disc 2 includes Tales from the Crypt (lonely Tales from the Crypt with little more love that some stills on the reverse of the cover) and Vault of Horror … again… this time uncut (1.85 AR). Please understand that all these versions are interesting, but for a movie that should be considered as a good (not great) sequel to a pivotal anthology horror release, I’m surprised we didn’t get more.

The reverse artwork for Vault is so cool. I do love seeing it. The stills on the reverse for Tales are also interesting. I should have pulled out my Album of Modern Horror and sent them the still that terrified me as a kid so they could include it.

From a content perspective, Tales from the Crypt is important. It has a wrap story that is perfectly orchestrated, simple and to the point (you can anticipate the twist). Each story is mapped to coincide with a classic Tales from the Crypt comic book tale and adapted to feel comic book like. You can sense the individual frames in the story (almost like Creepshow would use years later with clever lighting and framing). The actors are perfect caricatures of people you know and those are archetypes that represent Biblical sins whether they be infidelity, murder, greed. I cannot offer you a favorite story among the five because it always changes. It’s Christmas time, so right now And All Through the House is on my mind. It’s actually quite terrifying once you get past the red orange blood (my favorite of the period) and start listening to the Christmas organ music in the background. The evil Santa is realistic and insane. Joan Collins… is hot and pure demon shit! I often discuss this story and reference the modern HBO adaptation. I find this to be far superior and urge all horror fans to seek it out. There are a host of classic horror acts that make an appearance from Peter Cushing to Patrick McGee. If you’re familiar with the period than you’ll see faces you absolutely cannot place but have seen before. Tales from the Crypt was directed by Freddie Francis who also directed Scream Factory’s recent release of The Doctor and The Devils.

Vault of Horror is good. It isn’t better than Tales from the Crypt, but it has good gross outs, clever plot twists and a strong cast. The wrap story doesn’t quite hold up to Tales from the Crypt, but the original music is brilliant (Tales had Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Bach which is perfect use of this classic horror staple). Terry Thomas who you may remember from AIP’s the Abominable Dr. Phibes is in Vault as is Tom Baker… you know… Dr. Who. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker who is a horror legend in his own right working for Hammer before doing Vault and Asylum for Amicus.

My favorite Tale from Vault of Horror has got to be The Neat Job which pits Terry Thomas against Glynis Johns (my favorite role of Johns’ was as the evil mother in The Ref). You watch Johns try so hard to conform to the obsessive compulsive neatness of Thomas that eventually it drives her to a very strange act. The tension is biting, and you have to laugh at yourself for getting so worked up over a story that ends with precision comic timing (that’s how the best Tales from the Crypt stories work throughout all of their fictitious legacy).

This is a handsome set of two must own horror classics. The gore in Vault is for the trained eye, but nonetheless it’s more fun to see the naughty bits your not supposed to enjoy and the HD upgrade is noticeable if you own the previous releases. Yes, I want more extras for Tales from the Crypt, and I hope some day we get an Amicus collection that treats each movie in their catalog to meat and potatoes, but Scream Factory delivered on the key point here, the uncut Vault release. It’s for the fans of Amicus, and they did right by a movie that may be considered more obscure or at least less loved than Tales.

You can order Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror now from Scream Factory (perfect holiday viewing, my fiends).

also available through our friends DiabolikDVD:

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

Tales From The Crypt
When five unwary travelers with dark hearts stumble into a series of catacombs, they find themselves in a cavern with no way out. But the horror’s only just begun as a mysterious figure appears to reveal to each person the shocking events that will lead to their well-deserved, untimely – and unavoidable – demise. Starring Joan Collins (Empire Of The Ants), Peter Cushing (Horror Of Dracula), Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange) and Sir Ralph Richardson (Rollerball), and directed by Freddie Francis (The Creeping Flesh), Tales From The Crypt is the original, gets-right-under-your-skin creepfest!
Vault Of Horror
Available uncut for the first time on home video! Five unsuspecting hotel guests step into an elevator, which leads them into an underground vault. Trapped with no way out, each guest shares a gruesome tale of an encounter with death. But as the stories unfold, the men begin to suspect that their presence in the vault is no coincidence, and that the only way out…is death. Starring Tom Baker (Doctor Who), Denholm Elliott (Raiders Of The Lost Ark), Curt Jurgens (The Mephisto Waltz) and Michael Craig (Mysterious Island), this ferociously entertaining film is a worthy sequel to Tales From The Crypt! Includes unrated and theatrical versions.

No comments:

Post a Comment