Tales from the Crypt (film)

Tales from the Crypt is a 1972 British horror film directed by Freddie Francis. It is an anthology film consisting of five separate segments, based on stories from EC Comics. It was produced by Amicus Productions and filmed at Shepperton Studios, and is one of several Amicus horror anthologies made during the 1970s.

Tales from the Crypt
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFreddie Francis
Produced by
Screenplay byMilton Subotsky
Based onTales from the Crypt & The Vault of Horror
by Johnny Craig
Al Feldstein
William M. Gaines
Music byDouglas Gamley
CinematographyNorman Warwick
Edited byTeddy Darvas
Distributed by
Release date
  • 8 March 1972 (1972-03-08)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box officeover $3 million (US)[1]

In the film, five strangers (Joan Collins, Ian Hendry, Robin Phillips, Richard Greene and Nigel Patrick) encounter the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson) in a crypt, who makes each person in turn relive the manner of their death.



Five strangers go with a tourist group to view old catacombs. Separated from the main group, they find themselves in a room with the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who details how each of the strangers may die.

...And All Through the House

Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) kills her husband (Martin Boddey) on Christmas Eve. She prepares to hide his body, but hears a radio announcement stating that a homicidal maniac (Oliver MacGreevy) is on the loose. She sees the killer (who is dressed in a Santa Claus costume) outside her house, but cannot call the police without exposing her own crimes.

After cleaning up her crime, Joanne finally attempts to call the police. However, her young daughter Carol (Chloe Franks) — believing the maniac to be Santa — unlocks the door and lets him into the house, whereupon he starts to strangle Joanne to death.

Reflection of Death

Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) abandons his family to be with Susan Blake (Angela Grant). After they drive off together, they are involved in a car accident. He wakes up in the wrecked car and attempts to hitch-hike home, but everyone he meets reacts with horror upon seeing him.

Arriving at his house, he sees his wife (Susan Denny) with another man. He knocks on the door, but she screams and slams the door. He then goes to see Susan to find out that she is blind from the accident. She says that Carl died two years ago in the crash. Glancing at a reflective tabletop, he sees he has the face of a rotted, hideous corpse and screams in horror. Carl then wakes up and finds out that it was a dream, but the moment he does, the crash occurs as previously seen.

Poetic Justice

James Elliott (Robin Phillips) lives with his father Edward (David Markham) across from the home of dustman Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing), who owns a number of dogs and entertains children in his house. While both the Elliotts are snobs who resent Grimsdyke as blight on their neighbourhood, James strongly detests the old man enough to conduct a smear campaign against the old man: first having his beloved dogs taken by animal control (although one of them returns to him), then persuading a member of the council to have him removed from his job, and later exploiting parents' paranoid fears about child molestation.

On Valentine's Day, James sends Grimsdyke a number of poison-pen Valentines, supposedly from the neighbours, driving the old man to suicide. Exactly one year later, Grimsdyke rises from the grave and takes revenge on James. The following morning, Edward finds his son dead with a note that said, "HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY--YOU WERE MEAN AND CRUEL-RIGHT FROM THE START-NOW YOU REALLY HAVE NO--!" Edward opens up the folded end of the note and realizes that the final word of that note is "HEART," represented by James's still-beating heart inside the note after it was torn from his body.

Wish You Were Here

Ineffective ruthless businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) is close to financial ruin. His wife Enid (Barbara Murray) discovers a Chinese figurine that says it will grant three wishes to whoever possesses it; Enid decides to wish for a fortune; surprisingly, it comes true. However, Ralph is killed, seemingly in a car crash, on the way to his lawyer's office to collect it. The lawyer (Roy Dotrice) then advises Enid she will inherit a fortune from her deceased husband's life insurance plan. She uses her second wish to bring him back to the way he was just before the accident, but he is returned still dead. She learns that his death was due to a heart attack immediately before the crash (caused by fright when he sees the figure of "death" following him on a motorcycle).

As she uses her final wish to bring him back alive and to live forever, she discovers too late that he was embalmed. She tries to kill him to end his pain but because she wished him to live forever, he cannot be killed. She has now trapped him in eternal agony.

Blind Alleys

  • Taken from Tales from the Crypt No. 46 (February–March 1955)

Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick) becomes the new director of a home for the blind who exploits his position to live in luxury with his German Shepherd Shane, while his drastic financial cuts on food and heating lessens the residents' living conditions. Rogers gets his comeuppance after he ignores the pleas of resident George Carter (Patrick Magee) to both make the living conditions more bearable and later to get medical treatment for another resident, who then dies from hypothermia. Carter leads a revolt to subdue the staff before locking Rogers and Shane in separate rooms in the basement, and they then construct a small maze of narrow corridors between the two rooms. After two days left to starve, Rogers is released and forced to find his way through the maze for his freedom, getting past one corridor lined with razor blades once Carter turned the lights on. But Rogers finds his last obstacle to be a now-ravenous Shane and flees back towards the razors, only for Carter to turn the lights off with Rogers heard screaming as the hungry dog catches up with him.


After completing the final tale, the Crypt Keeper reveals that he was not warning them of what would happen, but telling them what has already happened: they have all "died without repentance". Clues to this twist can be spotted throughout the film, including Joanna wearing the brooch her husband had given her for Christmas just before she killed him. The door to Hell opens and Joanna, Carl, James, Ralph, and Major Rogers all enter. "And now, who's next?" asks the Crypt Keeper, turning to face the camera as he says "Perhaps...YOU?" The scene pulls away as the entrance to the Crypt Keeper's lair is in flames.



...And All Through the House:

Reflection of Death:

Poetic Justice:

Wish You Were Here:

Blind Alleys:


Milton Subotsky of Amicus Productions had long been a fan of EC Comics' Tales from the Crypt and eventually persuaded his partner Max Rosenberg to buy the rights. The copyright owner, William Gaines, insisted on script approval. The budget of £170,000 was higher than usual for an Amicus production, and was partly funded by American International Pictures. Peter Cushing was originally offered the part played by Richard Greene, but wanted to try something different and played the elderly Grimsdyke instead. Filming started on 13 September 1971 and finished in 1972.

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 89% of 19 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review.[2] Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review.[3] Allmovie's review of the film was generally favourable, writing, "It has a certain magnetism about it that is hard to resist and which accounts for its enduring popularity. There's something about Crypt that makes even jaded viewers feel like they're kids sitting in their rooms late at night with the lights out, telling eerie tales with the aid of a flashlight."[4] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that the film lacks style and is too heavy-handed in its morality.[5] Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine rated it 2.5/5 stars and wrote that "the undercurrent of sternness is tempered by a truly bottomless roster of campy excess".[6] Chris Alexander of Fangoria wrote, "[F]rom its first frames to its invasive final shot, this classic British creeper offers an unrelenting study in the art of the macabre."[7] Anthony Arrigo of Dread Central wrote, "The greatest strength in Tales comes not from the acting or directing – both of which are perfectly sound – but in the rich stories culled from the comics."[8]

Home video

Tales from the Crypt was released on DVD in the United Kingdom on 28 June 2010. It received its first Blu-ray release from Shock Records distribution in Australia on 2 November 2011.

The film, paired with another Amicus anthology, The Vault of Horror, was released on a double-feature DVD on 11 September 2007.[6] Shout Factory released the same double bill on Blu-ray on 2 December 2014.[9]

Points of interest

  • Only two of the stories are from EC's Tales from the Crypt comic book. The reason for this, according to Creepy founding editor Russ Jones, is that producer Milton Subotsky did not own a run of the original EC comic book but instead adapted the movie from the two paperback reprints given to him by Jones. The story Wish You Were Here was reprinted in the paperback collection The Vault of Horror (Ballantine, 1965). The other four stories in the movie were among the eight stories reprinted in Tales from the Crypt (Ballantine, 1964).
  • Richardson's hooded Crypt Keeper, more sombre than the EC original (as illustrated by Al Feldstein and Jack Davis), has a monk-like appearance and resembles EC's GhouLunatics. In the EC horror comics, the other horror hosts (the Old Witch and the Vault Keeper) wore hoods, while the Crypt Keeper did not.
  • The earlier Amicus anthology film Torture Garden features a similar ending breaking the fourth wall.
  • The screenplay was adapted into a tie-in novel by Jack Oleck, Tales from the Crypt (Bantam, 1972). Oleck, who wrote the novel Messalina (1950), also scripted for EC's Picto-Fiction titles, Crime Illustrated, Shock Illustrated and Terror Illustrated. A tie-in was also written by Oleck for the later Amicus anthology film The Vault of Horror, released in 1973.

Connections to the TV series

...And All Through the House, Blind Alleys and Wish You Were Here were all somewhat remade into episodes for the Tales From the Crypt television show. Blind Alleys and Wish You Were Here were both changed.

  • ...And All Through the House had the woman killing her husband so that she can take her daughter and live with her boyfriend. The episode ended with her daughter letting the axe-wielding maniac into the house as he quotes "Naughty or Nice" with the episode ending with the woman screaming. The Crypt Keeper stated that the daughter was not harmed because the escaped maniac liked older women....in pieces.
  • Blind Alleys was now Revenge is the Nuts and was about a beautiful blind girl (portrayed by Teri Polo) who comes to live at a house for the blind where the sadistic director (played by The Dead Zone's Anthony Zerbe) tries to sexually assault her. In the end, she and the other residents take their revenge on the director in the same fashion as in the original story.
  • Wish You Were Here is similar to the TV series' 7th-season episode Last Respects in that both borrow plot elements from W. W. Jacobs's classic story "The Monkey's Paw", and both are directed by the original film's director Freddie Francis. Like many of the show's episodes, "Last Respects" uses the title of an existing story from the comics (Tales From The Crypt #23), but does not use the story itself. The statue from the film is reverted to the original monkey's paw in the TV episode, and the story now deals with three sisters who come into possession of it. One wishes for a million pounds, and she and the second sister are in a car crash where she dies, and her life insurance policy is for one million pounds. When the third sister wishes that the dead sister was the way she was just before the crash, she learns that she was actually killed by the second sister. In a form of revenge, the third sister gives her last wish to her sister, but she did not say which sister she wanted to give it to, beating the monkey's paw at its own game. The wish is transferred to the dead sister who comes back to kill the second sister.


  1. Ed. Allan Bryce, Amicus: The Studio That Dripped Blood, Stray Cat Publishing, 2000 p 84-93
  2. "Tales from the Crypt (1972)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  3. "Tales from the Crypt". rogerebert.suntimes.com. 15 March 1972. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  4. Butler, Craig. "Tales from the Crypt (1972)". Allmovie. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  5. Canby, Vincent (9 March 1972). "Tales From The Crypt (1972)". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  6. Henderson, Eric (30 September 2007). "Tales from the Crypt | The Vault of Horror". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  7. Alexander, Chris (28 November 2014). ""TALES FROM THE CRYPT / VAULT OF HORROR" (Scream Factory Blu Review)". Fangoria. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  8. Arrigo, Anthony (27 November 2014). "Tales From the Crypt / Vault of Horror (Blu-ray)". Dread Central. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  9. Galbraith, Stuart (18 December 2014). "Tales From The Crypt / Vault Of Horror (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
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