Tales From the Crypt (1972)
Directed by Freddie Francis

Starring Ian Hendry Joan Collins Peter Cushing Richard Greene Roy Dotrice

One of the greatest horror-anthology films ever made, this was arguably the inspiration for George Romero and Stephen King's excellent "Creepshow" and the late 1980s HBO TV series "Tales From the Crypt." Of course, some would argue that the comic book this film is based upon was really the basis of those two projects. But this film predated them by more than a decade, the first adaptation of a horror comic to film. It's still a timeless gem of a movie, from one of the best years the horror genre ever saw: 1972.

The film was actually adapted from a paperback edition of the comic book, which may help explain why the "Crypt Keeper" (Ralph Richardson) looks so un-comic book like in the film: Basically a guy in a hood.

The stand-out story, "And All Through the House," stars Collins as an adulteress who just murdered her wealthy husband and, while disposing of the body, finds herself unable to call the police when a serial killer shows up dressed as Santa Claus. The tale also showed up in the TV series, but is done better here.

Cushing stars stars in another excellent story, "Poetic Piece," as a beloved old man who commits suicide when he is wrongly accused of molesting the town's children by a neighbor (Robin Philips). He rises from the dead to go after the bastard that set him up.

"Wish You Were Here" has corrupt businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) close to financial ruin. When his wife (Barbara Murray) discovers a Chinese figurine and wishes for a fortune, it comes true, but her husband is killed on the way to collect it. She naturally uses her second wish to bring him back to life, with disastrous results.

Patrick Magee stars in the last tale, "Blind Alleys", about a an ex-major in the military who becomes the new director of a home for the blind, making drastic financial cuts by reducing heat and rationing food for the residents while he lives in luxury with a German Shepherd. Again, disastrous results.

Well-acted and directed, the film was only released on VHS in the U.S. and is much in demand as a DVD title. But it's never been released in the format.

This film cannot be recommended enough.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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