A boring anthology based on seventies horror comics that saved its only redeemable tale for last and featured heavy-handed symbolism.
Five men find themselves at a round table recounting their worst nightmares. Let’s dig into 1973’s THE VAULT OF HORROR, directed by Roy Ward Baker!
As I See It
If I were to rate the five stories on a scale of one to five, in order, it would go as follows:
“Midnight Mess” – a tale about greed with some vampires = 1
“The Neat Job” – A man’s high standards come back to bite him in the ass when his new wife is sick of his constant micromanagement = 1
“This Trick’ll Kill You” – A magician in India reveals a street performer to be a fake and is subsequently treated to some biting karma = 3
“Bargain in Death” = 0
“Drawn and Quartered” – A tired artist finds out he’s been cheated out of value and money for his paintings and returns to London to seek revenge on the critics and art dealers who swindled him once he discovers that what he paints becomes a reality = 5
I find none of the stories besides the last even worth talking about.
Yes, I enjoyed the story set in India, but “Drawn and Quartered” is too good to be lumped in with the rest of this swill. Taken from the comic book Tales From the Crypt #26, Tom Baker is fantastic, and the story is tight. I wish there were some more gore at the end to match the ruined canvas, but I really don’t have much to complain about with this one.
I’ll still watch any anthology, omnibus, portmanteau, or whatever you want to call a collection of short stories with a wrap-around, but man, this one was a slog to get through before finally enjoying the ending.
I did not recognize him with a beard, not that I’m a Doctor Who fan anyway, but Tom Baker — the infamous scarf-wearing fourth doctor — plays in the strongest segment, “Drawn and Quartered”.
Denholm Elliott (Lawrence Diltant, “Drawn and Quartered”’) was the affable Marcus Brody in the Indiana Jones films.
Of Gratuitous Nature
The metaphor is not subtle. I’ll just say this, and even this tidbit may be a spoiler: you know where this is going when the elevator is due for the “sub-basement”.
There was some promise during the cemetery-based story. It looked like a well-dressed set that could be ready for some Burke and Hare-type action. Maybe my brain wasn’t engaged, though, because the tale made as much sense to me as free jazz.
Ripe for a Remake
I love anthology horror. I love short films, and I love short stories. That said, I’m well aware that those mediums are breeding grounds for half-cooked nonsense that will make you feel like you ate something you shouldn’t have.
Amicus released a slew of anthology horror films, and this one came right around the end of that run. In chronological order starting in 1965, you had Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Torture Garden, The House That Dripped Blood, Tales from The Crypt, Asylum, and From Beyond the Grave.
Where to Watch
Naturally, this was released as a double feature on Blu-Ray alongside Tales From the Crypt (1972) by Shout Factory.