VAULT OF HORROR, THE (Tales from the Crypt, Part II)

(director: Roy Ward Baker; screenwriters: Milton Subotsky/from the Comic Book stories by Al Feldstein and William M. Gaines; cinematographer: Denys N. Coop; editor: Oswald Hafenrichter; music: Douglas Gamley; cast: Midnight Mess: Daniel Massey (Rogers), Anna Massey (Donna), Jerold Wells (Waiter), Michael Pratt (Private Eye). The Neat Job: Terry-Thomas (Critchit), Glynis Johns (Eleanor Critchit). This Trick’ll Kill You: Curt Jurgens (Sebastian), Dawn Addams (Inez), Jasmina Hilton (Indian Girl), Paul Daniels (Fakir). Bargain in Death: Michael Craig (Maitland), Edward Judd (Alex), Robin Nedwell (Tom), Geoffrey Davis (Jerry), Arthur Mullard (Gravedigger). Drawn and Quartered: Tom Baker (Moore), Denholm Elliott (Dilitant), Terence Alexander (Breedley), John Witty (Gaskill); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Max Rosenberg/Milton Subotsky; 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; 1973-UK)

“Baker failed to get any oomph out of it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s the first sequel to 1972’s horror hit Tales from the Crypt. The Amicus company, in their sixth portmanteau film, had Roy Ward Baker (“The Monster Club”/”Asylum”/”The Vampire Lovers”) direct this adaptation of various E. C. Comics horror stories from the 1950s written by Al Feldstein and William M. Gaines; the script is by Milton Subotsky. But, despite a talented all-star cast, the script was just too flat and Baker failed to get any oomph out of it, as it was visually stagnant and shot in too straightforward of a manner to resonate with black humor or scares. None of the five horror stories—Midnight Mess, The Neat Job,This Trick’ll Kill You, Bargain In Death and Drawn And Quartered—are memorable; it’s more a decent film than an exciting one.

It has five men trapped in the basement vault of a London office building share visions with each other of their weird dreams. The stories revolve around vampires, bodily dismemberment, eastern mysticism, an insurance scam, and an artist who kills for revenge by painting his victims’ deaths.

Midnight MessThe first dream has a man (Daniel Massey) murder his sister (Anna Massey, the real-life sister of Daniel) for her inheritance only to find out that she and her pals are vampires, who serve him tomato juice in a restaurant which just happens to be his blood.

The Neat JobIn this one, the gap toothed lothario Terry Thomas, a neatness freak, tells about getting wed to his friend’s daughter Glynis Johns, and she moves into his pad. His neatness compulsion drives her crazy, as does a row over a spaghetti sauce. The result is that she strikes him with a hammer and bottles his remains in aptly labeled bottles.

This Trick’ll Kill YouA humiliated cockney magician (Curt Jurgens) and his wife assistant, Dawn Adams, travel to India and learn from a fakir a rope trick, which he uses for malevolent purposes back in London to get even with those who mocked his magical ability. Only he has the magic turn back against him and his wife, as he has bad karma because he killed an Indian girl (Jasmina Hilton) who refused to teach him the trick. He now gets attacked by the rope (which looks ridiculously silly) and is left swinging in his room, as he’s watched by the dead eyes of the Indian girl.

Bargain In DeathA horror story writer (Michael Craig ) is prematurely buried in an attempted insurance scam and is counting on his rescue by his friend (Edward Judd), but instead two medical school students (Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies) dig up his body for research only to find him alive. Unfortunately it ends with a car crash and the wiseguy writer undergoing a preposterous “spade in the head” death.

Drawn And QuarteredBritish painter Tom Baker is working in Haiti and soon dabbles in voodoo he learns from a witch doctor when he finds out that he’s been ripped off by his London-based agent and his work is blasted by snobbish critics. To get revenge, he returns to London and discovers whatever damage he paints on the portraits also happens to the person in real life and he uses his paintings to exact revenge against his foes. But he gets tripped up when he does a self-portrait.