Like most horror anthologies the Amicus production Tales from the Crypt is a patchy and uneven affair; at times sublime and highly entertaining, at others rushed, predictable, and unsatisfying. This hasn’t stopped it becoming the most immediately recognised of their numerous portmanteau movies, a situation no doubt aided by the films tremendous commercial success. My personal favourite will forever remain The House that Dripped Blood (1971) for its blend of comedy, self-referential satire, effective scares, and the stylish and intelligent direction of Peter Duffell. Duffell clearly impressed Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg for he was offered the job of directing Tales from the Crypt, but he chose to turn it down. So they turned to Freddie Francis, a safe but dull pair of hands, a man capable of churning out serviceable genre movies, but ones almost entirely lacking in inspiration. Fortunately the decision to turn to the gore soaked pages of EC Comics offset this somewhat. Writers such as Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein, and William M. Gaines excelled at creating short sharp morality plays overflowing with poetic irony, black humour, and disreputable characters. EC Comics still had a whiff of scandal attached to them, and one must credit Subotsky for toning down the savagery, without compromising the overall message of each story.
The opening story And All Through the Night which utilises the fun and revelry of Christmas as a backdrop to murder has justifiably become the most famous segment. The story unfolds over a mere twelve minutes and has virtually no dialogue, yet every facet of this shocker is communicated effectively. Joan Collins’ motivation is money, and her need for it has led her to kill her husband on Christmas Eve (poker to the head) while her daughter excitedly awaits Santa Claus upstairs. Her wishes this Christmas will be fulfilled, though the fact that Santa also happens to be a homicidal maniac who has only recently fled a nearby asylum may temper her joy somewhat! With a constant babble of Christmas Carols accompanying Collins’ attempts to erase the evidence of her misdeed, and the constant threat of a lurking maniacal presence outside desperate to gain entry to the house this effortlessly becomes one of the best stories to feature in an Amicus anthology. Of particular note is the casual cruelty that Collins brings to her character; opening the present her husband intended for her, and snorting with derision at the gift within, before booting his corpse down the cellar steps!
© Shaun Anderson 2012