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Five perfect strangers (Daniel Massey, Terry-Thomas, Curd Jurgens,
Michael Craig, Tom Baker) are for some reasons locked into a clubroom in
the cellar of their appartment building, which they didn't know even existed.
To pass the time, they tell each other about their recurring nightmares
- Daniel Massey tells about him searching for his sister (his real
live sister Anna Massey), &, upon finding her, he kills her for
their parents' inheritance. But, as he goes dining after his misdeed, he
has to find out she is actually a vampire living in a city of vampires,
& in the restaurant where he is eating, they do have good use for
him ... as vine of the day.
- Next it's Terry-Thomas who has just married
Glynis Johns, but his compulsion to keep everything neat & tidy soon
drives her nuts, until she kills him with a hammer to the forehead. But
then she dismembers him & keeps his body parts in jars, just as he
would have loved it - neat & tidy.
- Curd Jurgens' story concerns a
Hindu girl who knows a rope trick he - a famed magician - must acquire
at any cost - & be that cost that he & his wife Dawn Addams have
to kill the girl. But the rope has a few tricks of his own ... finally
strangling Jürgens as if by magic.
- Michael Craig tells his story of
being buried alive with his friend Edward Judd in order to get the
insurance money. But once Craig is six feet deep Judd has other plans
with the money than sharing it, leaving his buddy where he is. 2 medical
students though do need a corpse of their own for anatomical studies
& pay a gravedigger to deliver, & yes, it's Michael Craig they
are digging up. But once the corpse rises from the grave, the 2
flee in horror, causing Edward Judd, who happens to drive by, to have a
fatal accident (alright, so that was far fetched). The gravedigger
though is anxious to deliver a corpse, & if the unearthed body is
not quite dead ... that can be helped by a pick to the forehead.
Finally it's Tom Baker's story, as he, a starved artist, used voodoo to
jumpstart his career. & the magic works as easy as this: everything
that happens on his canvas will also happen in reality. So, after using
it for some selfish means like painting a self portrait & keep it in
his safe to stay forever young (yes, that does remind one of Oscar
Wilde's Dorian Gray), Baker decides that voodoo might be a
perfect means opf revenge, too. So he paints the 3 people who wronged
him, then mutilates same pictures in order to have them mutilated in
real life too (& it actually works). It isn't until he has to take
his self-portrait out of his stuffy safe in order not to suffocate, that
he is in any danger. Soon the painting has an accident ... & so has
In an epilogue we learn that the 5 people sharing their dreams are
actually five already deceased men, cursed to tell their deaths each night, over & over again.
Many things have been said
about EC Comics from the 50's, & especially their
flagship titles, Tales from the Crypt & Vault of Horror,
& most of it based on bad propaganda, wild rumours, hearsay or the
mediocre early 90's tv show Tales from the Crypt. Truth though is
that these comics were actually anthology titles (usually consisting of
4 8-page stories by book), telling moralistic horror-shortstories with a
macabre twist at the end. As such they were something like a perfect
source for the Amicus omnibus movies, which were pretty much consisting
of the same kind of stories but were, especially towards the studio's
decline in the early to mid-70's, often rather uneven in storytelling.
This movie however, & Amicus' other EC-adapation, Tales from the
Crypt from the previous year, is a nice if a bit old fashioned (by
the 70's standard) piece of short story-telling, putting the shocks
& the laughs just where they belong (which would often be in the