Based on the comic book series from the ‘50s (it was like Tales from the Crypt, only hosted by the Vaultkeeper rather than the Cryptkeeper—though both were mined for episodes of the TV show). Done as an anthology, the wraparound story involves five gents meeting and discussing their strange dreams. In “Midnight Mess,” Harold (Daniel Massey), who murdered his sister for her inheritance (gee, I wonder why his parents didn’t leave him anything), accidentally dines in a restaurant for vampires. “The Neat Job” features married couple Arthur (Terry-Thomas) and Eleanor (Glynis Johns), who experience a deadly amount of tension when Eleanor can’t keep the house tidy enough. “This Trick’ll Kill You” shows a husband (Curd Jürgens) and wife (Dawn Addams) magic act looking for new tricks in India; they get more than they bargained for when they kill a young woman (Jasmina Hilton) for her enchanted rope. “Bargain in Death” deals with Maitland (Michael Craig), who is about to be buried alive for the insurance money. “Drawn and Quartered” concerns artist Moore (Tom Baker), who comes home from Haiti with the power to kill his enemies with art.
I must be spoiled by modern movies that attempt to scare in the first scene, because the opening with the men boarding an elevator bored me. The main cast is composed of middle-aged to elderly British men, who reminded me of that scene in Mary Poppins with the group of crotchety old bankers. Glynis Johns doesn’t help. The action does pick up when the fellows stop harrumphing and start storytelling, and I grew to like the movie. The acting is decent, the special effects are about what you’d expect from the ‘70s, and it’s fairly original.
Five segments sounds like a lot, but none are longer than twenty minutes. Like the stories they’re adapted from (which averaged about seven pages each) they’re short without feeling rushed or undeveloped. Probably because they all have the same basic storyline: a person does something terrible, usually for money, and karma strikes back with a vengeance. What’s to develop? But after all, one doesn’t read or watch The Vault of Horror for depth—it’s all about the imaginative way a baddie meets his or her doom.
As may be ascertained, I am a fan of the comics, and was excited to find out there was a Vault of Horror movie. I was not disappointed with what I saw. Somehow an English movie from the ‘70s manages to keep the spirit of an American ‘50s comic book. The only thing missing is the Vaultkeeper. Check it out if you love horror anthologies or corny old comic books. Hee hee hee!