Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Vault of Horror (1973)

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Curd Jurgens, Terry-Thomas, Tom Baker, Dawn Addams, Michael Craig, Denholm Elliott

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Below the Crypt lies Death's waiting-room - The . . . Vault of Horror

Plot: Five men trapped in the basement vault of an office building share visions with each other of their demise. Stories revolve around vampires, bodily dismemberment, east Indian mysticism, an insurance scam, and an artist who kills by painting his victims' deaths.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes. Yes. YES!

#92 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

It's so rare that horror anthologies are done right. The Amicus studio made a half dozen or so for 7 year period beginning with 1965's DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS, which was very good. I didn't care too much for TORTURE GARDEN (1967) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) but I thoroughly enjoyed TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972). The problem is that there are usually one or two good stories with the rest being weak filler. VAULT has the rare distinction of having five strong tales. It's the grand slam of horror anthologies.

I'm going to give some huge plot details so be warned...

MIDNIGHT MESS - Harold (Daniel Massey) visits his long lost sister to kill her in order to inherit their recently deceased father's estate only to find out she and the others in the village are vampires! After stabbing his sister to death he goes to a restaurant for dinner where he discovers all too late that he's the only human in the joint. They string him upside down and put a beverage tap IN HIS FUCKING NECK!!! How fucking badass is that? OMFG, what a way to start things off. I thought for sure the rest would pale in comparison.

THE NEAT JOB - Arthur (Terry-Thomas) marries a MUCH younger Eleanor (Johns). They get along splendidly except that Arthur is a neat freak and that begins to send Eleanor into paranoia in order to please her husband. In a wonderful scene where Eleanor has one mishap after another in anticipation of Arthur arriving home from work, she breaks under pressure when he berates her. She kills him and puts his body parts in large mason jars in the basement next to his well-ordered things. Great fun and it's nice seeing Terry-Thomas in a serious role. I've often wondered if he ever played a villain. I imagine he could have been very effective much like Henry Fonda in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968).

THIS TRICK'LL KILL YOU - Sebastian (Jurgens) is a world-class magician on holiday in India when he comes across a street magician with an amazing trick involving a rope rising out of a basket. Sebastian can't figure it out and is desperate to learn the secret, desperate enough to kill for it. Lots of fun and I love the music in this segment.

BARGAIN IN DEATH - Maitland (Craig) (I think this is the character's name) works out a deal with his friend that he'll take a drug that mimics the effects of death. Once he is quickly buried, Maitland's friend will dig him up and they'll split the insurance money. There's a problem (of course there is); his friend has no plans on digging him up. This one is cute with a very nice surprise ending.

DRAWN AND QUARTERED - Moore (Baker) is a painter that's been taken advantage of by a trio of art critics and dealers and he uses Voodoo to take care of business. He paints their portraits and mutilates them in a fun fashion (like poking the eyes out of one, ripping the hands off another) which has dire consequences for the subjects. But what is to happen to the portrait he made of himself? Tom Baker does a great job in this one and makes it a great bookend to the awesome first tale.

I'm just blown away at the quality across the board. Everything is top notch and this might just be the best horror anthology I've seen so far. There are others that have come close but this one knocks it out of the park no matter how you slice it. It's on a MGM Midnite Movies double bill DVD with the excellent TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and you can pick it up for less than ten bucks. It's a steal.

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