The Vault Of Horror (1973)

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Ranked #3,106
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Connections: Tales From The Crypt

Five strangers board a descending lift, one by one, in a modern office block in London. They reach the sub-basement, though none of them have pressed for that destination. There they find a large, elaborately furnished room that appears to be a gentlemen's club. The lift door has closed; there are no buttons to bring it back, nor any other exit. Resigned to waiting for help, they settle down with drinks and talk. The conversation turns to dreams, and each man tells of a recurring nightmare. --IMDb
Daniel Massey
Daniel Massey
Anna Massey
Anna Massey
Mike Pratt
Mike Pratt
Erik Chitty
Erik Chitty
Jerold Wells
Jerold Wells
Review by Chad
Added: October 11, 2007
Before we get down to business, I really have to point out that releasing a censored version of a film in this day and age without offering the alternative "full" version is downright stupid. Yes, the recent double feature release of Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror contains the PG-13 version of Vault instead of the original R-rated version, and I have to ask... why? It's certainly not because of a lack of availability, as a quick glance at eBay shows that there are quite a few people lining their pockets by selling bootlegs of the original version. Yet, I go out and purchase a legit version of the film on DVD and get screwed? Yeah, and people wonder why piracy is so high; could you imagine the outrage if they did something like this with, say, 300? Alright, I've ranted enough here and gotten a bit carried away, but this sort of thing truly bothers me, especially when I've been waiting for these movies to hit DVD since... well, almost since I purchased a DVD player.

Once again, the wraparound story involves five people telling stories to one another, and it begins when five businessmen find themselves trapped in an underground vault after their elevator starts acting screwy. With no way out and a couple bottles of liquor to keep them company, they decide to settle in and tell stories to pass the time, but as the night wears on, they realize that these stories may be more than mere fiction...

Midnight Mess
Kicking things off for this one is one of EC's many takes on the vampire subgenre, and it begins with a man heading into a strange town to track down his sister. When he finds her, he makes a startling revelation: their father died a month ago. Then, he makes another revelation: she was the sole recipient of his fortune, and unless she winds up dead, brother dearest won't be getting a dime. This being based on a Tales story and all, it doesn't take a genius to realize that sis winds up dead. After doing the deed, our bastard of a hero decides to grab a bite to eat from the local diner before collecting his inheritance money, and there, he realizes that the rumors about this town have some truth to them after all.

Thankfully, I knew how this one ended due to having read the original comic back in the day, because otherwise, the ironic ending would have lost its punch. You see, the first story on the disc also features the first touch of censorship, and said censorship occurs during the ending when the death of the main guy is revealed. One only gets a quick glance at his fate, and that really isn't enough to show what exactly happened to him unless - like me - you're familiar with the source material. I have to give this story some credit for some nice visuals (the mirror trick was great) and I would have went with a high score, but ruining the grand payoff with censorship killed it for me. 3/10.

The Neat Job
An older gentleman marries a slightly-younger woman, and from day one, the two parties realize that the marriage probably isn't going to last. Why? Well, the woman is a bit of a slob and loves to rearrange things, while the man believes that everything has its place and everything should be in its place; in other words, everything should be placed exactly where he says it should. Eventually, his OCD takes its toll on his new wife, and she decides that she'll finally do things his way: everything will have a place, and everything will be put in its place.

The censor board strikes again during this episode, but thankfully, audiences will at least be able to see the aftermath of what happened instead of simply being left in the dark. Other than that, I enjoyed this one. This is one of the stories that I had always wanted to see adapted for the big screen, as I felt that it had the potential to make for some damned fine ending scenes and the story would be an interesting one to see reenacted. While we didn't get to see all of the visuals that I wanted to see (thanks again to the fine fellows over at the censorship board), I did enjoy the overall presentation of the story regardless. For that, I'm going with a 6/10, and that would have been higher had certain pieces of the story not wound up on the cutting room floor.

This Trick'll Kill You
A husband and wife pair who also happen to be magicians travel to India in search of new tricks to add to their show, and there, they meet a young lady who has a very interesting trick that she performs with a rope in a basket. She simply plays her flute, the rope rises, and she is then able to climb it with no trouble whatsoever. An interesting trick, thinks the man, and he offers to buy the rope from her, but she refuses as it has been in her family for countless generations. So, like any good man in an EC comic, this dastardly gentleman murders the woman and steals the rope, but what he doesn't count on is the secret behind the trick being so ominous.

I'm guessing that this one was an interesting story on paper (I never saw this story in the comics), but sadly, it just didn't translate very well to the film. It's an interesting concept, but the problem here is that one of the final twists is never explained (what the hell happened to the woman?) and the other one is just... well, it's there, but it just doesn't work very well. I have to give the filmmakers credit for truly making the rope "come alive" as needed, but other than that, this one just didn't do much for me. 4/10.

Bargain in Death
The next story finds a man attempting to swindle his life insurance company by faking his own death, being buried alive, and having a friend dig him up later so that they can cash in on his policy and live the good life. The problem? His friend decides to "forget" about digging him up, but not to worry: a pair of graverobbers will be happy to assist.

While I enjoyed this story more than the previous one, this is another one of those stories that I think would have worked nicely in the pages of the Tales from the Crypt comic, but that didn't translate very well to the film. The story is solid and the ending is true to the morbidly ironic style of storytelling that the comics were known for, but something about it just didn't click with me. I can't really put my finger on what it was that I didn't like about this one, but I have to go with a 5/10 for it: it's there and it tells the story, but it's really nothing special.

Drawn and Quartered
The final story tells the tale of an artist living in Haiti who finds that he has been cheated out of the profits from his work. He enlists the help of a Voodoo shaman so that he can gain revenge on those who have wronged him, and the shaman grants him an interesting power: he can now draw a picture of whoever or whatever he wants, and if that picture is destroyed or damaged, the same will happen to the subject of the portrait. It works out beautifully, but like any vain artist, our hero decides that he needs to draw a self-portrait, and that's when things get interesting.

Sometimes a filmmaker will truly save the best for last, and that is exactly what happened here. While it'll never be mistaken as a classic of the horror genre and while it's not exactly a perfect piece of cinema, it's a far cry better than the rest of the stories featured here. Most of this can be attributed to an original and unique storyline that - even though we all know how it's going to end up - still manages to keep us interested until the final grisly moments. 7/10.

So, the law of averages hasn't exactly been kind to this one, as it winds up with a mere 5/10. I'm tempted to knock a further point off for the censorship issues, but I can't really fault the film at hand for that even though it did lessen my entertainment. Overall, I'm glad that it was basically a freebie as it came bundled together with the Tales from the Crypt movie, as I'm not sure that I could have recommended this at all otherwise.
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