View Full Version : Vault of Horror!

07-22-2003, 08:34 PM
Well, I have not written a review lately, so I thought it about time I delved once again into contributing to this useful forum. I have been watching a bunch of new DVD’s lately (well, new to ME, that is) and I had to decide which one I wanted to watch again in order to take notes. I decided upon “Vault of Horror”. If you’re not into British 70’s horror films, then you might want to pass this one by – which would be a pity, because it’s a really great film.

Before starting though, I should mention something about the company that made this one. You see, a lot of the time when talking about classic British horror of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, we’re left with only one production company – Hammer.

For sure, Hammer brought us many wonderful films, and without its influence, things would not have quite been the same. However, they were not the only house turning out horror films – there was also a company called Amicus.

Amicus was actually brought together by a couple of Americans. They didn’t have the money of Hammer (which might sound strange, given the cheapness of some Hammer productions) but they did have a forte – the anthology film! To confuse matters further, this movie was directed by Roy Ward Baker, Hammer veteran!

Since the newer Tales from the Crypt films are about to hit DVD, it is worth noting that the original anthology Tales film, was actually made by Amicus. Sadly, this one has not made it to DVD yet (with nothing on the horizon). However, the original Tales from the Crypt was such a hit, it spawned a sequel of sorts, and that sequel is Vaults of Horror! Of course, these being anthologies, they’re not really sequels – but you get the idea.

If you’re wondering why Amicus should be mentioned in the same sentence as Hammer – I mean, Amicus is clearly US funded – it’s because Amicus used a great number of British actors, and production was largely done in the UK. Putting all that aside, they share much of the same TONE of Hammer films, too.

Vault of Horror

Vault of Horror was made to capitalize on the surprise success of Tales from the Crypt (which has Peter Cushing as a very cool zombie). It is an anthology that runs a little over one hour and twenty minutes. The tales it contains were taken from EC Comics and the stories of Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines. In its relatively short running time, it crams in no less than five stories!

Anthology movies always have a framework. In this case, the framework is rather arbitrary, with each of the five men telling the others about a recurring nightmare they have been having. Still who cares, we’re not here for the framework, we want the stories!


Well, of course, there is not a single story here, there are five stories (six if you include the framing scene). Essentially, the opening shots are a pan of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in London, as taken from a cruise ship on the Thames. This skyline is the British equivalent of the skyline of New York. Finally, as the credits roll, we zoom into a shot of a high rise. Within that high rise we see a man pushing the button for the elevator. When it arrives he gets in, pressing the button for the ground floor. There are four stops on the way (picking up the leads for the other four stories).

Of course, the elevator does not stop at the ground floor, going instead to the mysterious sub-basement. This room (which they did not know existed) is actually a room with five chairs, wine and food. Within this room, these men will tell their stories, which are – in fact – nightmares that each has been experiencing. It is a simple framework, but who cares, we’re not here for that.

As mentioned, there are five stories, they are called:

Midnight Mess (16:30)
The Neat Job (15:00)
This Trick’ll Kill You (14:00)
Bargain in Death (9:30)
Drawn and Quartered (23:15)

One of the fun things about these stories is that each one stars a classic British Actor. Curt Jurgens (Spy Who Loved Me, Smiley’s People), Terry Thomas (Monte Carlo of Bust, Rocket to the Moon), Tom Baker (Dr. Who, Dungeons and Dragons), Denholm Elliot (Noises Off, The Cruel Sea), Glynis Johns (Under Milkwood, The Ref) and Daniel Massey (Cat and the Canary, Dakota). It’s impossible to list all the great things these cast members have helped bring us over the years, but what it does is illustrate what a good cast we have here. And I’ve left out some of the bit players too – most often than not, familiar faces from British TV at the time.

With a film running around 1:22, and with five stories to tell, you can guess that some of them are quite short. This might be a hindrance to people who want deep character development (screw that, there is none of that here), but on the plus side it keeps things brisk. Frankly, there is not fat here – this is a lean mean horror machine (approx timings of each story is noted above).

Midnight Mess

With stories this short it is not easy to write about them without giving spoilers. I don’t want to do that – so details here are sketchy. However, I will note that this is a story of a murder and revenge, in a way only EC Comics could have imagined. This story includes one of the most oft seen scenes pictured in Horror books over the years – involving a human keg and roast blood clots. Wonderful stuff.

The Neat Job

This has Terry Thomas, so much of it is played for laughs. It is the story of a man who marries a younger woman, wanting her only for keeping his house tidy – which she’s not very good at! What is a woman to do if a man INSISTS there is “a place for everything, and everything in its place”? You’ll see as she soon gets him organized!

This Trick’ll Kill You

Is the story of a couple who go to India to find new material for the magic act. Being a bit of a show-off, the magician spends his days exposing local “mystics” to their audiences. This does not endear him to the local mystic assistant, who seduces him with a rope trick to nowhere! This one has a wonderful ending, as revenge is enacted on husband and wife.

Bargain in Death

This is the most unoriginal of the lot. It tells the story of a horror author who can only get 50 quid for each story he writes. So he hits on the idea of living out one of his plot lines to get the insurance. Partnering with a friend (some friend!) he decides to fake his death with drugs, to be buried alive, and to then collect the insurance after he’s been dug up. Needless to say, we have grave robbers, twists – and a classic ending good for a belly laugh.

Drawn and Quartered

By far the longest story (at almost twice the length) we have a story starring Tom Baker as a painter on a tropical island. He learns that his paintings are being sold for 5000 a piece, while he was forced to sell them to his agent for far less – time for revenge! And what better way to get revenge on a tropical island than with voodoo? Cursing the hand he paints with, Baker soon realizes his pictures have strange powers.

Stealing something from Dorian Gray, Baker hits on the idea of living forever by doing a self-portrait. With this done, he then he sets out for revenge. Oh, greed will get you every time! Excellent one this, with some minor gore too.

Image Quality

Well, I guess adequate just about covers it. This is in glorious Full Screen (I really am not sure of the OAR), but it looks fine. I saw no signs that we were missing anything in the frame. The colors are a little washed out, some grain. Not reference by any means, but it works for the price. The box claims “Digitally Remastered” –which we all know means absolutely nothing.


Glorious mono. But it is clear without any harsh highs (and of course, without any lows, too).

Supplemental Material

Weak. We have a gallery of 28 shots (I don’t like galleries myself, to be honest). This gallery is somewhat ruined by the stupid idea of putting a frame around each shot. This makes them very small.

We also have three trailers (Psychic Killer, Cannibal Holocaust and Mountain of the Cannibal God), which might be good films (we’ll debate that some other time!) but are, undoubtedly, inappropriate for this title. Vipco have so many other Amicus titles in their catalogue, why not try and sell those?

There is also a “Filmography” section. Now, I was really looking forward to this, since so many great actors and actresses are in this film. Well guess what – they only included listings for Tom Baker and Terry Thomas. What a let down!

And that’s all folks!

Final Thoughts

This is a Vipco release from the UK. Bless their hearts, they’re trying at least. Never – ever – ever – buy a “video nasty” from Vipco. They say “uncut”, but what they mean is – no NEW cuts. The video nasties were hacked to death in the UK, and most of the releases from Vipco are the very same copies – crapola!

Now, the front of this box says “Uncut Version!”, and for once, they mean it – sort of. You see, in the UK, this film never was cut. So what you have is simply the original film. However, they’re not being complete idiots – because it seems this film WAS cut for its US release. These cuts are very sad indeed, since they include editing (shortening) of the punch lines of some of the stories – HEEEELLLOOOO!

To make matters worse, this film got a re-release in the US under the title “Tales of the Crypt II, and they cut even more! Needless to say, if you want this film, this is the one to get.

Vaults of Horror is definitely to be considered a classic. Some of the images from the film have been reproduced hundreds of times in magazines, articles and books, and the stories still hold up well. Oh, there’s no real gore – and the stories are short, but the gore is not missed, and the pacing is fast without leaving you wanting.

The framework has it’s own little ending that I won’t spoil, but it’s been done before and since many times, so don’t expect much.

If you are into Hammer and have not tried out Amicus yet – what you waiting for? If you have simply been waiting to get this one – why wait any longer? You now you want it! I highly recommend it – the sum is greater than the parts, and while this DVD release is hardly a reference one, for the film, it’s worth every penny you’ll pay for it. Scores below reflect our constant need to have everything widescreen, anamorphic, with Special Editions and boatloads of extras. The film itself (and that’s what counts folks) is a sheer joy!

Image Quality - C
Sound - C
Supplements - C
Running Time - 1 hour 22 minutes approx
Region 0
Rated 18
Full screen
Glorious Mono

07-22-2003, 08:50 PM
Nice review. Sounds interesting...I'm a big anthology fan, so if I ever come across it, I might pick it up.

07-23-2003, 06:06 AM
I just watched this the other night and really enjoyed it. Nice review dwatts

09-11-2007, 10:16 PM
I heard that the Vault of Horror included in the recent Tales from the Crypt/Vault of Horror collection is cut. Is this...true?

09-11-2007, 11:44 PM
Cut? Why in this day and age?
Demand it UnCut, or NO BUY!

09-13-2007, 07:32 PM
I heard that the Vault of Horror included in the recent Tales from the Crypt/Vault of Horror collection is cut. Is this...true?

It is cut. In the version on the DVD there are still frames in place of the goriest moments.

09-13-2007, 07:41 PM
Cut? Why in this day and age?
Demand it UnCut, or NO BUY!

Your loss. :rolleyes: Tales From The Crypt kicks ass! We probably would've had to pay the same amount of money had Vault of Horror NOT been included, at least, I would've gladly paid $20 for Tales all by it's lonesome. But $15 for TWO movies and I'm supposed to boycott it out of principle? Sorry, buddy. Again, Your loss.

09-13-2007, 07:46 PM
Your loss. :rolleyes: Tales From The Crypt kicks ass! We probably would've had to pay the same amount of money had Vault of Horror NOT been included, at least, I would've gladly paid $20 for Tales all by it's lonesome. But $15 for TWO movies and I'm supposed to boycott it out of principle? Sorry, buddy. Again, Your loss.

Agreed. It would've been nice to have the uncut Vault of Horror but Tales from the Crypt kicks all kinds of ass and I had to own it. If they ever decide to put Vault out uncut, I'll get that as well.

09-13-2007, 08:22 PM
It is cut. In the version on the DVD there are still frames in place of the goriest moments.

Total bummer. Means I'll rent rather than buy. Thanks for the info.