Spoilers follow ...
- Vault of Horror review by NP
This is an anthology film of the type prolific during the 1970s, which became something of a speciality for Amicus Productions. Five fairly lightweight stories feature an exceptional cast including Terry-Thomas as the meticulously house-proud Arthur Critchit (“Can’t you do anything neatly?”), his wife Eleanor played by Glynis Johns; Daniel and Anna Massey as brother and sister Harold and Dona Rogers; Curd Jürgens as a magician on holiday in Amicus’ cut-price India doing dodgy business with a terrific Dawn Addams; Michael Craig in a grave-robbing tale alongside Robin Nedwell, Geoffrey Davies and Arthur Mullard, who were comedy actors popular at the time; finally, future Doctor Who Tom Baker as Moore, a cash-strapped painter who falls victim of voodoo magic in Haiti and gets revenge on scammer Denholm Elliot and Terence Alexander.
The framing device features Thomas, Jürgens, Baker, Daniel Massey and Craig who enter an elevator, a scene which opens the film. The loud bombastic music jars with this scene in my view. Five men, all methodically ignoring each other as people do in lifts as the soundtrack bangs and crashes around them – how much more effective it would have been if the music had been low and sinister. Anyhow, their joint destination, although none of them could foresee it, is an elaborate chamber bedecked with food, seemingly at the basement of the building. It is here they recount their stories and dreams to one another. All of them are revealed to be hugely flawed.
The final twist in the story, and just where they are, is not massively surprising, but the success lies in the way in which their fate is revealed. Never a company for lavish theatrics, Amicus nevertheless had an occasional knack of delivering something truly spine-chilling (Moore’s protracted revenge is a case in point).
The cast are uniformly excellent, never betraying their worth for the occasional silliness of the stories in which they feature. One of Amicus’ trademarks was that their films were tinged with a sense of humour that assured its audience that the horror was not to be taken too seriously. Sometimes this approach worked, and sometimes to the detriment of the tales being told, yet with such a lot going on, the pace never falters. When the comedic elements were not successful, it seemed as if the horror itself was being ridiculed.
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