FTP: The Vault of Horror (1973)

OCTOBER 3, 2023


I could have sworn I actually saw The Vault of Horror before, but I apparently just got it mixed up with the half dozen other early ‘70s horror anthologies, which explains why I always get Vault questions wrong at horror trivia. To be fair even when I started watching it it seemed like I had already seen it, because the setup was so similar to Tales From The Crypt’s, with a bunch of dudes (well, Crypt had Joan Collins among them) finding themselves grouped together under mysterious circumstances and proceeding to tell their individual stories about how they might have gotten there. I mean it's technically a sequel as it's from the same producers and based on the same old comic series, so I can't fault it for taking a "if it ain't broke..." approach.

Luckily I found it to be just as enjoyable as Tales, so at least it’s worthy of the name. As I’ve said in the past, I tend to like few anthology films as a whole; the hit or miss ratio inherent to such things makes them hard for me to recommend when all is said and done, making me wish you could just extract a segment (say, "The Raft" from Creepshow II) and not deal with the rest. This also makes me less likely to revisit any of them, though since Vault is packaged together with Tales (via Scream Factory) I took another look at that one, and since it had been nearly 16 years since I last saw it (holy crap I’ve been here for a long time) it was basically like a first time watch, and I even enjoyed the story I didn’t like as much the first time around.

As for Vault, the protagonists are even bigger jerks than the ones in Tales, which at least had the good sense to introduce a few sympathetic characters (Peter Cushing’s, for example) to mix along with them. Here the closest we get to a decent person ends up murdering her jerk husband and cutting his corpse into pieces which she then stores in a bunch of labeled jars – hardly a role model. But I was in the right mood for all the crass behavior, so I had a good time cackling at how reprehensible these people were and then cheering for their demises; a movie with no heroes but plenty of crowd-pleasing moments. The first story exemplifies this attitude the best; it’s a pretty short/simple tale of a guy who wants to find his sister regarding the family inheritance, but not to split it – he kills her so he can have it all (he also kills the PI who tracked her down). Then he treats himself to a celebratory dinner, only to discover everyone in the restaurant is a vampire, all of whom proceed to place a valve in his neck and use him as a blood keg. And that’s it! I love it.

The next one is the one I mentioned, where the lady kills her husband – but he had it coming, as he was an insufferable ass who marries this younger woman only to make her miserable by being so obsessively neat and tidy, screaming at her for things like not buying more tomato sauce even though he has a (complicated) checkmark system in place to ensure that things are replaced when used. I was delighted by this one too, but it also made me feel a bit bad, because I’ve definitely scowled at my wife for not telling me we were out of this or that. Guess I won’t ever do that again, so thanks for setting me straight, fifty year old horror movie. (Still, I’m glad she didn’t watch it with me and point it out, as I’d feel worse!)

The next one was the seemingly obligatory weak link, about a jerk magician and his jerk wife going out of their way to show the audience how a rival magician was pulling off his tricks, then killing the man’s daughter in order to steal a “magic rope” trick that appeared to be the real deal. It felt drawn out compared to the others, and the ending was both abrupt and puzzling (a dead character resurfaces with no explanation – magic, I guess?). And the next one wasn’t exactly a slam dunk either, but was at least pretty short, involving a guy being buried alive as part of a scam only for his partner to leave him there to keep all the money. There’s another twist after that, resulting in what’s probably the most comical of the five stories, but it’s too slight to really register as a highlight.

The final one is pretty great though, focusing on an artist who has been told by the critics and dealers that he’s no good, only to discover that they were lying to him in order to sell his (apparently good!) paintings at high prices and not tell him about it. So he strikes a deal with a voodoo doctor that allows him to paint someone, then do something to the painting that will happen in reality to the person depicted in the painting (so if he paints a guy and then lights the painting on fire, the guy will be suddenly immolated). This leads to some amusing death scenes and a howler of an ending, when the guy leaves his own self-portrait out in the open (he can’t put it away or else he feels like he’s suffocating) and it’s destroyed by paint thinner, heh.

Alas, the disc has no real extras (same for Tales) except for an alternate version of the movie which, best I can tell, censors the gory ending of the vampire restaurant story, and also presents it at a different aspect ratio (it was shot open matte, so while the 1.78 image is the one preferred by the filmmakers, the open one actually has more information at the top and bottom). For reasons I can’t discern, one disc has Tales and Vault, with the other version of Vault on a second disc? Why not put both Vault versions together on one disc for easier comparison? Bizarre decision. But that’s it beyond trailers; no historian commentaries or anything like that, which is a shame as it was an interesting trend in the early ‘70s that basically died out, something a historian could have gone over in detail along with pointing out the original Gaines comics the stories came from and such. Oh well.

But hey, it’s the best time of the year for these sort of movies, as they’re fun but fiendish, and also if you’re like me and find yourself too busy to watch too many movies at home, it’s certainly easier to break up your viewing into chunks with an anthology than it is for a traditional feature. So it’s a bad "Pile" movie, because I’m going to keep it, but I’m glad I finally saw Vault (it’s been in said pile for several years, again because I thought I had seen it already and therefore it would be a rewatch) and gave Tales a second look. Plus, having recently seen an anthology where the segments were all over the place with regards to tone and quality, it was nice to watch one with a little more cohesion.

What say you?


Post a Comment

Movie & TV Show Preview Widget