Yesterday I caught another in the series of horror anthology films from Amicus Productions. Released in 1973, “The Vault Of Horror” was directed by Roy Ward Baker (“Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde”, “Asylum”.
Unlike other films in the series, such as “The House That Dripped Blood” or “From Beyond The Grave”, there is no separate character linking the individual stories presented here.
As the film starts we watch five men entering a lift one by one, on different floors, as it descends through a block of flats in London. They find themselves in the sub-basement which is furnished and appears to be some kind of gentlemen’s club. When they discover that there are no buttons to summon the lift back and no other exit the five decide to sit down and have a drink. The conversation turns to dreams, with each taking their turn to describe the others a recurring nightmare that they suffer from.
The first, titled “Midnight Mess”, is described by Harold (Daniel Massey – “The Cat And The Canary”, “Scandal”) who dreams of himself hiring a private detective to track down his estranged sister Donna (Anna Massey – “Peeping Tom”, “Frenzy”) following their father’s death.
When he arrives at the town in which she lives a local warns him to get inside before it gets dark as that’s when “they come out”. Getting no reply at Donna’s house, he goes to a nearby restaurant for dinner only to find it closing as it’s starting to get dark.
Returning to Donna’s, Harold murders her because their father’s inheritance had been left solely to her. Finding that the restaurant has re-opened, even though it’s now dark, he returns there for a meal to find it full of “them”…
The second story, “The Neat Job”, is told by Arthur (Terry-Thomas – “School For Scoundrels”, “How To Murder Your Wife”) who is obsessively neat and organised. There is a place for everything in his home and everything in its place. Now, I am sometimes accused of having OCD when it comes to organising things but Arthur puts things into perspective!
When he marries young trophy wife Eleanor (Glynis Johns – “Under Milk Wood”, “Mary Poppins”) he is exasperated when she rearranges things and fails to follow his exacting instructions.
Matters come to a head, literally, when Arthur loses his temper and shouts “can’t you do anything neatly? can’t you?” repeatedly at Eleanor – leading her to take drastic action…
“This Trick’ll Kill You” is the third tale. Sebastian (Curd Jürgens – “The Spy Who Loved Me”, “Goldengirl”) is a professional magician holidaying in India with his wife and on the lookout for new tricks to add to their routine.
He happens to see a girl (Jasmina Hilton – “Emmerdale”) performing a rope trick but is unable to persuade her to tell him how it works. He invites her to his hotel room to show the trick to his wife Inez (Dawn Addams – “The Vampire Lovers”) by pretending his wife is ill, but once there the couple murder the girl to steal the rope. However, they find that the rope isn’t about to co-operate…
Story four is “Bargain In Death”. Horror story writer Maitland (Michael Craig – “Lola”, “Payroll”) and a friend have devised an insurance scam that will see Maitland taking a drug that makes him appear to be dead. All that will then remain is for his friend to dig him out of his grave and they can claim the insurance payout.
Maitland’s friend Alex (Edward Judd – “The Day The Earth Caught Fire”, “First Men In The Moon”) decides to double cross him and leave him to his fate in his coffin, claiming the cash all for himself.
However, two trainee doctors – Tom (Robin Nedwell – “Doctor In Charge”) and Jerry (Geoffrey Davies – “Doctor In Charge”) are on the lookout for recently deceased bodies to practice on and pay the gravedigger to dig up Maitland’s grave. They all get more than they bargained on…
The final tale is called “Drawn And Quartered”. An artist, Moore (Tom Baker “Dr. Who”, “The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad”) is living in poverty in Haiti when he discovers that some of his work – that he was told was worthless – has been sold in London for high prices.
Moore visits a local voodoo priest and pays the priest to give him voodoo powers through his painting.
Returning to London, Moore visits the dealer, art critic and agent who he feels cheated by – Gaskill (John Witty – “Voodoo Blood Death”), Breedley (Terence Alexander – “Bergerac”, “The Day Of The Jackal”) and Diltant (Denholm Elliott – “Trading Places”, “The House That Dripped Blood”) – and tells them that he will have his revenge.
Moore paints portraits of the three and then damages the paintings in such a way as the subject will suffer the same fate. However, when he starts to lose his breath he realises that he must take his self-portrait from within the safe he stored it in. Having done so he suddenly remembers he left his watch in the Diltant’s office and sets off to retrieve it, leaving his self-portrait seemingly safe in his studio…
I particularly enjoyed stories two and five. Terry-Thomas is fabulous as the uptight and exasperated neat freak, whilst Tom Baker, complete with wild hair and beard, is great fun as the wronged artist.
Overall I felt that this was one of the better films in the Amicus anthology series…