In a London tower block, five men get into the lift and press the button for the ground floor, but before long it is clear that there is something awry. The doors open not at the ground floor but at a vault in the basement, and when all the men get out, wondering what is going on, they realise that there are no buttons by the doors as they close. They are trapped, but as there are drinks to be imbibed and comfortable seats to relax in, they're not too bothered about waiting for rescue. What is bothering them is the strange nightmares they've been suffering, and with nothing else to do, they begin relating their tales...
One of the last of Amicus' portmanteau horror movies, The Vault of Horror was, like Tales from the Crypt before it, based on the popular but at the time controversial comics from William Gaines' 1950s E.C. line. The originals were marked not simply by their gruesome traits, but by their black sense of humour as well, yet the glee with which they were presented was somewhat lacking when producer and writer Milton Subotsky brought his adaptations to the screen - in fact, they were a little dry.
There's nothing wrong with the stories themselves, as they all have decent set ups and fitting punchlines, it's just that a more than a modicum of jokiness could have lifted them above the routine. As it is, they are more quietly amusing than all-out thrill rides, starting with Daniel Massey's jaunt to track down his missing sister, played by his actual sister Anna Massey, but when he ends up at an isolated village where the locals warn him not to stay out after dark, we can guess what the danger is. He, of course, remains oblivious until it's too late.
It's not a bad start, and from there we go to the most outright comedic part, where neatness freak Terry-Thomas drives his wife Glynis Johns to distraction by insisting everything should be in its correct place. These two make a good couple, but should really have been given more funny lines. Next up is Curt Jurgens and Dawn Addams in India, discovering the Indian rope trick and resorting to murder to secure its secret. This one is more straight-faced, but when the rope comes alive for the climax you may be prompted into unintentional laughter rather than intentional chills.
Then it's Michael Craig's insurance scam, where he takes a drug that induces a death-like state and allows him to get his money, but his cohort Edward Judd has plans of his own. Notable for co-starring sitcom actors Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies from Doctor in the House and their umpteen spin-offs as medical students who offer Craig a chance to survive, this one feels undernourished. Lastly artist Tom Baker resorts to voodoo to get his own back on the art world which has wronged him; there's some fair nastiness here but like the rest of the film it plods when it should be proceeding at least at a healthy jog. Still, none of the stories hangs around long enough to get boring, and The Vault of Horror was enjoyable enough for fans of the Amicus style. Music by Douglas Gamley.
Reliable British director who worked his way up from teaboy to assistant to Alfred Hitchcock to overseeing his own hit projects from the 1940s to the 1970s. Making his debut with The October Man, he continued with Morning Departure, Don't Bother To Knock, Inferno, The One That Got Away and what is considered by many to be the best Titanic film, A Night To Remember.