TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) — Strange Christmas Movies Round Two (#30 of 48)

Three years ago, the 24 days leading up to Christmas, Strangers and Aliens presented 24 Christmas movies that aren’t Christmas movies, but really kind of are, for various reasons. And now, we’re doing it again! Here’s 24 more Christmas movies that are set around Christmas or use Christmas to set tone or set up a theme . . . but weren’t made to be Christmas movies…

#30 — Tales from the Crypt

cryptWhat it’s supposed to be: No, not THAT Tales from the Crypt. This is a horror movie anthology from 1972 about five people who, one a tour of a crypt find themselves locked in a room with a strange man who proceeds to tell them their stories, revealing how they died . . . and also how awful the are as human beings.

Why it’s a Christmas movie: Joan Crawford’s story takes place entirely on Christmas Eve, beginning with her Christmas present to her husband (a sharp blow to the head), through to a Christmas present FROM her husband (his insurance policy), to a visit from Santa Claus (in the form of a homicidal maniac who stole a Santa suit).

Thoughts: We needed some more horror on this list, and Tales from the Crypt from 1972 is a pretty good horror anthology to get in there.

The stories were based on old EC Comics stories, which should tell you right there if it’s something you’d enjoy or not. Personally, EC Comics are often hit or miss for me, and usually more MISS than HIT. But when they hit, they hit well. The horror in this movie is more cerebral and grim and less blood and guts. The poster has more gore than the movie — it goes for tension more than shock, and both the tension and the shock are memorable. Each of the tales of each of the people from the crypt is classic horror-justice, featuring a person who is just plain awful and who gets an ironic comeuppance.

The stories include: the Christmas one referenced above; a twisty story about a man who is in a car accident while preparing to leave his wife and child to be with his lover; Peter Cushing as a man beloved by his neighbors until some men who hate him turn people against him, sort of, on Valentine’s day; a variation on Monkey’s Paw that calls out that it is a variation on The Monkey’s Paw, to the point that the characters are actively choosing to do better than the people in the Monkey’s Paw story managed to do (spoiler: you KNOW they won’t…); and the story of an awful man running a home for blind men and how they get their revenge.

The Christmas segment is full of dark humor as Joan Crawford goes between hiding her husband’s dead body from her daughter who is upstairs keep in bed only by the promise that Santa can’t come unless she stays in bed, figuring out what to do with her husband’s corpse, and hiding from the homicidal maniac dressed as Santa outside who is trying to get inside. All of this is set to Christmas carols. Sentimental and traditional and jaunty Christmas carols. But the black comedy is actually dramatic.

Is It Naughty or Nice? I was surprised by how much I liked this one. I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was, in all its segments, It has dark humor and ironic endings worthy of the Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The horror sticks with you, as they set up these awful people for their truly awful destinies. Speaking of destinies, for a Christmas movie it absolutely sets up situations that explore why in the world Jesus needed to be born in the first place. I don’t want to spoil it, but like many horror movies it explores ideas of sin and judgement. It’s quite good, and as a Christmas movie of the strange variety, I rate it…

Santa Ben’s Verdict: 



Your verdict? Let me know below in the comments!

Next: Things to Come

Previous: The Sword in the Stone

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3 responses to “TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) — Strange Christmas Movies Round Two (#30 of 48)”

  1. mike Avatar

    I would like to find out what the Christmas music on the radio in the Joan Collins scene was done by.

    1. Scott Avatar

      I too would love to know what album was used; it’s really beautiful. Please if anyone knows, kindly post it here. Thanks.

    2. Scott Avatar

      Mike, did you ever discover what the album was? I love this music and would like to know. Thanks.

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