Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tales from the Crypt Christmas

By Steve Stones

Long before HBO created their Tales From The Crypt TV series in the late
1980s and early 1990s, Amicus Studios (an adjunct of Hammer Studios) in
England created a full-length feature film in 1972 based on the William
Gaines, Al Feldstein and Johnny Craig E.C. comic books of the 1950s. For
this article, I will focus on comparing one segment of the full-length
feature film with an HBO TV episode in 1989 entitled: “All Through The

Tales From The Crypt (1972)

A group of tourists is taken to a crypt in an old England cemetery. A
tour guide tells them that religious martyrs of Henry VIII are buried
there. Five members of the group get lost and wander into an empty
crypt. The crypt keeper intentionally traps them inside but informs them
that he has a purpose. He then asks actress Joan Collins what her plans
are after she leaves the crypt.

Next, we see a young and beautiful Collins murdering her husband on
Christmas Eve with a fire poker as he is reading the evening newspaper.
She wants to collect on his life insurance policy. As she says goodnight
to her daughter and quickly tries to clean up the blood on the floor
from the murder, she hears on the radio that a killer has escaped from a
local sanitarium and may be dressed in a Santa suit to disguise his
identity. He is to be considered very dangerous.

Collins hears a knock at the door and realizes it must be the escaped
killer. She attempts to close all the blinds in the house as he peaks
through the windows in a Santa suit. She thinks of calling the police,
but realizes she cannot call them because the corpse of her husband lies
on the living room floor. She pushes his body down the basement stairs
to try and make it look as if he died of a fall.

Returning upstairs, she sees the door to her daughter’s bedroom open.
She discovers her daughter is gone. Suddenly, from behind a curtain
downstairs she hears her daughter say “He’s here Mommy! Santa is here!”
Sure enough, it is the escaped killer in a Santa suit holding hands with
her daughter. Collins runs for the fire poker, but the killer gets to
her quickly and chokes her as she grabs for the poker in front of the

Tales From The Crypt: “And All Through The House” HBO TV episode (1989)

This episode opens with actress Mary Ellen Trainor reaching for a fire
poker in front of a fireplace on Christmas Eve. Her husband asks for the
poker so he can stir the fire. “Let me have it!” he says. Trainor whacks
him over the head with the poker and says “Merry Christmas you son of a

She quickly sits her murdered husband back up in his chair and removes
the poker from his head as her daughter comes down the stairs to say
Santa will be there soon. Her daughter refers to the murdered man as
Joseph, even though she is not aware he is dead. It’s obvious he is her

Trainor escorts her daughter back to her bedroom and opens her window
slightly because of the heat in the room. Her daughter asks her “What do
you want for Christmas Mommy?” “I already got it sweetheart,” says

Trainor calls someone on the phone to say she has killed her husband and
that everything, including some money, is now theirs. She then drags her
dead husband outside into the cold snow to throw him down a well as a
news report on the radio informs listeners that a killer from a local
mental ward has escaped in a Santa suit. Just as she is about to throw
her husband down the water well, he grabs her. He is not dead yet.
Trainor hits him one more time over the head, this time killing him for

The escaped killer in a Santa suit surprises her with an axe. She runs back into the house to call the police but realizes her murdered husband is still lying dead on the front lawn.

The phone rings as the killer throws a tire swing through the living
room window and once again attacks Trainor. She hits him in the head
with the axe then answers the phone. The voice on the phone warns her of
the escaped killer in a Santa suit, and tells her that police will be in
her area in twenty minutes. The Santa killer lies unconscious and spread
out in the snow on her front yard.

This gives Trainor the plan to make it look as if the Santa killer is
the person who killed her husband. She goes back outside to plunge the
axe into the chest of her husband’s corpse a few times as the wind blows
her front door shut, locking her out of the house.

To get back into the house, Trainor looks for some keys in her husband’s
pocket. She finds them and goes back into the house to call the police
to blame the murder of her husband on the Santa killer. The person on
the phone tells her to find something to protect herself with, such as a

While trying to find one of Joseph’s guns in an upstairs closet, Trainor
accidentally locks herself in the closet. She sees the Santa killer
climbing up a ladder to her daughter’s room through the closet window.
She kicks open the door and runs to find her daughter in her room. She
is not there.

Trainor runs down the stairs to see her daughter standing in the living
room holding hands with the Santa killer. “See, I told you Santa would
come Mommy, and he didn’t even need to come down the chimney!” Trainor
screams as the Santa says “Naughty or nice?” holding the bloody axe.

Both of these Tales From The Crypt episodes seem to work quite well and
have many similarities. However, the 1989 version is better produced.
The Santa killer in the 1989 episode is much more convincing as a killer
because he appears to be more rough and menacing. The Santa in the 1972 version looks like a regular Santa standing on a street corner ringing a

The 1989 episode also has a more sinister and foreboding feeling to it
because the interior scenes inside the house are very dark, unlike the
1972 version where the interiors are well lit. The Joan Collins
character in the 1972 version also never has to go outside or fight with
the Santa killer, unlike Trainor’s character in the 1989 version who
fights with the Santa out in the cold.

Collins pushes her husband’s corpse down the basement stairs, whereas
Trainor drags her husband out into the snow to throw him into a well.
This is the biggest difference of the two episodes.

The 1989 episode is also a real treat because it has the classic opening
of the Crypt Keeper introducing the episode in a Santa suit. The crypt
keeper in the 1972 version is a middle-aged British man dressed as
though he is part of the Jedi council in Star Wars.

Let the Crypt Keeper guide you through some of your holiday
entertainment this Christmas Season boys and ghouls! He’ll deck the
halls with murder and mayhem!

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