The Vault Of Horror (1973)

Everything that makes life worth LEAVING

Writer: Various
Director: Various

Vault of Horror is a classic Amicus portmanteau horror movie from 1973. It’s often referred to as ‘the one with Tom Baker’ and was released the year before he took on the lead role in Doctor Who. It might equally well be remembered as ‘the one with Terry-Thomas in pink panties’! It’s definitely a film with its tongue firmly in its cheek.

The set-up is standard fare: five men get into a lift which unexpectedly takes them down to a sub-basement. Unable to get out they sit around telling each other their scary dreams. This gives us the five short stories in the anthology.

First up is ‘Midnight Mess’ about a town where people are afraid to venture out after dark. There are no surprises, it’s more of a ‘wait for it’ story, but it works well. Watch out for a cameo from Mike Pratt who had previously been the living half of ‘Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)’.

Second is the most light hearted story, ‘The Neat Job’. This has Terry-Thomas as an obsessively neat husband and Glynis Johns as his wife, both wonderful in their roles.

The middle story is the lightest in the film. ‘This Trick’ll Kill You’ is a forgettable filler about a stage magician looking for a new trick.

‘Bargain In Death’ concerns a man buried alive after an insurance fraud. It starts out very atmospherically then turns into dark comedy. Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies guest star – both will have been familiar to audiences at the time from the ‘Doctor…’ TV shows.

The final story, ‘Drawn and Quartered’, is the strongest of the collection. This features a very hairy Tom Baker as an artist who turns to voodoo to get revenge on a dealer who ripped him off. This is the strongest story and is surprisingly well constructed.

There are more laughs than frights and it is, of course, horribly dated (especially the portentous music). But if you’ve a taste for this subgenre then Vault of Horror one of the stronger examples from the ’70s.