During the 60s and 70s, British film makers Amicus productions made a series of films containing several short horror stories, linked by a framing story.
Starring many big names (for the time), these low/medium budget films
told several stories mainly concerning ghosts and the supernatural in a
typically British way, and usually featured some sort of twist ending.
The sixth of these films was 1974's "Vault of Horror", which contained a mix of stories from the "Tales from the crypt" and "Vault of Horror" comics.
Five men meet as they descend in a lift ( Daniel Massey , Terry-Thomas , Curd Jurgens , Michael Craig and Tom Baker ), which they are expecting to take them to the ground floor, however something goes wrong and they find themselves deposited in one of the buildings sub basements. Finding the room they end up in to be well furnished with chairs and drink, they assume that it is some sort of gentleman's club and make themselves at home while they wait for assistance to arrive. They begin talking to pass the time, and eventually the conversation comes around to the subject of dreams, horrible ones in particular. One by one, the men recount their tales....
Story #1 "Midnight Mess"
Harold Rodgers (Massey) has hired a shady private detective (Mike Pratt ) to find his sister Donna (played by Daniel Masseys real life sister Anna Massey ) . Upon handing over the information and demanding payment, the detective is killed by Rodgers.
Rodgers travels to meet with his sister, finding her living in an out of the way village, where as soon as he gets there, a local warns him to get inside as it will be dark soon. Rodgers ignores the friendly warning and goes to get something to eat in a local restaurant, which he finds almost deserted when he enters. He asks for the menu, but is told that the place is closing for the night, as "they come out in the dark".
Rodgers leaves in disgust and makes for his sisters address, she isnt pleased to see him but invites him in anyway. He explains that he has been searching for her for a long time, and says he just wants to see her. She says his intentions are nothing of the sort and all he is after is her money. He asks why she would hide away in a place like this where everyone is afraid of the dark, but she explains that thus far, 17 people have been found with all their blood drained from them. Donna asks once again for him to tell her his reasons for wanting to see her, and he explains that their father died four weeks ago and left everything to her in his will, and so long as she is alive, she is a rich woman. He then produces a knife and quickly kills her in a flurry of crazed stabs.
As he stands outside her house, laughing at his good fortune, he notices a group of people entering the restaurant that was closed only a few minutes ago, so, now hungrier than ever, he decides to try his luck there again, this time finding the place bustling with customers.
The waiter recommends the special of the day so he orders it, noticing that everyone around him seems to be enjoying their meals.
The waiter brings him an aperitif, which he believes is tomato juice, but he sends it back after not enjoying the taste, so he is presented with his soup course, which again he remarks to the waiter that its flavour is unusual. The waiter asks him how he would like his "roast clots", rare, medium or well done, he asks what the waiter means, and is told that he means roast blood clots. Rodgers suddenly realises that his "soup" is actually blood and tries to get up, but the waiter forces him to sit back down and pulls back a curtain which is hiding a large mirror. None of the restaurants customers or staff, except him, cast a reflection in it, because all the assembled people apart from himself are vampires.
Two of the vampires rush off to close the curtains and lock the doors, while the rest of them eye him up with evil grins on their faces, then Donna appears, holding the knife that only a few minutes earlier he had stabbed her to death with.
Rodgers cries out in fear off camera, and, after Donna has descended the stairs, two female vampires, now sporting fangs, talk about how "the fresh stuff" is much better than the "frozen stuff" as they sip blood from glasses. Donna asks for a glass too, and laughs as her brother is shown hanging upside down from a hook in the ceiling with a tap attached to his jugular vein from which the waiter fills the assembled grinning vampires glasses with fresh blood, literally "straight from the tap".
Rodgers says his dream is silly, but for some reason he has it all the time. When asked by Critchit if he really does have a sister, he looks at the floor and says a simple "no", before asking Critchit what his dreams are like....
Story #2 "The Neat Job"
Arthur Critchit (Thomas) is an obsessive neat freak. Over dinner with one of his friends, he announces that after amassing a large fortune with a good home filled with lots of stuff, he plans to marry, as he needs someone to keep house for him. The woman he marries is Eleanor, a much younger woman who, in spite of Critchits expectations, is very messy and inept.
His continual nagging and belittleing of her over the most inconsequencial matters of neatness causes some upset, and, she reveals to her friend, she only married him for his money.
The last straw for her occurs when Arthur comes home from work to find she has messed up his woodworking bench by emptying out all of his screws while looking for a nail to rehang a picture on the wall. He screams and nags at her, so, in response, she caves his skull in with a hammer.
Later, Eleanor explains to Arthur that she has done just as he asked, and "everything is in its place, and theres a place for everything" before bursting out laughing. The camera pulls back to show that she has dismembered his corpse and placed the various pieces into a series of neatly stacked and ordered jars.
Critchit explains to Moore (Baker) that he is no more neater than anyone else, but yet, his dream seems so real, Sebastian (Jurgens) says he knows the feeling...
Story #3 "This Trick'll Kill you!"
Sebastian and his wife are on holiday in India, while there they search for new tricks to use in Sebatstians day job as a magician. None of the tricks he sees performed by any of the street fakirs impresses him until he sees a woman using a flute to charm a piece of rope out of a basket so it stands solid and erect in the air, with no discernable way of holding it up there, he is even more astonished when she shimmys up it and hangs in mid air. He offers the woman a large sum of money if she will tell him how the trick works, but she refuses and says that there is no trickery involved, the rope itself is magic. He offers to buy the rope, but she refuses and says that the rope has been passed down from mother to daughter for centuries.
Angry that the woman will not tell him her secrets, he hatches a plan to get them. He approaches the woman and says that he will pay her if she comes to their hotel room and shows his wife the magic, however when the woman comes, she performs the trick, and Sebastian stabs her.
Try as they might, neither Sebastian or his wife can figure out how the rope works, but when Sebastian plays a few notes on the flute, the rope begins to rise. His wife climbs the rope and finds that it is solid enough to take her weight, but then she screams and vanishes into thin air, and blood begins to drip from the ceiling just above where the rope hangs. Sebastian tries to run away, but the rope prevents his every effort to leave by whipping around the room, eventually, it coils around his neck and strangles him.
In the market, the fakir that Sebastian humiliated earlier performs his "magic basket" trick, while his assistant, the woman Sebastian killed earlier, plays her flute....
The other men sit in silence as Sebastian finishes his tale by saying that he doesnt believe in ghosts, as they are just illusions created by magicians.
Maitland (Craig) says that he too has a similar experience to share...
Story #4 "Bargain in Death"
Maitland and his friend Alex have hatched a plot where Maitland will fake his own death in order to claim the payout on his life insurance. The plan goes that he will take a drug which will make him appear dead, and then after he is buried, Alex will dig him up and they will both be rich. The plan goes swimmingly, until Alex decides to double cross Maitland and leave him buried in a coffin. Meanwhile, two medical students pay a grave robber to steal a fresh corpse for them to dissect. The grave robber digs up Maitlands grave, and as he cracks open the coffin, Maitland bursts out gasping for air, which causes the medical students to run out of the graveyard into the road, where they cause Alexs car to crash as he passes to bid a sarcastic farewell to his "friend". The grave robber, eager to get paid for his work, approaches the two students and demands payment, apologising for the damage to the bodies head, then Maitland is shown still lying in his coffin, albeit now with a massive and fatal head wound.
Critchit denounces the tale as preposterous, and when Moore questions it, he is told to tell his tale...
Story #5 "Drawn and Quartered"
Moore (Baker) is a struggling artist living on the island of Haiti. Even though he produces a lot of work, he is told by his agent that his work is considered rubbish by one of Londons leading art critics. One day, one of Moores old friends turns up and during idle conversation reveals that Moores paintings, far from being worthless, are actually selling for large amounts of money back home.
Moor visits a witch doctor and asks if he can use Voodoo to get revenge on those who have wronged him, the witch doctor tells him to put the hand he paints with into his cooking pot. Moore sarcastically asks if he needs a little doll to stick pins into, but the witch doctor tells him he is an artist, so he doesnt need one, Moore pays the man but leaves thinking he has been ripped off.
Later, Moore does a sketch of a vase, which he messes up, as he tosses the paper in the bin, the vase breaks. He then makes a quick pencil sketch of a piece of bread, and when he rubs a corner off his drawing, a rat comes in and eats the corresponding corner of the bread. Finally, he makes a red mark on the face of a self portrait he painted earlier, and is surprised when nothing happens, but later, after a restless sleep, he awakes and finds that his face now bears a wound in exactly the same place as he made the mark.
Borrowing money from his friend, he flies back to London, taking the self portrait along with him.
Setting up an art studio in the home he lived in before he moved to Haiti, he locks the picture of himself inside a safe, so no harm can come to him while he sets about his task.
He then confronts the three men who swindled him, his agent, an art critic and a publisher, none of whom apologise for what they have done, and laugh him out of the office.
He paints portraits of the three men, all looking smug, and then, adressing the pictures in turn, as though they were real people, he outlines his revenge.
For Fenton the art critic, he states that because he saw his pictures and then lied about their value to the public, his punishment will be to never see another picture again, and he gouges out the pictures eyes...
....Fenton argues with his wife over whether he is having an affair or not, and more or less admits that he is, and intends to go on doing so, in response, his wife throws acid in his face, blinding him....
Gaskill, the art dealer, is told that because he used his hands to handle the paintings and sell them for a lot more than he had been told that they were worth, he will never handle anything again, and then he cuts the bottom of the picture, containing Gaskills hands, off...
....Gaskill belittles a young clerk who is having trouble using the guillotine to cut some card, and shows him how to do it. On his second demonstration, the guillotine drops down before Gaskill can get his hands out of the way, chopping them both off at the wrists....
His agent, Mr Diltant, is told that he can wait until tomorrow.
Diltant reads the news of his co-conspirators accidents in the paper, and gets a little worried. Moore turns up unannounced at his office and demands to speak with him, Dilitant tells his secretary to let him in, and then to go home. Moore enters carrying Dilitants portrait and, afte rplacing his watch on dilitants desk, he tells him he has precisely two minutes to live. Dilitant pulls a gun out of his pocket, but Moore tells him he just wants to show him something, and removes a red felt tip pen from his pocket, which he then uses to paint a red dot on the portraits forehead. dilitant looks puzzled at first, but then realises with horror that the hand he is holding the gun in is now aiming the gun at his own head, and Moore, sporting a cheeky grin, watches with delight as Dilitant shoots himself in the head.
Moore then struggles to breathe, and, remembering the safe he locked his self portrait in was airtight, he rushes home and lets air into the safe by opening its heavy door. Once he is alright again, he places his self portrait on an easel under the skylight in his art room, but then as he checks his watch, he remembers he left it behind in Dilitants office, and rushes out to try and get it back, as its very presence there could implicate him in Dilitants murder.
A workman who is painting a sign above the skylight gets a little careless and kicks a can of paint stripper off his platform, which falls and smashes through the skylight and douses the self portrait, destroying it. At the same moment, Moore is crushed under the wheels of a truck as he runs across the road to hail a taxi....
The men discuss how their dreams could be warnings of something that could happen, when all of a sudden, the lift they came down in pings, and the doors open. They enter the lift and instead find themselves standing in a graveyard.
One by one, all the men except Sebastian silently file towards their own graves, where they vanish. Sebastian explains that every night for all eternity, they are forced to tell their stories to each other as punishment for what they did when they were alive. Sebastian then makes his way to his own grave, and vanishes....