October 23, 2011

VAULT OF HORROR (1973) - missing a few zombies


Unfinished business in the graveyard


Not a review, but a mystery that's puzzled me for decades. At the end of each Amicus 'portmanteau' horror movie, there's a twist in the tale - the punchline to the framing story. A photo in Alan Frank's book Horror Movies of Vault of Horror (1973) promised that the main characters (Tom Baker, Michael Craig, Terry Thomas and Daniel Massey) would somehow appear as the undead. 


But at the end of the film, this ghoulish apparition is missing. The actors leave the same vault (seen in the picture below) but lumber off, unchanged, into a graveyard. The undead version was shown in lobby cards and publicity photos, (though that's never been a guarantee of anything in the finished film). What I'm saying is that it's a lot of hard work for something that wasn't used, and would've been a greater 'kick' to end the movie with.


So is this a censor cut? Or did it never make the final film? Has anyone ever seen these make-ups appear onscreen? Maybe in a trailer? All we see in the film is the back of them as they walk away...

Like Tales From The Crypt (1972), this corpse make-up was by Roy Ashton, but unlike his brilliant transformation of Peter Cushing as Grimsdyke, he used a complete facemask for each actor. Ironically, at least one of these appliances still survives. Made for Tom Baker, it was sold to the Bradford National Museum of Photography, Film and Television as part of Roy Ashton's collection. This website, with a photo of the mask, gives the impression that it was worn in the film. So, we can see the mask and the publicity photos, but not in any version of the film I've seen.


Admittedly, Vault of Horror still has a legacy of its censorship problems - the US region 1 DVD double-bill with Tales From The Crypt is a cut version, especially distracting for its toned-down finale of the vampire segment. So this gives me hope that the full graveyard scene is only temporarily missing? I'm appealing to your collective memories for the answer.


Apart from the photos, there's this description at the end of the Jack Oleck novelisation from 1973. After they've swapped stories in the comfy 'men's club' surroundings, the room transforms into a stone vault. The door opens not into a lift, but a graveyard. Critchit (Curt Jurgens) pauses outside as they slowly leave. He lifts his arm to wave goodbye... "and when they turned to wave back at him their faces were no longer as they had been. Their lips and noses had vanished. Their eyes were empty holes. Their skin hung in rotting ribbons and a stench of decaying flesh drifted back to him as they turned again and went on and then halted, each beside his own grave, and disappeared like puffs of smoke". Critchit then goes back inside to return to his waiting coffin...


In the film, the four men head off in different directions, but the reverse shot (pictured) shows them all on the same pathway, fading away at slightly different places. I'd never made the intended connection that each of them were returning to their graves, merely that they'd disappeared on the path.

The colour shot appeared as a lobby card and in Monster Mag #3
These photos (the colour is different to the black-and-white) might have been staged for publicity, rather than shot during an actual take (note that behind them Curt Jurgens appears to have been replaced with a stand-in with longer hair). But they could show an alternate take of them setting out into the graveyard? Or maybe, all that we were supposed to see was during the long shot, their undead faces revealed as they turn back and wave? Perhaps the waving looked wrong? The 'walking away' shot is complicated as each actor would have to 'freeze' on the set for the three cross-dissolves.

Like I said, I'm hoping that someone reading this has the answer, or at least some more clues...


6 comments:

  1. There are a few strange little hints in Jamie Russels Book of The Dead. It states "it gave ashtons cadaverous make up some welcome scream time, and managed to escape the mauling the rest of the film received in the editing stages". Any other mention of VOH suggests that the ending is intact on the version Mr Russel saw- however if the editing story is true does this mean there could be more missing footage?

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  2. Hopefully it does! Thank you very much for that - I can't think of any other cadavers in the film that he could possibly be refering to.

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  3. I saw this old post on the "midnight movies" yahoo group.

    "This movie actually got re-released to theaters sometime in the 1980s and I saw it and it had all the scenes you described including the graphic scene where
    a man's hand's get cut off in the Tom Baker voodoo episode. I was a little surprised at how graphic the
    movie was for it's time. It also had the ending with the people in skull makeups. Hopefully this will be uncut. I couldn't imagine seeing them without the gory parts."

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  4. I saw this old post on the "midnight movies" yahoo group.

    "This movie actually got re-released to theaters sometime in the 1980s and I saw it and it had all the scenes you described including the graphic scene where
    a man's hand's get cut off in the Tom Baker voodoo episode. I was a little surprised at how graphic the
    movie was for it's time. It also had the ending with the people in skull makeups. Hopefully this will be uncut. I couldn't imagine seeing them without the gory parts."

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have this dvd double feature.. 'Tales From The Crypt' is my all time favorite Amicus film..but I don't understand why MGM used a edited TV print of 'Vault Of Horror' for this disc!..the Vampire segment uses 'freeze frames' to show what happens..a vampire puts a 'tap' in a victims neck..what was the big deal!..look at the films on tv today.. they're blood baths!.. we need a blu-ray double bill of these 2 films!.

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  6. So far, a good blu-ray release of TALES FROM THE CRYPT has been released in Australia.

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