A who’s who of British acting talent
This story is pretty good, might have made fifty pounds, but there is simply no money in horror.Five men enter an elevator, but it does not stop when it reaches the ground, it descends further to the sub-basement. When the door opens they find themselves in a crypt, with nothing better to do they sit and tell of their dreams, in which each befalls some horror. But where are they, and why are their stories so rich in horror – what has ultimately befallen them? Amicus productions, the only serious contender to Hammer in the British horror scene, once more brings together a collection of stories in an anthology with a who’s who of British acting talent, told by ‘Tales of the Crypt’ writers Al Feldstein and William M. Gaines, and helmed by celebrated director Roy Ward Baker.The narrative may be formulaic, but the stories themselves are quite unique, even if, over time, they have become somewhat trite and predictable. Budget, as always, is a limiting factor and this shows in the obvious make-up and blood effects; however the lighting, set-up and storylines are extremely well handled and there is an overall sense of unease throughout the whole film, with each story building on the last in terms of tension and horror. Indeed there is not a bad one amongst them, with perhaps the tie-together being the weakest link. In the hierarchy of horror anthologies Vault of Horror sits above average towards the top, and it has Tom Baker in it; what more could you ask?
Picture QualityThe disc presents a widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region Free.
The print hails from the BFI National Archive restored edition and considering budget and age is pretty good. Detail is well seen with skin having a reasonable texture, clothing having discernible weaves and the locations (sets) having good edges; check out the various grave stones and how legible the carved writing is, or the fresh soil and disturbed earth.
Colour is slightly weak, in that there is little vibrancy to the primaries (though flesh tones are perfectly natural looking) this is particularly true for red, which shows off the tomato juice used in place of blood looking exactly like tomato juice; i.e. orangey.
The print hails from the BFI National Archive restored edition
A large part of the faults with the image come from the brightness and contrast setting which is for the first two thirds of the film set, to my eyes, far too soft leading to very grey blacks which rob the picture of any punch and depth (the opening credits are appalling). This means that the colours, as described above, remain somewhat drab, and any attempt at atmosphere fails due to a black level approaching medium grey. Thankfully the fourth and fifth stories employ a much stronger contrast level which brings some vibrancy and depth to the image, never truly black, blacks but something far closer.
Digitally there are no compression issues or edge enhancement. The original print is in pretty good nick, barring that said above, but it does contain plenty of visible damage in the form of water stains, hairs on the lens, occasional flaring and fluctuating brightness at the edges, but the frame is very stable and the grain is rich and organic. A wee bit of remastering wouldn’t have gone a miss, but for an unmolested print this one is ok.
Sound QualityJust the one track to choose from: English LPCM 2.0 mono. Despite the limitation in this format the track does hold a little vibrancy, particularly the score which comes through loud and brash. Dialogue is clean, clear and sounds very natural, while the occasional effect and musical stinger are well realised. Bass is extremely limited, unfortunately, and this does weaken the track somewhat, but nevertheless everything is bright and clear; no background hiss, nor is there any distortion – although it does become a bit thin towards reference.
ExtrasNo actual extras, but the print is the full uncut film as restored by the BFI.
Blu-ray VerdictVault of Horror from Amicus Productions, is another in their anthology of horror stories (in the same vein as Dr Terror House of Horrors), this time helmed by celebrated director Roy Ward Baker (Quatermass and the Pit). The story follows a well-trodden path: five men, in a confined space, tell their horror stories only to find they are, themselves, in one! Playing as a who’s who of British acting talent, the stories are told at breakneck pace, with little time to get into the characters before they are dispatched. Each story is, however, reasonably unique and there is an overall sense of unease throughout, with some lovely shocks in store.
There is an overall sense of unease throughoutFinal Cut’s Blu-ray release only has the one thing going for it: the BFI National Archive restored print which is fully uncut. The image, is passible, hampered by drab colouring and a contrast setting that robs the image of any vibrancy for the first two thirds of the film, once that improves it is much better; at least the original print is in decent nick barring the water marks and other instances of damage. The sound is very basic, but you can’t expect much ffrom LPCM 2.0 mono, but at least it is clean, clear and natural sounding. The lack of extras is unfortunate.
You can buy Vault of Horror on Blu-ray here
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