...And All Through the House

A look at the history of this classic horror comic story
December 11, 2008

Between the years of 1950 to 1954, EC Comics editors William Gaines and Al Feldstein produced multiple horror and suspense comic book titles, including Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear. Each issue was an anthology of scary stories, usually revolving around the concepts of twist endings as well as over the top forms of poetic justice. Each story also contained a host, to introduce and gleefully provide amusing commentary often through bad puns, these characters included The Crypt Keeper, The Vault Keeper and The Old Witch.

While each series was immensely popular, they were unfortunately brought to an end through the actions of psychologist Dr. Fredrich Wertham and his book Seduction of the Innocent, which argued that comics were the cause of juvenile deliquency. This led to the formation of the comic book code, which for many years outlawed all forms of horror from comic books. Thankfully, through forms of cinema and television, many of the classic stories published were paid homage to, one of them arguably amgonst the most popular, "...And All Through the House"

"...And All Through the House" first appeared in The Vault of Horror #35, in March 1954. Illustrated by legendary artist Johnny Craig, it follows the actions of an unfaithful wife brutally murdering her husband on Christmas Eve, before discovering a psychopath disguised as Santa Claus has just escaped from a mental institution, and is right outside her house. She becomes faced with the dilemma of covering up her crime, as well as protecting herself from the psychopath, since calling the cops would be out of the question. In a cruel twist of fate, the story ends with her daughter ignorantly letting the psychopath in, mistaking him for the real Santa Claus.

In 1972, British filmmakers Milton Subotsky and Freddie Francis, produced a horror anthology film called Tales From the Crypt. In the film, five strangers while touring underground caves are confronted by the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Sir Ralph Richardson) who reveals to them their mortal destinies. The first story adapts "...And All Through the House," featuring Joan Collins as the unfaithful wife.

Personally, I was unimpressed with this version of the story, while faithful to the source material, I found it wasn't all too suspenseful. I also felt we didn't need to see the psychopath actually kill the woman, and in such a lame manner as strangulation. One aspect I did like, however, the color of the blood used in the movie was at nearly florescent levels, very reminiscent of the feel of comic books.

In 1989, producers Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver, David Geffen and Robert Zemeckis lauched the horror anthology series Tales From the Crypt for HBO, featuring a wise crackin' and cackling animatronic host voiced by John Kassir. The first episode produced was a new version of "...And All Through the House" written by Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad) and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump).

This version featured Zemeckis' wife Mary Ellen Trainor (Die Hard, Lethal Weapon 1-4) as the woman, Marshall Bell (Total Recall, Starship Troppers) as the husband and Larry Drake (Darkman, Dr. Giggles) as Santa. Easily the best episode of the series, this creepy and suspenseful entry stayed faithful to the source material and managed to expand on it without compromising the integrity. The episode also features clever references to the EC comics greats who originally brought the story including William Gaines, Al Feldstein and and Johnny Craig.

So, in closing, I hope you guys enjoy this classic horror Christmas story as much as I do, and have a reputation of watching the Tales From the Crypt episode every year around this time. And if you don't, perhaps this guy can persuade you:

"Naughty... or nice?!"
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