In the film, five strangers encounter the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson) in a crypt, and he tells each in turn the manner of their death. Richardson's hooded Crypt Keeper, more somber than the EC original (as illustrated by Al Feldstein and Jack Davis), has a monk-like appearance and resembles EC's GhouLunatics. However, in the EC horror comics, the other horror hosts (the Old Witch and the Vault Keeper) wore hoods, while the Crypt Keeper did not.
The screenplay was adapted into a tie-in novel by Jack Oleck, Tales from the Crypt (Bantam, 1972). Oleck, who wrote the novel Messalina (1950), also scripted for EC's Picto-Fiction titles, Crime Illustrated, Shock Illustrated and Terror Illustrated. A sequel, The Vault of Horror, was released in 1973.