I have the same problem. Word 2010 crashes when trying to open older files from within Word. Open Office opens them with no problems. Word doesn't.
I go through the entire recovery process and then am told the doc has been recovered...only it still won't open. I get this gibberish:
This error may appear if you attempt to open a file marked as damaged or disabled by a Microsoft Office program. Each time the file is opened, even if the file was recovered or repaired, this error appears and other open files or programs will be suspended.
The file is in the Disabled Items list because, in previous attempts to open the file, it has caused a program error or shut down more than once.
If the file was properly recovered, replaced, or deleted, you can remove the file from the list of disabled files (re-enable the file) by clicking the File tab, clicking Options, and then clicking Add-Ins. In the Manage list, click the arrow and select Disabled Items, click Go, and then select the disabled item that you want to re-enable.
Clicking "Yes" after that message re-starts the recovery process, which again goes into a loop to nowhere.
But OpenOffice still can open the docs. So, there's nothing wrong with the docs. Word 2010 apparently has issues that need repair.
Or, I got a defective pre-installation on my Windows 7-64 machine. BTW, Excel 2010 works fine.