Pros: All great selections from EC Comics, performances, violence!
Cons: Too short
Tales from the Crypt rounded out my childhood by its syndication on the Sci-Fi Channel along with The Twilight Zone and Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (those were the days!). It had been quite some time since I had seen these episodes and after a bit of nostalgia I decided to pick up the first season based on some of my favorite comic books of all time.
Originally aired on HBO, this show was produced from the likes of Richard Donner, Joel Silver, and Robert Zemeckis among others from 1989 until 1996. Based on the popular comics from EC from the 50s, each episode is introduced by the Crypt Keeper--a disgusting looking puppet voiced by John Kassir making funny, but bad puns--before leading into a 25-minute or so stand alone story a la The Twilight Zone.
There are six episodes in the first season. The first one is called “The Mean Who Was Death” about a prison execution getting laid off from his job due to the state prohibiting capital punishment. He starts dealing out his insane brand of justice to acquitted murder suspects as a self-proclaimed vigilante. Will he get away with these acts? Bill Sadler was perfect for the role (you might recognize him from a few Stephen King adaptations) and the story itself is compelling with a good ending.
“And All Through the House” was based off a story in the Vault of Horror #35, which used to terrify me when I was a young kid reading the comics. On Christmas Eve, a wife kills her husband for his insurance money while her little daughter sleeps upstairs. All of a sudden, word’s out about an escaped serial killer loose dressed up as Santa Claus and guess who’s house he’s shown up at? What follows is a scary game of him trying to get into the house and her being afraid to call the cops because of her dead husband. Truly chilling concept, and one of the best horror screams of all time by Mary Ellen Trainor.
“Dig That Cat…He’s Real Gone” is another sort of morality tale in Tales from the Crypt fashion. A young Joe Pantoliano is a homeless guy implanted with a specific cat gland to give him nine lives. He goes into business with the doctor who completed this operation to build a profit at the carnival, but ultimately greed gets the best of him. Robert Wuhl co-stars in this one and it’s easily one of my favorite episodes of the season. I love Pantoliano as he dives headfirst into the story and the sheer nostalgic impact of this one based off a Haunt of Fear story.
The only real episode that I’m not a huge fan of, but still watch anyway, is “Only Sin Deep”, which has Lea Thompson (Marty McFly’s MOM!?) as a dangerous and young, self-absorbed prostitute obsessed with her looks. She sells her looks to a pawn broker who happens to be ridiculously into voodoo for cash to snag this super rich guy and make a husband out of him. Everything starts to fall apart as her good looks slowly start to vanish. It’s a typical story of this caliber and aside from Thompson’s crazy good performance, nothing much about this show is very imaginative as it is predictable.
“Lover Come Hack to Me” was one I remembered fondly from Haunt of Fear #19 because of the creepy plot. A newlywed couple go to the wife’s aunt’s mansion to consummate their relationship. Only trouble is that the husband wants to kill her off for her inheritance, but finds it hard when she has a dark secret herself… It’s sort of a strange episode and features a rather long and awkward sex scene in it (quite hilariously), but it gets the job done. “Collection Completed” is my favorite episode of the season starring M. Emmet Walsh (fantastic character actor), as a recent retiree who just now discovers his wife’s creepy fondness for adopting animals into their home. Outraged by this, he adopts a new hobby of his own to deal with them… This is such a twisted episode with one of the craziest endings that you have to see.
As much as I enjoyed this season and how many memories it brought back, I was disappointed at the fact that there were only six episodes to watch. I bought it for about ten bucks so it’s not a big waste, but I wish there were more. I’m guessing this was a trial run of the show to see how it would do on HBO as originally it was going to be one movie. The special features are really swell with a very fascinating documentary about EC Comics and how much they got in trouble back in the day because of the violence and dark themes that supposedly troubled youth. I can also re-watch these episodes a bunch because of the quality, so I guess there’s that. There’s no question about it: you need to watch these--especially if you are a fan of horror shows and/or comics.
© Jason Haskins, 2012