In 1989 HBO debuted Tales From the Crypt,
a horror-anthology show with an unprecedented amount of tits, gore,
budget, and bad puns. Based on a variety of titles from EC Comics, the
episodes ranged from silly to creepy to horrible. And we’re going to
review every single one of them.


The Switch (2.02)

“Mr. Webster, faces don’t just grow on trees, like grapefruits.”


A rich old man falls in love with a younger woman and goes to extreme, transformative lengths to win her.


big notable here is director Arnold Schwarzenegger, who cameos in the
Crypt Keeper segment. The old man protagonist is late, great old man
character actor William Hickey (Prizzi’s Honor, Nightmare Before Christmas, MY BLUE HEAVEN),
and backing him up are Travolta’s beard Kelly Preston and
Iceman’s bottom Rick Rossovich. Hickey’s butler is
the incredibly prolific Ian Abercrombie, probably most familiar as the
wizard in Army of Darkness. The mad scientist is played by Roy Brocksmith, who must have impressed Schwarzenegger as the sweaty ReKall rep in Total Recall, released the same year. A veritable fiesta for fans of early 90s character actors. All three of you.


man. Where to start? Schwarzenegger isn’t a horrible
director, by which I mean the episode has a clear narrative progression,
is shot semi-competently, and doesn’t explode while you watch
it. The cast is fun, and everyone is more or less game for the stupid
things they’re required to do, with Hickey in particular doing
his level best to add some depth to his character’s silly
plight. But at the end of the day, this story hinges on some of the
worst internal logic I’ve ever seen. Not just one thing
(although one thing in particular does scream for attention), but across
the boards, it’s just a staggering failure to grasp the
simplest basics of aging and relationships, which are ostensibly what
it’s all about. There are episodes of the Pirates of Dark Water with a more mature understanding of human beings.

if you can spot the problems. Hickey, looking about 90, plays Carlton
Webster, a wealthy old bachelor, smitten with Kelly Preston.
It’s an open question how they met; he lives in a mansion, she
in a shitty LA apartment complex. Determined to win her hand without
exposing his wealth (like Jamie Foxx, he has no use for gold digging
bitches), he tries to woo Preston with nothing but his wizened
comeliness. He even makes a point of telling her how poor he is. Preston
tells him the obvious, that she’s not really into grandfather

takes this to mean she wants him to get expensive plastic surgery. When
regular channels prove not magical enough, he finds a mad scientist
(Brocksmith), whose evil lab resembles the Dracula’s Castle
room at a Halloween outlet store. Anyhoo, the mad scientist offers him a
deal: one million dollars, and he can switch faces with Top Gun’s
Rick Rossovich, who’s been waiting in the other room,
apparently for just such an opportunity. It’s not an elaborate
con or anything either. He’s really been waiting for a rich
old man to come by and pay him to swap faces.

they swap faces, Castor Troy style, grafting Rossovich’s
swarthy mug onto Webster’s decrepit body, creating the
horrific freakshow image of William Hickey wearing a Rick Rossovich
makeup face (this episode apparently predates cost effective effects,
and so all the split body shots are accomplished with rinky-dink
practical effects and editing). Again, Preston rejects him. She says
it’s because of his decrepit old body, leaving off how
terrifying his makeup face looks. So Webster goes back to the doctor,
and for two million, he and Rossovich swap upper bodies. Now Rossovich
takes over the role fully, doing shirtless pull ups and impressing the
fickle Preston. However, his voice remains Hickey’s froggy old
man squeak. All his plans are going well, until she sees his gross old
man legs. So it’s back to the docs, where he trades his
remaining fortune for Rossovich’s remaining lower half. Why
didn’t he do this last time? Shut up.

rushes over to Preston’s shitty apartment to share the good
news, only to find she’s moved into a luxury condo. He shows
her how much he’s changed and now-they-can-get-married, but
she stops him, explaining that what she really wanted was someone rich,
and now she’s met that person. Cue William Hickey’s
entrance, speaking with Rick Rossovich’s voice. It turns out
all Preston wanted was exactly what Hickey had to start with! How
fucking ironic!

Preston is only interested in money, wouldn’t that mean
Hickey wouldn’t be interested in her? Didn’t he say
specifically that at the beginning? How come being loved for his looks
is so much better than being loved for his wealth? If Hickey really did
add at least fifty years to his life, and every indication is that he
did, isn’t that way preferable to having this shallow gold
digger? It’s worth his millions too, isn’t it? He
even got Rossovich’s dick! And speaking of Rossovich, how the
hell is he the big winner here? If I told you that you could have six
million dollars and marry Kelly Preston, but you’ll age fifty
years instantly and be unable to consummate it anyway, you’d
tell me to fuck off, right? And though he cackles like a Disney villain
at Webster, you’d have to be a space alien not to see who
clearly came out on top here.

here is fucked. The ending  is fucked, the decisions
characters make are fucked, the central conceit is fucked, and you
better believe the science is fucked. And while most aspects of this
production aren’t very good, it’s the central
premise that just flat out doesn’t work, cataclysmically so.
It’s a story about lust and aging, and it feels like it was
written by someone who’s never experienced either. A preteen,


a hugely misogynist episode, although not in the usual sense.
Preston’s a materialistic whore, but she’s not to
blame, really. Hickey is, because he forgot that all women care about is
money. It’s just one of those facts of life. Birds gotta fly,
fish gotta swim, women gotta covet wealth.


*Mark Pellegrino (Jacob from Lost)
plays a street thug that hassles Rossovich and gets his ass kicked.
It’s a pointless scene, other than to show that Webster is now
strong and vital, which plays directly against the theme of the

cameos as himself in the opening Crypt Keeper bit, spoofing his job in
the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. In the post show,
Schwarzenegger is gone, but the Crypt Keeper is in the process of
embalming a corpse. I take this to mean in the show’s
universe, the Crypt Keeper murdered Schwarzenegger.

*William Hickey played a crazy old rich man trying to cheat death in a couple other horror anthologies, the Tales From the Darkside movie (The Cat From Hell) and the Outer Limits (White Light Fever).
Neither is great, but they’re both pretty fun, and way better
than this. Weirdly, he actually does cheat death in the Switch.


“I like a party that’s nice…and strong!” (it’s a visual joke, and it’s the best we get here)




William Hickey’s voice coming out of Rick Rossovich’s mouth is one of the
more unforgettable moments I’ve seen on this series. It’s clear that
William Hickey was hired specifically for his voice, so this gag could work,
because he doesn’t do much else of interest. Apparently the Academy of
Television Arts and Sciences disagrees with me, though, because Hickey’s
performance was nominated for an Emmy, the first of seven the show
would eventually be nominated for (though never winning any). I wish at
least that Schwarzenegger revealed himself in some auteurial fashion
here, but the realities of television production prevent most directors
from leaving a personal stamp of any kind. The only thing you could
point out as specifically Arnold would be a slightly fetishistic pan of
various hardbodies pumping iron, but even that only lasts about 4
seconds. A weak episode all around.

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