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.
Cutting Cards (2.03)
“I got a tip for you Reno. You take on everyone who laughs at you, you’re gonna have a lifetime of work.”
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Two professional gamblers take their personal grudge against one another to absurd heights.
It’s series producer Walter Hill’s second Crypt
episode as a writer/director. It stars genre legend Lance Henrikson and
Locke’s dad Kevin Tighe as its nutball heroes. And
that’d be it.
HOW IS IT?
Henrikson is an icon, of sorts. He’s part of a fraternity of
tough guy character actors that movie geeks in my age bracket love
because he appeared in a huge number of our formative
scifi/action/horror flicks. There were more guys like him back in the
day, such as Clancy Brown, Michael Ironside, Miguel Ferrer, and Brad
Dourif. They always brought huge game, and it could elevate minor
supporting roles into indelible parts of the whole (as Henrikson does in
Terminator) or take run of the mill bad guys and make them tragic antiheroes, sometimes more sympathetic then the leads (Henrikson in Near Dark).
The secret was that beneath the strength and sleaze they could draw
from like it was on tap, they were excellent actors that treated the
craft like professionals, quite possibly more so than actors with a lot
more awards and critical regard. Seriously, watch an interview with Jack
Nicholson or Anthony Hopkins.
Crypt would prove to be gainful employment for most of this crew (several of them appeared twice), most likely because Crypt’s
leads tended to be less than lovely people, but also because genre
directors knew how great they were. Henrikson is awesome in “Cutting
Cards,” playing a role similar to the hilarious dandy he played in Sam
Raimi’s The Quick and the Dead,
a preening loudmouth cowboy, although he displays a lot more sand here.
Opposite him is an actor with a special knack for playing unbelievable
assholes, Kevin Tighe, who’s probably best known now as
Locke’s unbelievable asshole father on Lost.
It’s pretty much a two hander between them, although you
could say the third man is director Walter Hill, who directed my
favorite episode up to this point, The Man Who Was Death, which starred another actor you could easily add to that list, William Sadler.
a simple, spare episode, boiling down to about three scenes, but the
tension, the comedy, and the fun are all top shelf.
plays Reno Crevice, a hotshot gambler that absolutely loathes another
hotshot gambler, Tighe’s Sam Forney. Forney hates him right
back, so much so that they dare each other into a loser-gets-out-of-town
battle of wills that starts with Russian Roulette and escalates into a
ludicrous dick measuring contest called ‘Chop
Poker’, which has no bluffs, no raises, and no skill, just
pure luck of the draw. You get a hand of cards, you compare them, and
the winner chops off the finger of the loser until someone backs down
or…well, until no one has any appendages left. Which is just
what happens, as the episode ends with Crevice and Forney, both
limbless, playing aggressive angry checkers across from one another in a
There’s nothing remotely scary in this, but that just goes to show how little Crypt
needed to be beholden to ‘horror’. It’s a
giddy high wire exercise in tension, and the Russian roulette sequence,
where Tighe and Henrikson take turns risking blowing their own heads
off, exemplifies this best. Both actors play the stakes with the exact
right mix of braggadocio and nerves, and each click of the pistol is
more charged than the one before. I mentioned awhile back that my issue
with this episode was that I find Henrikson, especially in flashy cowboy
mode, to be way more likable than Tighe, which unbalances my rooting
interest in whether one of these pricks ultimately triumphs. But
rewatching for this article cured me of that. Tighe is excellent here,
and even though the surface level moral is very clear (being ruled by
your hate leads to insanity), what I ultimately got out of this was that
these two characters only think they hate each other. In the end, this
level of crazy high stakes competition is what they both want most out
of life, and finally, they’re the best friends either one
could ever ask for. Hell, the episode ends with a freeze frame of the
two of them forehead to forehead, staring into each other’s
eyes, inches, and possibly seconds, away from a kiss.
HOW EVIL ARE THE WOMEN?
There are no women at all, which means that nine episodes in, this is the first Crypt that isn’t remotely misogynist.
ALSO WORTH NOTING:
Brocksmith, who was in the last episode “The
Switch” has a walk on role here as well. The way TV was shot
back then, he probably banged out both episodes in the same week.
of “The Switch”, I wonder what Hollywood would look
like today if Henrikson had played a role originally written for him,
the title character in an early James Cameron film that made Arnold
not sure if this or “The Man Who Was Death” is my favorite episode thus
far. They’re both terrific, both off model, and both directed
by Walter Hill. For as great as Hill can be, I’m kind of
surprised he hasn’t made more films that are stone cold
classics. Still, if you haven’t seen Trespass, I’d
recommend giving it a look.
*The pacing on this episode is crazy fast. It’s a short one at just over twenty minutes, but it feels more like ten.
*The only real misstep? A synth-reggae score.
WORST CRYPTKEEPER JOKE:
“I’ve got to hand it to Crevice and Forney. They’ll do anything to elbow their way to the top.”
wish I could agree with John here, but I don’t think “Cutting Cards” is
“A” material. It’s well-shot and has two truly great performances, but
barely anything happens at all. I don’t know if there’s an episode of
Crypt that has less plot than “Cutting Cards.” Henricksen arrives at a
bar, they play Russian Roulette, they play Chop Poker, and they end up
in a mental hospital. That’s it. I appreciate how impressively done the
set-pieces are, but some kind of rising dramatic structure would have
gone a long way. Definitely one of the better episodes, but not up there
with episodes like “The Man Who Was Death” or “Dig That Cat, He’s Real