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.


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[This Entry By John B.]

Three’s A Crowd (2.05)

“No Richard! You promised you wouldn’t!”

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A jealous husband becomes convinced that his wife and best friend are having an affair, and perhaps plotting against him.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?

Oh, it’s the fuckin ’27 Yankees here. This murderer’s row of huge name talent is lead by Gavan O’Herlihy, who’s best ‘known’ for playing Airk Thaughbaer in Willow. Backing him up are Ruth de Sosa, ex-wife of bulgy hillock and friend of the show Larry Drake, and Paul Lieber, whose best credit is Shag: The Movie, with Phoebe Cates.  Directing was the reclusive mad genius, David Burton Morris. OK, so this one doesn’t have recognizable people in it, and that was usually a bad sign, but to their credit, all four of them have been working professionals for twenty plus years, which ain’t easy. Plus, Gavan’s dad played the Old Man in Robocop.




HOW IS IT?

I remembered this episode being bad, so it was a nice surprise to end up kind of liking it. It’s got its problems, chiefly that it’s pretty obvious and seems to think it’s being sneaky, but it gets extra points for being really fucking mean. This is as dark as the show got, if I remember correctly, and I’ll be interested to see how or if they can match it.

The story is pretty standard fare, something you’ve seen versions of before. It is, in fact, nearly the exact same plot as Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale. Richard (O’Herlihy) is an alcoholic failure married to the seemingly supportive and doting Della (de Sosa). They’re celebrating a wedding anniversary at the flashy mountain lodge of Richard’s best friend Alan. But Richard can’t enjoy himself, consumed as he is by an alcoholic tizzy of resentment over Alan’s financial success and the vague suspicion that Della is fucking him. He avoids everyone, sitting upstairs in the bedroom drinking and feeling sorry for himself, whining about his inability to get Della pregnant.

This is kind of ruining everyone’s weekend, but they soldier on anyway, forcing Richard out on little boating excursions and the like. But he can’t stop being a pain in the ass, revealing that his career has fizzled and he’s reduced to bartending, practically daring Della to admit she’s ashamed of him in front of everyone. Then in the night, Richard sneaks out of bed to hear them plotting against him, talking about a big surprise, and worrying that he’ll find out. It’s all very damning, although really it’s the kind of conversation that only appears in screenplays, where characters break their necks to avoid saying important plot information, even though they absolutely would. Anyways, it’s enough to get Richard to play detective, or at least to drunkenly accuse the groundskeeper of complicity and scream at the pair that he knows they’re fucking.



They leave Richard to drink more. He stops with the glassware and just starts swigging out of the bottle, wandering around shirtless and growling, until he sees the loaded hunting crossbow mounted on the wall. Cut to later that night, when Alan comes to collect him. They have something to tell him. But drunk Richard has turned the lodge into a Jigsaw-esque trap house, or the kind of trap house Jigsaw would make if he were hammered drunk, only had a couple hours, and didn’t really know what he was doing. Richard corners Alan with the crossbow, does some really fun drunken crazy monologuing, and pins Alan to the wall. Then Della comes to see what the hold-up is, and Richard emerges from the shadows, girlishly sashaying about in the fancy coat Alan bought her, all keyed up for another round of drunken crazy monologuing. Finally he chases her around, Jack Torrance style, and chokes her to death with a sash. Then he announces his plans to rape her corpse in the boat house, at which point I reflected that so far this show’s been all gypsy curses and mad scientists, and that I’d really love to read the kids comic this one was based on.

So Richard drags her by the throat across a rickety dock, snapped neck lolling about. When he finally hits the boat house, he finds what they were really up to. It’s a surprise party, of course, with all their friends. It’s pretty much exactly what anyone familiar with the genre might have expected, but it’s still potent. The real clincher is the banner telling him he’s “Going To Be a Daddy!” That’s a good fucked up touch, for a couple reasons.

This isn’t a particularly artful episode, in any regard, and to be honest, none of the acting is all that good. I do have to admit enjoying what O’Herlihy brings to the table quite a bit though. He’s just slightly overweight, excessively freckled and beet red, oozing Irish hostility, and he really commits to the pathetic failure craziness. The violence is grim and ugly, easily the nastiest and most (relatively) realistic yet. The basic concept is something you can see coming miles away, especially with the obvious red herrings getting strewn about, but again, Winter’s Tale. It’s a primal story. And I think my favorite thing about it is that the lead isn’t a Crypt type, like a charming murderous conman or a gold-digging skank, but just a whiny loser who gets exactly what he deserves.

HOW EVIL ARE THE WOMEN?

Not remotely. In any other episode, O’Herlihy would have been correct in his suspicions, yet here, his wife is understanding, patient, and adoring. Oh, the irony!



ALSO WORTH NOTING:

*No overpowering synth! It’s a minimalist piano score, and much classier for it.

*In truth, Della and Alan had half a dozen opportunities to solve the whole thing in mere seconds, and their cluelessness makes them partially to blame. Not at all, actually, but they are real dumb.

WORST CRYPTKEEPER JOKE:

“I guess Richard wasn’t the Guest of Horror after all.”

Rating: B

PATRICK SAYS: Tales From the Crypt is a horror anthology show, so varying tones and subject matter comes with the territory. But there’s only so many kinds of horror you expect when the source material is exclusively pulpy horror comics from the 50’s. So an episode like this, that combines meditations on male paranoia and insecurity with the domestic horror of The Shining, is a very pleasant surprise indeed. I think I liked it even more than John, I have to disagree when he says this episode isn’t artfully directed. This episode is masterfully directed; everything from the camera-work to the increasingly dark tone is perfectly achieved. It’s not a fun episode by any means, but it’s very effective.


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