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.


[This entry by John B.]

For Cryin’ Out Loud (2.08)

“Hey, why you walkin’ so funny? Didn’t brown our Bermudas, did we?”


An embezzling rock promoter is suddenly attacked by his own conscience.


This episode is the output of the crack writing team of Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, visionaries responsible for such taint smears of American culture as Wild Wild West, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (live action), the third Shrek film, and to be fair, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? They wrote this and the upcoming Brother’s Keeper episode, switching off directing duties on both. But what’s really interesting here is the cast. It stars Lee Arenberg, who would one day play the recurring Pintel character in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, along with the very eclectic supporting team of Katey Sagal, Iggy Pop, and Sam Kinison, as the voice of Arenberg’s conscience.


It’s not good, but at least it’s big and dumb. The episode opens with the execution by electric chair of Marty Slash, played by Lee Arenberg. Marty is deliriously happy to finally be getting killed, as he babbles threats to unseen enemies. It’s an odd choice to start the episode by showing us exactly where our lead ends up, and just the first of many that don’t really work. It does, however, set the tone of the piece, letting Arenberg exhibit the frenetic mugging that will make up the most of this one. I like Arenberg in the Pirates films, and his is at least an enthusiastically hambone performance, but it’s also gracelessly over the top, and a great demonstration of the differences between leading men and character actors. It’s not that Arenberg looks more like one of the Beagle Boys than he does a leading man; Joe Pantoliano killed playing a similar role last season. It’s that he doesn’t really possess the charisma to hold the center of the story, and as if to compensate, he bellows, cackles, and gesticulates like a baboon. It’s kind of fun to see an actor like this center stage, but it’s an irritating, spastic performance.

Cut to two years earlier, through a zoom in on an ear. Marty is a semi-successful concert promoter, spearheading a drive to raise a million dollars for that 90s-est of causes, the Amazon Rainforest. We never hear about the Rainforest anymore, so I assume America saved it. Regardless, Marty pulled it off, and he’s got Iggy Pop playing for the closing night celebrations. Iggy makes a silly little curtain speech where he uses the word fuck repeatedly to illustrate how hardcore he is, but he’s mostly his usual creepy self, and resembles a melting goblin, so this is to the episode’s benefit.

Marty retreats to his office to cackle about being greedy, but his revelry is cut short by that still small voice in his head, his conscience, which has spontaneously decided to come to the fore and yell at him for his crimes. This is an interesting device to hang a story on, but it’s more or less wasted here. I’ll get back to that. Katey Sagal then arrives, in rocker grrl drag. After faux- seducing Marty, she reveals herself as no ordinary huge-titted groupie, but rather Marty’s banker in disguise. She noticed that he withdrew the million in cash that morning, and now demands half for her silence. Despite the Sam Kinison rage screams of his conscience, Marty wastes no time slaying her with a Pete Townsend guitar and stuffing her corpse in Donny Osmond’s drum case. That really pisses his conscience off.

The rest of the episode is a series of conversations where Marty and his conscience scream at each other furiously, until the conscience finally badgers and tricks him into a very public confession, which of course leads us back to the electric chair. So here’s my big problem with this ep. The idea of your own conscience coming at you from within has potential, so much so that there’s about four or five different ways you could go with it. It could be a representation of personal disappointments and thwarted potential, it could be a mysterious and alien presence that makes you question your sanity, or as in this case, it could be a stunt cameo from a niche comic . So instead of Marty’s own brain trying killing him, we get Marty is haunted by the ghost of Sam Kinison. The main reason for the casting seems to be for the moments where Kinison can get off his trademark yelling thing, while Arenberg clutches his ears and agonizes broadly. But aside from that, the character is basically a vaguely dickish Jiminy Cricket, and casting Kinison as a moralizing scold plays against his strengths anyway. There’s not even any decent jokes for him (that brown your bermudas gag at the top of the page is the best of the lot).

This one has a premise that smacks of classic Twilight Zone, and I can imagine a Rod Serling take on the material easily. But the execution is shticky and juvenile. Another wasted bit: there’s copious moments of graphic ear horror, where Marty jabs himself repeatedly in ears with Q tips and sharpened pencils, and what should be a pretty solid gross out sequence becomes a overacting fiesta, with Wile E. Arenberg and his Acme ear-cleaning tool kit. My guess is they weren’t confident in how the script turned out here and decided to load up on the gimmicks and physical comedy shenanigans, hoping no one would notice. On the other hand, it’s a first time director and a convoluted premise. So we write it off, and move along.


There’s a fine line here. Katey Sagal’s embarrassingly named Miss Kielbasser is a venal thief, but no more so than Arenberg. And she doesn’t kill anyone. So today, I declare Crypt Not Sexist.


*Iggy Pop’s fake group is named Leather Weazyl. Lame!

*When Marty is sitting on death row, we get the brief return of the organ grinder circus music from “Man Who Was Death”! Mazel Tov!

*If you’ve got a hard-on for Gemma Teller, there’s value to be had in this episode. See the above shot!


“He probably wished he was deaf, but he got death instead!”


PATRICK SAYS: I have to say that, as wasted as he is, the casting of Sam Kinison is kind of genius. He was a comic who started out as a preacher and transformed into a rock star, which makes him a perfect choice to play the conscience of a rock promoter. If you really want to get into Nerd Stench Theorizing, you could even say that Marty Slash  is the exact kind of guy who’d be a fan of Kinison, and that it’s his subconscious that chose him to be the voice of his conscience. And even though the episode is a little bit weak and a lot bit grating, Kinison, who would die in a car crash only two years later, never got a lot of chances to cultivate his larger than life persona into wacky cameo appearances like this, so at least it stands as a unique oddity in that way.