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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 168 Minutes
• All-new introduction by the Crypt Keeper
• Tales from the Crypt: From Comic Books to Television
• Crypt Keeper’s History of Season 1
Even fifty years later, there’s no denying that The Twilight Zone is still the best horror, sci-fi and fantasy anthology to ever come down the TV pike. A pioneer of the genre, it eventually paved the way for several others to follow in later years, including Night Gallery, Tales from the Darkside and Amazing Stories. About the same time, the comics industry was going through its own revolution with the advent of horror comics spurred on by books such as Tales From the Crypt, published by Entertaining Comics and creator William Gaines. The comics not only featured never-before-seen tales of gore and death, but also a wicked sense of humor to boot. In 1989, the comics were adapted into an anthology show of the same name, backed by some of the biggest name powerbrokers in Hollywood.
The producers were lucky when Alec Guiness was able to fill in when the Crypt Keeper called in sick one episode…
The first thing one will notice about this show that’s different from the others, is that the host ain’t exactly Brad Pitt. The Crypt Keeper is a rotting mass of flesh with a face that can literally break mirrors…but that’s not to say that he’s not a fun guy. It’s just that his idea of fun includes taking a ride in an electric chair, using slimy face cream or some other form of self mutilation. He also takes pride in his work of delivering to us each week a tale of macabre and bizarre horror of many different varieties. Like the comics before, most of the stories are laced with a wicked sense of humor, most prominently displayed in the “comeuppance,” which is the twist ending that’s another staple of the show.
Although times were tough one Christmas and Dr. Giggles had to do a little moonlighting, he tried to make the best of it…
Season 1 featured six episodes, three of which were directed by three of the executive producers, Walter Hill, Robert Zemeckis and Richard Donner. They also featured such names as Larry Drake, Joe Pantoliano, Lea Thompson, Amanda Plummer and M. Emmett Walsh. William Sadler, who was also the star of the first Crypt movie, Demon Knight (which ruled by the way), also kicked off the show in the pilot.
The Man Who Was Death – William Sadler is Niles Talbot, a prison executioner who throws the switch on death row inmates who get the chair. When the death penalty is overturned and Talbot loses his job, he decides to go freelance and hunt down evildoers and give them the shock of their lives.
Easily the scariest moment of the whole series.
And All Through the House – Mary Ellen Trainor (formerly Mrs. Robert Zemeckis), is a rich wife who’s just offed her husband at Christmastime. When an escaped murdering lunatic (with really bad teeth) in a Santa suit (Larry Drake) is on the loose, he’s got a special present for her.
Dig That Cat…He’s Real Gone – Joe Pantoliano is a bum who gets a special transplant from a cat that gives him nine lives. He decides to cash in on his temporary immortality by becoming a circus performer who can’t be killed. But when he screws up on the math, he lives to regret it.
Note to self: Don’t take acid before watching…
Only Sin Deep – Lea Thompson is a hooker who pawns her beauty and uses the money to get a rich boyfriend. But when she forgets to get her face out of hock, and kills her boyfriend to get the extra cash, she finds that the price is higher than she thought.
Lover Come Hack to Me – Amanda Plummer is a rich virgin who just married a man who only wants her for her money. When they get stuck in an abandoned mansion, their stay turns into a night of murderous passion, and it’s all because of an old family secret.
Collection Completed – M. Emmet Walsh is a newly retired salesman whose wife (Audra Lindley) is driving him nuts with all of her pets. When he decides to turn to taxidermy as a hobby, someone’s getting stuffed.
Cypher knew Smith screwed him when he was plugged back into the Matrix as David Blaine…
These six episodes are fine, with And All Through the House probably the best of the lot. William Sadler and Larry Drake are particularly good. And it’s a trip to see Lea Thompson looking as hot as she was back when she made Some Kind of Wonderful. When they started him out, the Crypt Keeper was a bit more sedate than he was in later seasons, but he’s still just as nuts here.
If there’s one complaint I do have, it’s that six episodes do not a season make. This is a nice appetizer, but fans will want the main course of a full 22-episode season (or in the case of Season 2, 18 episodes). Still this was one of the better anthology shows that was ever on the air and the Crypt Keeper was a fun host. I have a theory that CK was really a dug-up Rod Serling, who got a little voodoo performed on him with a humor transplant along the way. But then I realized the Crypt Keeper didn’t smoke 43 cigarettes an episode.
6.8 out of 10
Best yet least-seen Tales From the Crypt episode: When McFly’s mother kissed him before the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance…right before she moved on to a hand job…
Considering these episodes are 16 years old, the look for them isn’t bad. The scariest thing for me continues to be the ‘80s fashions and hairstyles.
6.2 out of 10
The axe chops, skull splits, screams, electrocutions, living burials, gunshots, hangings, etc. are just fine, although it’s only in Dolby 2.0.
5.5 out of 10
Needless to say, the Goonies sequel got off to a very strange start…
There’s an all new introduction from the Crypt Keeper, looking fitter than I’ve seen him look in a while.
Then there’s a fantastic feature, Tales From the Crypt: From Comic Books to Television, which details how comic book publisher William Gaines struggled with, succeeded with and later gave up on the horror comic genre in the 1950s. There’s surprisingly good quality archival footage of the man himself testifying before a senate subcommittee on juvenile delinquency, which many critics attributed to horror comics. There’s also captures of the original comic books that use innovative editing to bring them to life somewhat and also artwork from Jack Davis and Al Feldstein. It also features how Gaines later started Mad Magazine and features interviews from his daughter.
Honey Bunny didn’t take it well when she found out Pumpkin had been spending a little time with Zed and the Gimp…
The documentary also features interviews from those who were influenced by Gaines and his comics including John Carpenter, George Romero, R.L. Stine and Joel Silver. Later, it details how Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Walter Hill, David Giler and Richard Donner came together to get the show rolling. If you dig the old horror comics, this is a must watch.
There’s also a quickie, Crypt Keepers History of Season 1. This is more of an after thought from the other documentary, but it has a little info some might find interesting, including a rundown of the six Season 1 episodes.
6.0 out of 10
Kind of hard to mess up a cover art as long as you got ole’ CK’s mug prominently featured. This does have the look of the old comics somewhat and fun artwork of the episodes on the and CK on the inside cover.
7.4 out of 10