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.
Loved To Death (3.1)
“Women. You can’t live with them, but you can’t cut them up into tiny pieces and tell the neighbors she’s in Palm Springs either.”
WHAT IS IT?
A dopey aspiring screenwriter slips his sexy neighbor a love potion, but it works too well.
The best part of the episode is Andrew MacCarthy (Pretty in Pink, Less Than Zero), well cast as the loser lead character. Mariel Hemingway (Manhattan) plays the sexy actress/neighbor and David Hemmings (Barbarella, Deep Red) is wasted as the eeevil superintendent. Behind the camera we have Tom Mankiewicz (director of Dragnet and writer of a few James Bond films) directing a script by his first cousin John Mankiewicz and Joe Minion, neither of whom have done much else of note.
HOW IS IT?
Not too good. Just about the only thing that really works here is Andrew MacCarthy as Edward Foster, a totally dippy aspiring screenwriter from Indiana. He wants to make “the kind of pictures you want to take the kids or your grandmother to see”, which is the show’s subtle way of letting you know he’s a total dope. But, to Andrew MacCarthy’s credit, he handles the character with aplomb. The same “aw shucks” earnestness that made him a heart-throb in John Hughes’ Shermer, Illinois makes him a schmuck in Crypt‘s Hollywood, California. You see, Edward’s attempts at making wholesome family entertainment keep getting interrupted by his throbbing libido, as every 50’s sitcom scenerio he pens inevitably turns pornographic. And sure, that worked for Robert Crumb, but it’s a far cry from the kind of Capra-approved drivel that Foster’s going for.
But his raging sex drive finds a face when he goes down to the basement to do laundry and stumbles upon the body of tempermental actress Miranda Singer (Mariel Hemingway) star of schlock like Bimbo Beach Patrol. And I do mean body, as she’s stripping naked and throwing her clothes into the machine when he first sees her. Like Woody Allen before him, he falls head over heels for this woman with the breasts of Jane Russell and the eyebrows of Groucho Marx. So he goes to get her name from his bizarre landlord Mr. Stronham (David Hemmings). If I had to pick one aspect where this episode really drops the ball, it’s in not further investigating this bizarre character. Stronham runs his apartment from a massive control room with cameras everywhere, like some kind of misanthropic chainsmoking Adrian Veidt. A story about a weird gritty voyouer landlord who rings a bell whenever he’s happy (yes, this happens and no, I don’t know why) would have been a million times more interesting than what we got. Anyway, Edward gets her name and apartment number but she treats him like the dip he is. She basically tells him, in so many words, that she’s a gold-digging whore and that until he has gold, she won’t dig him.
And I can’t really blame her, because in addition to being a loser, he’s also kind of a weirdo. He keeps imagining her as the wife in his shitty screenplay (which is just her, but in an awful blonde wig), even going as far to put his arms around her waist when she isn’t looking, imagining her as his loving housekeeping spouse. The way MacCarthy plays Eddie as someone who’s simultaneously horny but clearly afraid of sex is kind of an interesting dynamic and the best part of the episode. But though she aches for his touch in his imagination, in real life she’s decidely not a fan of his molestings and throws the pervert out on his ass. Later he goes to give the landlord the rent, but the Mr. Stronham has other plans. He sucks Eddie into his angry misogynist worldview like Aaron Eckhardt in In The Company of Men. He gives Eddie a love potion, which, if we’re going to be honest, is just a more fantastical version of a date rape drug. The only difference I see is that The Clovers never sang songs about Rohypnol. But Eddie is desparate, so he takes it and a bottle of wine over to her apartment, ostensibly to bury the hatchet.
The love potion works, but this is a Crypt story, so you know where this is going. Of course Miranda doesn’t just love him, she worships the ground he walks on. And of course his previous idea of domestic bliss turns out to be a nightmare, since he can’t get any work done with her constantly either basking in the warm glow of his brilliance or wanting to fellate his “beautiful penis”. The problem with these kinds of stories is that the second the love potion is introduced, the rest of the story is a foregone conclusion, with little wiggle room. And unlike fellow love potion episode ‘Til Death, there’s not even a strong horror element like zombies at play here. The one interesting angle is that the whole thing turned out to be planned by the landlord. It seems that Mr. Stronham gets his kicks by giving his tenants access to love potions that can only be reversed by poison. He’s been doing this for years and has pictures of all the dead women hanging on his walls. Again, this story is a thousand times more interesting than what we actually got, so it’s a shame this bizarre little twist is ignored as abruptly as it’s brought up.
So Eddie, seeing no other way out of this mess, decides to take the creepy satan landlord’s advice and poison her drink. But like love potions, once poisons are introduced we know how that will go as well. The glasses inevitably get switched and Eddie is the one who gets poisoned and dies, which is about as well an ending as I can foresee him having in a town like Hollywood anyway. But after death is the afterlife and Eddie finds himself up in heaven wearing white robes, despite the fact that he’s kind of a massive prick. Which means that God cares enough to forgive basically anyone for their sins, but not enough to ensure that your stay in eternity won’t involve you dealing with a bunch of assholes. This ends up being an actual problem for Eddie, because shortly after Eddie arrives to the no-budget paradise (seriously, they didn’t even spring for a set of pearly gates) Miranda shows up looking less like Brooke Shields and more like Emmett Till. Turns out after he died she jumped out the window so she could join him in the afterlife forever, once again transforming his paradise into a living hell. The episode ends there, but I found myself wondering again what Mr. Stronham thought of all of this. I wonder if he gets to add Miranda to his list of confirmed tenant kills, or if her suicide means she’s disqualified.
DOES IT HATE WOMEN?
With some slight changes in the way this was written and directed, this could have easily been a woman friendly, nay feminist, episode where the only hell lies in man getting exactly what he wants in a subservient and obedient woman. However they hit the “slutty gold-digging bitch” button so hard and so often early on that this actually ends up being one of the more sexist episodes yet.
ALSO WORTH NOTING:
*My girlfriend may have already taken a love potion because she squeals whenever she sees Andrew MacCarthy in anything, even if he’s being a fucking weirdo like he is here.
*I didn’t have room to discuss her, but the honorable supporting character mention goes to Kathleen Freeman as the weirdo pervert neighbor who has the classic line “boxer shorts in this town will get you exactly nowhere”, which is so nonsensical it feels like Mamet.
*Despite the description at the top of every Exhumed article, there really hasn’t been a lot of nudity thus far. So it was especially surprising to see a name actress like Mariel Hemingway show her tits AND ass on a show like this, especially given it’s gratuitous nature here.
*You may have already noticed from the screencaps, but the video quality of this season seems to be a lot lower than the previous ones. I don’t know if it’s the way it was filmed or the way the DVD was put together, but it’s really annoying.
WORST CRYPT KEEPER JOKE:
“He should have stuck to sending mash notes. Maybe then he wouldn’t have ended up in a state of Holy Deadlock.”
It’s an episode that throws a bunch of balls up in the air in impressive fashion and allows almost all of them to drop to the ground while grasping clumsily. The sexual politics are pretty interesting, except for the portrayal of Hemingway’s character (the episode seems to think she deserves everything that happens to her). The heavenly ending is the kind of twist you’d see in a summer camp skit, and looks like it had a similar budget. There is some good stuff here – Eddie’s strange libido and the Hollywood Flophouse of Broken Dreams are both nicely done, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the problem didn’t lie in being too faithful to the comic. It’s got some adult things to explore, but overly juvenile plot and characters to work with.