Graphic Horror: Tales From the Crypt Season 1
Welcome to my look back at one of my favorite horror TV shows of all time, Tales From the Crypt. While I never actually saw the show while it aired on HBO, instead I caught up with it several years later when it was airing late at night on Fox. And while I imagine that little to none of the blood and gore was cut out of the show, I did miss out on the plenty of sex and language that’s present throughout the show. When the show came out, it was an interesting experiment that throughout its run showcased many notable directors and actors. And while it was still on a somewhat smaller budget, especially during the early seasons, it managed to showcase some great special effects, especially when it came to the animatronic Cryptkeeper that opened and closed every episode with John Kassir’s iconic voice.
The first season kicked off with an occasional rough start, but there are still some amazing episodes here along with some great actors and actresses including Lea Thompson, Joe Pantoliano, Amanda Plummer, and William Sadler. It also featured an episode each from directors Robert Zemeckis and Richard Donner who also helped get the series made in the first place. Since these seasons are fairly short compared to a standard 22 episode run, and they are all essentially stand-alone episodes, I’ll be going over my thoughts on each episode in the season, as well as the twist which shows up in pretty much every episode.
The Man Who Was Death
This episode is my favorite from the first season and it stars William Sadler as an electrician who became the electric chair operator at the jail. When a law is passed eliminating the death penalty in the state, he’s out of a job but just can’t seem to get away from doing what he does best and becomes a vigilante who electrocutes criminals who got away with their crimes. One of the best things I enjoyed about this episode was William Sadler himself, as well as how he spends much of the episode talking directly to the camera. He just has an amazing presence and creates such a likable character out of someone who shouldn’t be likable at all.
The Twist: On his third victim, he ends up getting caught by the police and the state has re-instated the death penalty where he ends up being the first victim. The twist here is one of the weakest elements of the episode, though I do like the fact that at the beginning of the episode he talk about how everyone is the same in the end, and the governor has never once called. But he ends up being just like everyone else, clamoring for the governor’s call which will never come.
And All Through The House
This is probably one of the most famous episodes from the first season as a woman murders her husband on Christmas Eve while her young daughter is supposed to be going to sleep. Meanwhile, an escaped mental patient is on the loose wearing a stolen Santa suit going on a killing spree. It’s also notable that the episode was directed by Robert Zemeckis. This story was also adapted in the 1972 Amicus feature of Tales From the Crypt, which I reviewed earlier this year. Honestly, I thought this worked better in the older film than it did here. The film version was shorter, which also made it tighter. Here, it felt like there were a few moments of unnecessary filler, especially when she gets trapped in her closet towards the end.
The Twist: Her daughter who is “asleep” in her room upstairs lets the maniac in because he is dressed as Santa. It’s hard to say too much about the twist as I’ve seen this story several times and knew what was going to happen, and I also imagine that it was pretty easy to predict how the twist was going to go on the first watch, though I can’t remember for sure.
Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone
This is another one of my favorite episodes from this season and it has a lot to do with the director Richard Donner as well as Joey Pants in the lead role as a guy who gets picked up off the street and offered the chance at big money by going through a transplant which gives him the gland of a cat that allows him to have the cat’s nine lives. He then uses this to create the persona of a magician/illusionist named Ulric the Undying where his act consists of getting himself killed, only to be resurrected a short while later, though usually not exactly on cue. I really enjoyed this episode, and it also has the same conceit of the other of my favorites where Joey Pants is lying in the coffin of his latest death act with a candle on his chest relating his entire story. There is of course plenty of backstabbing, both figuratively and literally when all this money is concerned and it’s a great example of mixing humor with the macabre like when his death act is a real life shooting gallery at a thousand bucks a shot.
The Twist: The twist comes near the end as Ulric is finally lowered down into his grave when he realizes that he miscounted his nine lives as he forgot to count the initial death of the cat during the surgery. It’s a great twist and it’s presented very well as it flashes back between all of his other deaths, there’s also no revelation at the end to find out what happens when he’s dug up, it just ends with him underground.
Only Sin Deep
This is a bit of an odd twist on the Pretty Woman story. At least I assume so as I’ve never actually seen Pretty Woman where Lea Thompson plays a hooker with a heart of gold. Well, at least she’s got the heart for gold when she kills the local pimp and steals all his money and jewelry, but when the pawn shop won’t take her stolen goods, he instead offers her to pawn her beauty for a hefty sum of $10,000. She then uses the money for a makeover so she can win the heart (or at least the penis) of a rich playboy. Lea Thompson’s choice of a tough chick Bronx accent was a little off putting, and I didn’t care much for the actor who played the rich guy. Overall, it just felt like a fairly weak story that got Thompson in old age makeup once again after her Back to the Future days.
The Twist: After the pawn term is up, she starts aging rapidly but when she goes back to the pawn shop he’ll only go back on the contract if she comes up with $100,000. She steals everything she can from her rich boyfriend, but when he comes home and doesn’t recognize her as an old woman, she kills him. And while she has the money, her young face is all over the papers as a murderer so she stays a free old woman. The twist is honestly the strongest part of this episode, and also ends with a great kicker as her old hooker friend bumps into her and starts going off on the old hag.
Lover Come Hack to Me
Here’s a typical tale of a woman with a lot of money who is found by a guy who only wants her so he will get what’s hers when she dies. And she is likely to die in very short order. But things don’t go quite as planned when he loses the keys and they stop at this old run down mansion during a storm on their wedding night. Peggy is a shy girl that wants everything to be perfect, while the guy is more of a carefree douchebag who only cares about himself. I had forgotten nearly everything about this episode aside from the fact that Peggy wasn’t all that she seemed. But everything was just a little bit too odd, and I couldn’t really care for either of the two characters.
The Twist: After some amazing sex, the guy goes downstairs to see Peggy bring some other guy into the house and lay almost the exact same speech on him before chopping him up with an axe, he realizes they are ghosts before waking up to find it was a dream. Except for the fact that the dream was something that actually happened with Peggy’s mother and now it’s Peggy’s turn to continue the tradition. Ugh, it was pointless violence for the sake of violence and I just didn’t care at all for this episode or its twist.
A strict company man, Jonas is forced into retirement and now has to actually spend time with his wife of many years and her many many animal friends who she cares about more than actual people, or her husband. Out of all of the first season episodes, this one has the most simple premise, and while it’s the most absurd, it’s also one of the funniest episodes. Emmet Walsh plays a great frustrated old coot, and his wife is just as great as a slightly shrill woman who is completely out of touch with reality. It wasn’t one of my favorites going into re-watching it, but it’s hard to argue the fact that it did make me laugh more than any of the other episodes in this season.
The Twist: Jonas finally finds a hobby to keep him occupied and help with some of his wife’s issues: taxidermy. But as he is about to complete his collection of pets with her most recent pet Mew Mew, she puts a stop to it with a hammer to his head. And when the nosy neighbor comes over, he finds that she also learned some basic taxidermy so that Jonas will stay with her forever. As opposed to Sin Deep, this twist almost feels unnecessary, though at least the look on the neighbor’s face helps sell the comedy. Still, not one of the best in this season.
Overall, the first season had a couple great episodes, and a few mediocre ones. And the show goes from the shortest season to the longest season as there are 18 episodes in the second season. It’s been a lot of fun so far revisiting these episodes and I hope you enjoy these too. What is your favorite episode? Be sure and let me know in the comments. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.