Review Date: August 9, 2007
Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 7/24/2007
Region 1, NTSC
Full Screen 1.33:1
My ongoing pursuit to retroactively see and review every Tales From the Crypt
episode that eluded me during my youth continues with season six. This one offers up less big names than the previous installments, but with offerings from Robert Zemeckis, Stephen Hopkins, Elliot Silverstein and William Malone, and a cast including Terry O’Quinn, Benecio Del Toro, Catherine O’Hara, Miguel Ferrer, R. Lee Ermey and Corey Feldman things have to be good, right? Saddle on up and prepare for some bad puns!
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
kicks off the Crypt in a Stueksville court house. The city is small, old fashioned, with photos of their public executions decorating their walls. No worries though, since Geraldine Ferrett (Catherine O’Hara
) is only in there for small claims. She’s a lawyer, too, so defending herself shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Unless, of course, she gets the chair. She’s appointed a bumbling public service defender, played by Peter MacNichol, and after a series of foolish mistakes, she’s given a punishment that fits the crime. A punishment that will pay her back for all the people she’s brought pain as a public lawyer. They’ll Stuek it to her.
Highlander director, and series stalwart, Russel Mulcahy, ends up keeping the entire affair visually interesting, despite the fact it all takes place in a court house. Catherine O’Hara joyfully plays a scummy bitch, a revelation at the time, since she had been pigeonholed as the trim and tidy mom from Home Alone
. The episode abides to the comeuppance Crypt formula too, but overall this is all sort of average. Even more of a disappointment, considering the series openers for Crypt are usually some of the best of each season.
Only Skin Deep
sees a wife beater getting a beating of his own when he takes home a masked woman from a costume ball. Carl (Peter Onorati
) intends to crash his ex’s party, but after a slight altercation with her, he sets his sights on someone different. There, dressed in leather is a looker with a body to kill for. She takes him home, and they promise anonymity. He won’t ask her name, she won’t his, and instead they’ll just have passionate sex. It was so good though, Carl just has to find out who his mysterious lover is…although he already knows more than he thinks.
The stuttery surveillance camera footage from House on Haunted Hill
sees its origins here, as William Malone uses this and other haunted house frights to give Only Skin Deep a heightened sense of the macabre. Dario Argento would overall do a better job by blurring the lines of extreme nudity and violence in the similar Masters of Horror
episode, “Jenifer”, but Malone still scores some points here. He makes some genuinely frightening set pieces, probably some of the more unsettling of the series, and yet when the episode gets its most frightening he somehow infuses it with a sad compassion. It’s a freakish little thing, but oddly leaves quite the impact.
goes inside the Tales From the Crypt
offices, following the mousey comic artist, Rolanda (Rita Rudner
) as she tries to pitch her latest concept to boss Vern (Richard Lewis
). When her pitch flops, so too does her career, as he fires her on the spot. Her heart crumbles, and with nothing left, she goes back to him and murders him, only to find a battalion of trigger happy officers waiting to do the same to her. Rinse. Repeat. The same thing happens four times over, each time featuring a tiny twist on the formula. There’s no real reason why this keeps happening, but one could imagine the pitch for this episode, Mick Garris boasting about how much footage could be saved by just repeating everything fourfold.
has two of the funniest comedians of the nineties doing their best to make sure nobody laughs. Mick Garris’ embarrassing episode tries to be elliptical in the way the plot keeps repeating itself with tiny variants, but ends up just being annoying. An uninspired Groundhog Day
clone that has nothing to say about humanity, the arts and certainly not horror. Without a doubt one of the worst episodes in the series, which is somewhat of a surprise given Garris’ fairly consistent mediocrity. Only Skin Deep gets a few points, but otherwise, this is definitely the worst three piece season opener of the entire Crypt series thus far.
follows a computer programmer with more than just a virus in his computer – he’s got one in his head. Nelson (Tate Donovan
) was picked on as a kid, and continues to be trounced on in work by his social climber colleagues. How does he deal with this? He has a split personality, of course. His other half is loud, zany and troublesome, coming out only at the most embarrassing times. Nelson hits it off with his attractive psychologist neighbour (Michelle Rene Thomas
), but will his extrovert invisible friend program this relationship for destruction?
was an obnoxious update of Groundhog Day
, then this sets its sights much lower by being a total Drop Dead Fred
clone. You know the well is starting to dry when you reach that low into nineties cinema. Hopefully the next segment will be like Blankman. Director Roland Mesa only has one other credited film, and it’s the equally bottom of the barrel Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation
. That gives him the credentials to direct for a horror series, right? When the episode isn’t skipping over major plot points (like whether Nelson gets with his female conquest
) it’s simply being annoying.
Revenge is the Nuts
takes place in a shelter for the blind. You know, the kind where Isaac Hayes (Stevie Wonder must have been busy
) plays chess with himself. So everyone is a little off their rocker, from new inmate Sheila (the never - famous - but - somehow - the - wife - in - every - Hollywood - film - of - the - 2000s Teri Polo
) to the ward’s manager, Grunwald (Anthony Zerbe
). It seems he runs the place with a savage hand – even more savage than worker John Savage can handle. He keeps a dog extra hungry for anyone with the nerve to escape. So the inmates form a coup which somehow involves Isaac Hayes pouring marbles in a razor-blade laced shack.
I don’t know if I can take much more of this. Nuts marks the third terrible entry in a row, no doubt marking the biggest lull the series has ever had. The plot is threadbare, even for Crypt, and even then the plot development doesn’t really add up. You know you are in for a bumpy ride when Isaac Hayes makes a Shaft
joke in the first two minutes. There’s no good twist, no good gore, no good anything, really. It’s one long and muddled descent into tedium, and right when it is about to at least have a death, it fades to black. Other than a bad Antonio Banderas movie in 2001, director Jonas McCord has directed nothing else. Perhaps if the gods are kind, it will remain that way.
sees our favorite Stepfather, Terry O’Quinn, playing, well, a father. Inspector Zeller comes into a strip club looking for his daughter, who has rebelliously taken herself up in the world of erotic showmanship. He’s the new fire marshal, and he will shut the place down for violations if he doesn’t get his daughter back. It turns out his daughter, (Kimberly Williams
) is out living the high life with one of the strip joint’s henchmen, Bill (Benicio Del Toro
). Through miscommunication and a lot of bad luck, Zeller slowly begins a descent into madness, searching for the lost purity of his daughter. Will he find her, or will he find an ending far less rosy?
A shorter, bleaker vision of Paul Schrader’s awesome Hardcore
, The Bribe
has Terry O’Quinn filling George C. Scott’s shoes more than capably. Ever the versatile actor, O’Quinn can play both empathy and madness, sometimes all at once. Here he deconstructs a man of authority, so weakened by his daughter’s betrayal he’s nothing but fractured behind his image of bravura. He carries the episode, and the tragic, Shakespearean ending seals the deal. With this episode, Tales From the Crypt
proves, once again, that they can do horror without their tongue in cheek every so often.
sends up the whole UFC culture with this tale of megalomaniac managers and their quest for the ultimate pay per view payday. Augusto King (Rick Garcia
) and Felix Johnson (Mark Dacascos
) are the best fighters in the industry, their last match ending in a much-discussed draw. The real players are behind the scenes though, with their two wives acting as their managers. They bitch at each other on air and in the bedroom, as they run their men’s lives while making love to others. When Wink Barnum (Wayne Newton
) sees the possibility to exploit, he devises a tournament where there are no draws…where only one person (if they are lucky
) emerges alive. All he has to do is get August and Felix’s managers behind it, but doing so will be a bitch…
Another of the very few strong episodes this season, The Pit reinstates the over-the-top fun that characterized some of the more enjoyable episodes from the earlier seasons and then finishes off with one ultimate ironic punch. The episode has good fun toying with feminist stereotypes, having the women sympathetic at one point, complaining about unequal monetary opportunity for female athletes, while painting them puerile the next as they caterwaul and complain throughout the next scenes. You think maybe Tales From the Darkside
director John Harrison is trying to make some sort of social critique, and maybe he is, but ultimately it is a setup for one of the more enjoyable twists this side of Television Terror.
finds a trophy wife in peril by a bunch of thugs looking to settle the score with her husband. He used to be an assassin, but if A History of Violence
taught us anything, you can never leave the business behind. So the three goons, one of which is none other than Frog Brother Feldman, plan to dispose of her while they stakeout the place for her husband’s return. Things don’t go to plan of course, as bodies roll and people man up to their histories.
Another really solid episode, The Assassin
has the benefit of not only a satisfying story, but also one of the best Cryptkeeper introductions. In this one, John Kassir plays paper-rock-scissors with the one and only William Sadler, here outfitted in full Bogus Journey
Grim Reaper attire. Channeling what can only be called a Transylvanian meets French Canadian accent, his odd but endearing figure of death is definitely one of the most unlikely and enjoyable movie figures of the early-nineties. The episode in question benefits from another oddly enunciating early-nineties icon, with Corey Feldman swaggering his way through an otherwise overly-talky first half. He may be foil to Corey Haim’s reality television tears, but the man is best when he is transforming dialogue into some sort of tough guy genius. After Feldman gets offed, it’s the final twist and last-line sinker that propel this episode above the regular Crypt fodder.
Staired in Horror
follows Clyde (D.B. Sweeney
) as he runs for shelter from the police, headed by Sheriff R. Lee Ermey. He finds solitude in an old lady’s house in the middle of a bog, but old Charbonnet (Rachel Ticotin
) probably shouldn’t have been so kind. It turns out Clyde is on the run for murdering an elderly man, and now he has his sights set on her. Just before the attack though, she reveals herself to be young, and suddenly he’s listening to her explanation with a different head. It turns out a curse makes her old downstairs but young upstairs, and it will do the reverse to anyone trying to get close to her. With the staircase their possible salvation, they need to take some steps to make love and to avoid the cops.
Staired in Horror
is one of the more high profile episodes this season, with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5
director Stephen Hopkins behind the camera, and nineties heartthrob D.B. Sweeney and Hollywood’s go-to authority figure R. Lee Ermey in front of it. While the execution is mostly mediocre, with bad acting all around, an overly green hue and a clunky narrative development, the concept is addicting enough to watch through for the fine special effects display. There’s some great prosthetic work here, with both Sweeney and Ticotin repeatedly donning some very convincing aged looks. That and the idea of boning on the staircase as a way to prevent either from overly aging is awesome in itself.
In the Groove
settles into the life of sensual shock jock, Gary (Miguel Ferrer
). He runs the most controversial show on the network, where he and his guests act out sexual routines in doting decibels. When the novelty of his act begins to wear off, he’s relegated to the graveyard hours of radio by his overbearing manager and sister, Rita (Wendie Malick
). It isn’t until he collaborates with the mysterious secretary, Valerie (Linda Doucett
) on air that people start to take notice of him once again. His ego inflates and his act starts to get more edgy, but in Crypt as in all horror, hubris brings nothing but just deserts.
Vincent Spano, another sort of D.B. Sweeney – almost popular, kinda, in the early nineties, directs this mostly loud and grating episode. Ferrer does his usual asshole shtick, but his character is so talentless, egocentric and mean-spirited that it’s impossible to warm to his boring wordplay. The radio routines never really take off the way they should – it’s impossible to believe that people would actually be listening to that crap. There is no hook either…it’s like 30 minutes spent with a prick you’d never normally give the time of day. And then it ends. Badly, with a totally predictable and trite finale. Pretty weak, guys.
sees the yuppie Ray Wells (Adam Storke
) inheriting some hallowed ground from his late father. The farm land his father owned mysteriously burned down many years ago, but being an enterprising young businessman, Ray sees it as a major capital acquisition anyway. The problem is, it wasn’t meant to go to him. His father, on his death bed, told him that he was donating the land to charity so that Ray would never have to step foot on the property. Insulted, Ray murders his father and burns the will. He’s now heading out to see the land he rightfully deserves, but it turns out he’s not the only one there…and they want to party.
Directed by The Car
veteran, Elliot Silverstein, this has a classic feel to it, no doubt because Silverstein was responsible for many of the early episodes in The Twilight Zone
. It’s got the iconic “Greed is gored” comeuppance hook, and some great, stylish uses of black and white photography. Is it even a surprise that some of the best moments in Silverstein’s episode take place in a car? The resolve doesn’t short change anything either, with an entourage of gored-up ghouls. That these gory creations are sad and sympathetic is a testament to the class Silverstein brings to this little tale. Not even Jake Busey’s overacting can deride what is one of the better episodes of the season.
Doctor of Horror
sees two mortuary security guards selling their souls for, well, the selling of souls. Richard (Hank Azaria
) and Charlie (Travis Tritt
) hate their job, and they have every right to, considering their boss is Ben Stein. When Bueller Bueller Bueller leaves them to watch the place, they run into a corpse stealing doctor, Orloff (Austin Pendleton
). Nope, it’s not a coincidence – that awful Dr. Orloff is up to his same tricks, cutting apart bodies for personal gain. This time though, he thinks he can find the soul wedged in beside one of the vertebrae. The only problem is, he needs a subject fresh enough to still have it. Whose soul will it be, Richard or Charlie’s?
As per course with the rest of the episodes this season, Larry Wilsons’ episode is yet another predictable and mostly tame foray into uncontrollable ambition. Azaria has fun chewing the scenery on these notoriously miniscule sets (series cutbacks?
) and there’s a bunch of horror references crammed into the names (Mr. Myers?
), but these addatives can’t really make up for predictable storytelling. There’s a nice bit of gory effects (remember when this was the norm rather than the exception in the previous seasons?
), but for the most part this feels way more tame than it should. Like the souls leaving the bodies of Orloff’s cadavers, you can see in this episode more than ever, the soul being sucked out of the once gory, sexy and funny schlock-a-thon that was Tales From the Crypt
Comes the Dawn
, incase the title didn’t already tip you off, is this season’s vampire offering. Two zealous hunters, Parker (Bruce Payne
) and Burrows (The most badass Canadian there ever was, Michael Ironside
), head up to Alaska to do a little hunting. They are looking to reap some big profits from the hunt of endangered animals like the grizzly bear. Turns out they end up being the hunted though, when their guide, Jeri (Vivian Wu
) ends up leading them into a horde of long fangs. There will be blood, death and double crossing, but that kind of cross won’t phase them one bit.
While nothing original, Comes the Dawn benefits from that same isolated location that makes The Thing
such a classic. The cold, vast winter desert, where the silence and serenity breeds deceit and unrest. We also get what’s probably the first kiddie snowsuit killing since The Brood
. Even though Ironside’s role is pretty negligible, he could be playing an ice sculpture and still command your attention with that authoritative scowl. Most of the Crypt episodes, especially those of late, seem to really suffer from the lack of locations. Everything looks like a set. Yet in this the arctic cold lingers on throughout and feels more authentic than most of the series episodes. Nothing great, but it provides just the right amount of chill to make it worthwhile.
99 & 44/100 Pure Horror
, if its Ivory-riffing title didn’t signal it, is all about mischief, mayhem and, well, soap. It follows a popular avant garde artist (Cristi Conaway
) and her fallout with her wealthy soap business owner husband (Bruce Davison
). Years ago she designed the provocative design campaign that made their soap brand stand out, but now the executives feel her time is up and they need to reinvent their image...without her. Being more than your typical housewife, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She’ll kill for the job…even her husband.
This episode shows more than ever how the Cryptkeeper lost his edge. There are no less than two shower scenes, yet PIN
shows more skin then any of the cast members here. Now nudity for the sake of nudity is fine, but for a show like Tales From the Crypt
it was one of the essential ingredients. The comics were trashy, and part of the charm of the show was that it never took itself seriously – it reveled in the fact it was catering to audience expectations for boobs, blood and bad puns. Granted, as the body-lovin’ eighties moved into the politically correct, sexually proactive nineties, the entire industry shied away from exploits of the body…but even our sacred Cryptkeeper? Say it ain’t so. This isn’t Pure Horror at all, this soap is all watered down in the episode, with blood kept tidy and blouses kept on. While the ending delivers a nice punch, it can’t make up for the fact that at this point, Tales From the Crypt
had gave in to the pressures of popular discourse. The comics always fought out against this, using their controversy as a piece de resistance, but in this episode, and in this season as a whole, the Cryptkeeper throws in the towel. Squeaky clean.
, the final episode, follows businessman and crook Lou Spinelli (Humphrey Bogart
) as he is double crossed by his accomplices. He did a few crimes in the past along with his wife, Betty (Isabella Rossellini
), but thanks to plastic surgery he’s got a clean slate looking like Philip Marlowe. Dr. Oscar Charles (John Lithgow
) helped morph him into Bogey, and now that Lou’s transformation has paid off, Oscar wants some of that pay. Conspiring with Betty, Oscar plots Lou’s murder, but of course nothing goes exactly to plan. Lou’s colleague, Ericka (Sherilyn Fenn
), gets caught up in the mess, and it all ends at a gravesite. Bogart got an Oscar once before, and in the end of this one, he gets him again…from the grave!
Here’s the high profile finale from Robert Zemeckis, who, it seems, makes a contribution once every year to try to show the rest of the filmmakers how to do Crypt best. He scored big in season three with “Yellow”, one of the best episodes of all-time, and his first-ever contribution, “All Through the Halls”, is a perennial favorite. You, Murderer, though, is a near miss, entertaining because of the strong cast and high concept, but sort of grating because of the ego behind it. This is Zemeckis coming off his Academy Award for Forrest Gump
, so he reminds you of that throughout by sending up Gump with the Cryptkeeper’s intro, and then by again tooling with archive footage to create a history that doesn’t exist. He integrates old Bogart footage into a narrative told mostly through a first-parson point of view, but the resulting story is far from graceful. Bogart’s lines never really seem in context, and the linearity of the story suffers from it. That and the whole thing reeks of showmanship. There’s some fun to be had, especially in the gleefully ludicrous finale, but I’ll eat up smaller episodes like “Television Terror” any day over this.
All the episodes are presented in their original full screen aspect ratio, and this is without a doubt the least troublesome release of the series thus far on DVD. Transfers would be hit and miss in previous seasons, with random episodes looking terrible, while the rest mostly looked good. Here though, consistency is key, and luckily that consistency is of high quality throughout. The blacks look good, and this is easily the sharpest the series has looked, even if it is inescapably interlaced. Colors can be vivid in the episodes that feature it, like The Bribe and The Assassin, and even the worst looking episode, Staired in Horror, with its murky browns and green hues, still looks above average. Even if the episode quality got much worse this time around, the visuals sure didn’t.
The sound here is far less commendable, with what appears to be inconsistent tones throughout. I constantly had to ride the volume, with music cues being overly loud and dialogue scenes being the opposite. There wasn’t any hissing or distortion, but I may not be fit to comment since my hearing was often shot after the overly loud transition from the final story moments to the blaring lighting strike during the closing credits. Watching these late at night might be a problem.
Before I delve into the lone extra, just a bit about the presentation. Every season of Tales From the Crypt
seems to bring a different take on the opening credits, and this one is no different. While the credits are included on each episode in their entirety, there is no chapter stop following the opening. The lengthy descent into the Cryptkeeper’s layer is fun every few episodes, but having to watch it every episode is a real pain. This all could have been alleviated with a chapter stop right after, and hopefully for the final season they’ll finally get it right.
The only supplement here, keeping in line with season five, is a virtual comic book. John Kassir narrates in his Cryptkeeper voice, and thankfully the episode, “Whirlpool”, is much better than the season six episode it was briefly featured in. However, the transfer of this comic is so horribly pixilated and rife with artifacts, that it’s near impossible to watch without getting a vicious headache. What happened? These comics are a great idea, but when they look like DivX conversions of a fifth-generation VHS tape, I’d rather pass.
Well, another season of Tales From the Crypt
down, leaving us at one more until our rotting little narrator urn
s his rest. The past five seasons have been a pleasure to extol, but this season was a lot more work than play. Even the best episodes here don’t even compare to regular episodes in the season two and three heyday, with a lot more misses than hits this time around. There are still a few enjoyable portions, most notably the three “The” episodes, but they aren’t good enough to recommend to anyone other than Crypt completists. The video quality (finally
) looks great, but there are some major discrepancies in audio levels throughout these episodes. The lone virtual comic book extra is so ridden with artifacting it isn’t even watchable. With even the Cryptkeeper going to the dogs here, I guess all we have left is to hope Masters of Horror improves. One can scream, can’t he?
Movie - C+
Image Quality - B+
Sound - C
Supplements - D
- Running time - 6 hours and 10 minutes
- Not Rated
- 3 Discs
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Surround 2.0
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- Whirlpool virtual comic book with John Kassir narration