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Old 10-26-2005, 08:40 AM
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Default Tales From The Crypt: Season Two




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: October 25, 2005

Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 10/25/2005
MSRP: $39.98
Region 1, NTSC
Full Screen 1.33:1



inline Image What started out as a way for prominent filmmakers to geek out to their favorite childhood comics quickly turned into an HBO phenomenon throughout the nineties. Tales From the Crypt, which started out as a venture between Robert Zemeckis, Walter Hill, Richard Donner and Joel Silver turned into a long running show that would reach seven seasons by the end of its run. The six episode first season grew into an eighteen episode second, this time with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kevin Yagher and Jack Sholder also jumping into the director’s chair. It became the late night celebrity haven, and when The Crypt was on top, nothing could disseminate its rotting bones. Warner Brothers presents the complete second season on DVD now, only a few short months after debuting the first season. The first season was largely average in both content and presentation, so let’s see if a later season brings bigger rewards.

The Story

inline ImageThe first episode is Dead Right, which follows a selfish beauty who gets her just rewards. Cathy Marno (Demi Moore) is a working girl with a cruel streak. She visits fortune teller Madame Vorna (Natalia Nogulich) one lunch break, and Vorna tells her she will lose her job later in the day. Cathy calls her bluff, but is later canned that day for bad mouthing her boss. A sudden believer, she goes to Vorna for further predictions about her life. Vorna tells her that she will marry a hideously overweight man who will inherit a large sum of money and die only days later. Clamoring for the opportunity to be a rich widow, she marries the obese Charlie Marno (Jeffrey Tambor). When she finds out that he doesn’t have any big inheritance coming to him, she starts to doubt Vorna’s prediction. But Vorna wasn’t lying, and the story unfolds with a typically ironic twist.

inline ImageDirected by Howard Deutch, Dead Right is very similar to his first season episode, Only Sin Deep. Both follow a cruel, money grabbing beauty who would sleep her way to great fortune, only to have fate catch up with her at the end. This episode is much better than Deutch’s first, with Demi Moore wonderfully against type. It is peppered with your typical fat jokes, but Jeffrey Tambor manages to inject a surprising humility to his character. A few funny directorial flourishes, like having the girl’s discussion about how Charlie is going to die acted out in slow motion, or the allusions to similar backstabbing in wartime Russia by naming the dog Trotsky help inject the episode with a little personality. The final twist has payoff, even if the whole fortune teller formula has become entirely predictable in these Crypt episodes.

inline ImageThe next episode, The Switch, is about man’s continual search for eternal youth. Carlton Webster (William Hickey) is a rich old man desperately in love with Linda (Kelly Preston). To test if she truly loves him, he tells her he’s just a poor old man with a lot of love. She says she loves him, but she could only marry him if he had a younger face. He thus commissions an under-the-counter doctor to get him a new face. The price is a hefty million, but well worth it to be with his love. When Linda sees his face she is happy, but still not satisfied with his old hands. So back he goes to the doctor, first for his hands, then his torso, then finally his legs, until he depletes himself of all his money. He now has the looks she is looking for though, and that’s enough, right?

inline ImageThis episode is directed by the chiseled, hedonist symbol of America, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the material seems fully in tune with his preoccupations. Once Hickey makes his transformation he even spends time at the gym pumping up, no doubt included so Arnie could give bit parts to a bunch of his steroid buddies. Arnold directs with a fairly drab and static approach to filmmaking, but the story is entertaining enough to move the whole thing along. Hickey is always a pleasure to watch, and has fun living vicariously through the youthful limbs of Rick Rossovich. Although Arnie is mostly behind the camera for this one, he does make an appearance at the amusing crypt keeper intro, complete with a deliciously cheesy Tales From the Crypt t-shirt. Arnold will never become Steven Spielberg, but this is still a fun little episode.

inline ImageCutting Cards takes a look into the win-it-all/lose-it-all world of gambling. It follows legendary gambler Reno Crevice (Lance Henriksen), who, it is rumored, once won fifty thousand dollars in a single hand. He returns after a year on the road to his favorite casino, only to find out there is a new poker pro in town, Sam Forney (Kevin Tighe). The two have words, and then challenge each other to a final match – the loser never allowed to return to Vegas ever again. At first they throw dice, but when they both tie they up the stakes to Russian Roulette. Not satisfied with that, they decide to play poker, at a finger a game. Old habits die hard, and the two match each other limb for limb as they fight to decide who stays and who goes.

inline ImageWalter Hill directed the best segment by far of the first season, and he is in top form again here. The cinematography is infused with his neon expressionism, with the purples and blues highlighting the sensationalism of the Las Vegas gambling scene. His images have weight though, and Lance Henriksen gives one of the best performances of his career here. It is tough to recognize him initially, since his voice is much deeper and his swagger much more confident. He’s as close to John Wayne as the eighties would get, his transformation is amazing. The interplay between the two characters is potent and hearty, the two much deeper developed than your usual 25-minute skit. When the ending rolls around its clear that this is a fable on machismo in modern times, with gambling the game du jour.

inline Image‘Til Death is modeled around Philip Noyce’s famous The Hitchhiker episode in presenting a yuppie land owner who uses voodoo for sex and becomes a victim of his own entrepreneurial negligence. Logan Andrews (D.W. Moffett) is a wealthy African developer who one night discovers his land is being lost to quicksand. Instead of working on that, he works on getting a snooty British girl, Margaret Richardson (Pamela Gien), in the sack. He sees a local voodoo doctor who gives him a potion to make the Brit fall for him. “Use one drop to marry her, and a second to make her yours for the rest of her life,” she informs him, not after laying a sultry kiss on his lips. When it comes time to use the potion he uses a few extra drops to be safe, but ends up inadvertently killing her. Maggie refuses to stay dead however, and the voodoo lady’s dictum continues to be true. Until death do they part.

inline ImageThis segment was directed by famous effects creator Chris Walas, and right from the start you know where the focus is on. The gore effects are quite good, with a bloody beheading at the start, and some rotting plotting throughout the rest. The gradually decomposing effects used on the Maggie character are impressive throughout, especially the puppet work done at the end. If I seem to be dwelling on the effects, it is because little else is really of interest. The story is entirely derivative and by the numbers, executed without any sort of unique flair to make it the least bit interesting. The cinematography is rather ugly, especially in the outdoor scenes that are much too dark. So dark, it almost looks like the Predator was using his vision in place of the camera. The resolution is sloppy (literally) and doesn’t have the payoff that it should. Forgettable.

inline ImageThree’s a Crowd explores the boundaries of trust and jealousy when a married man starts to suspect his wife is cheating on him. Richard (Gavan O’Herlihy) and Della (Ruth de Sosa) have been husband and wife for some time. Judging by Richard’s paranoia about Della’s relationship with her boss Alan (Paul Lieber), too long. It is their anniversary, but Richard is agitated and somewhat disturbed that their vacation is being arranged and paid for by Della’s boss. He questions her why, but she is secretive. It is clear she is hiding something, and considering all the lusty glances she gives her boss, Richard is pretty sure he knows why. His paranoia soon drives him mad, and he decides to go all Jack Torrence on the love triangle. What he finds out about Della and Alan’s secret is much different than he expected, but still ultimately too much to handle.

inline ImageAlthough starring unknowns both in front and behind the camera, Crowd resonates with a tense story and a disturbing climax. Jan Hammer’s music underscores the noir-ish story, giving it a dark energy in the same way as his music for Miami Vice. Gavan O’Herlihy is entirely convincing as a guy slowly going mad, and his looks are off-putting enough to underpin his doubt with a sinister slant. The short is very much like Night of the Demon in that it is mostly minimalist for its entirety, playing on doubt and suspicion more than graphic excess. Then comes the end, where all the doubt explodes into a horrifically dark and mean-spirited finale. It hits you good, more than any other Tales From the Crypt episode I’ve seen. It is a well produced noir yarn throughout, but the ending elevates it into something wholly memorable. You won’t forget it.

inline ImageIt’s title may suggest otherwise, but The Thing From the Grave essentially explores the same theme of Three’s a Crowd. It follows a jealous fiancée, Mitch (Miguel Ferrer) who has suspicions that his model girlfriend, Stacy (Teri Hatcher), is doing a little more than posing for her cameraman, Cates (Kyle Secor). Mitch is abusive, and when escaping from him one night Stacy meets up with Cates. They share a passionate evening, at the end of which Mitch gives her a necklace. He explains that a mystic woman told him that whoever makes a promise with that necklace will be unable to break it. He promises he will protect her, but when Mitch has him killed that complicates things slightly. Mitch heads out to teach Stacy a lesson, but will the promise stay true?

inline ImageWritten and directed by Fred Dekker, this episode has a twofold connection to the Robocop films. Dekker would go on to direct the third installment, while the lead, Miguel Ferrer, is most remembered for being the sleazeball yuppie in the fist film. Useless facts aside, its nice to see Ferrer in the leading role here rather than some walk-on as the asshole. He certainly hasn’t broken his typecasting at all with this role, but the more Miguel the better. The story has an interesting non-linear pattern and a few good zombie effects, but overall is pretty ho hum. Teri Hatcher is quite awful in an early role, certainly a far stretch from her Golden Globe winning work on Desperate Housewives. The punch line is revealed much too early to really have any impact in the finale, but seeing Ferrer get his is alone enough to keep tuned in.

inline ImageThe Sacrifice is yet another story of a love triangle, except this one to the tune of film noir conventions. James (Kevin Kilner) is an insurance salesman who falls for the rich trophy wife Gloria Fleming (Kim Delaney) on the eve he is to change her husband’s massive life insurance claim. The two adulterously hook up, and devise the plan to kill her husband before his life insurance claim, so as to throw off the investigators but still end up with money in the long run. The plan goes smoothly, except for one small thing: Gloria’s ex, Jerry (Michael Ironside), was voyeuristically snapping shots of her apartment when Gloria’s husband was murdered. If James and Gloria want their plan to work they’ll have to play by Jerry’s rules, and they ain’t pretty.

inline ImageThis episode has a strong film noir backbone, and manages to make the Double Indemnity plotting fresh and interesting. Yet, the script is overzealous in the amount it wants to cover, and this seems like a feature length story compressed into a thirty minute short. It sets up all these different plots for payoff: the suspicious investigators, the jealous ex-lover, the repetitive parrot, yet it never really devotes enough time to paying each one off satisfyingly. There is just too much plot crammed into this little short, and the resulting product seems rushed and underdeveloped. So while it may taste the tang of unmixed concentrate, there are no doubt good elements crammed into it. There’s just too much. Michael Ironside proves here once again though, that he can make any character into the most despicable bad guy. He could make you want to head butt the elephant man. He makes villainy a style.

inline ImageFor Cryin’ Out Loud moves from the love story into the music gory. It’s about a wealthy club owner, the infamous Marty Slash (Lee Arenberg), who one day wakes up to the sound of his conscience. While quiet at first, his conscience starts to speak up when it discovers Marty has been siphoning money from supposed third world charity auctions into his own bank account. Marty sees a doctor for his ever more annoying conscience, but the doctor just pegs it as a symptom of listening to too much loud music. After Marty kills his banker after she inquired about his money laundering, his speaks up louder than even Iggy Pop. Its mind versus music as Marty tries to drown out the voice of his omnipresent mental voice.

inline ImageOver the top, exciting and energetic, Loud plays off like a rollicking concert, and its all good fun. Arenberg chews the scenery with Marty, his maniacal jitters and his insane temple vein reaching unheard of decibels of crazy. Think Horace Pinker in Shocker, but without the one liners. A few well integrated scenes with Iggy Pop add a little star power to the story, as well as a great moment where Arenberg and Iggy have what appears to be a head banging duel. There’s a bit of blood splatter when Marty tries to poke out his ears, and the hilariously gratuitous situational violence only goes further in making this a fun little horror ride. The ending has a nice resolution that seals the deal. It’s not Beethoven, but still a fine little piece.

inline ImageFour-Sided Triangle is a weird little oddity about a farm girl who lusts to lose her virginity to a scarecrow. The woman, Mary Jo, just so happens to be played by Patricia Arquette, so any self-respecting Dream Warriors fan would have been stuffing themselves with hay when this thing came out. Anyway, Arquette looks to one day escape the cruel ownership of her farm, and she hopes the scarecrow can do that for her. The two owners are a dysfunctional couple, George Yates (Chelcie Ross) and Luisa (Susan Blommaert). George likes to watch Mary Jo tend to the chicken coup and milk the cow, no doubt imagining it was himself. In fact, he finds himself dreaming about her more and more often. Mary Jo rejects his propositions, and Luisa continues to grow suspicious of his gazing eye. Soon, the bunch of them all end up in a cornfield, where the scarecrow finally makes his appearance to settle things once and for all.

inline ImageDirected by Tom Holland, this is one of the weirder entries into the Tales From the Crypt canon. Not only does Patricia Arquette dry hump a scarecrow, but she spends almost the entire segment without bra or panties, continually flaunting her womanhood. Let’s just say that Holland somehow managed to make the hot American south ice cold whenever her chest was in frame. There is so much sexual tension throughout, you almost wish that Holland would knock it off and milk the cow already. When the ending finally does come though, it’s grand guignol at its best. The payoff is definitely worth the wait, and it ends on a playfully macabre note. Tom Holland sets himself apart from most of the point and shoot directors here with some wonderfully composed shots and a delightfully twisted script. Without a doubt one of the highpoints of the season.

inline ImageThe Ventriloquist’s Dummy is just like it sounds. Mr. Ingles (Don Rickles) is a successful ventriloquist thanks to the nasty little routine his dummy does. The only thing is, Ingles isn’t controlling the dummy, the dummy controls itself, and as a result it has brought him great fame. A mysterious accident sends Ingles out of the limelight, and it isn’t until fifteen years later that he is approached by an old childhood fan, Billy Goldman (Bob Goldthwait). Billy is starting up a ventriloquist gig of his own and looking for support from Ingles. When he goes to visit Ingles he quickly finds out that Ingles isn’t the only one that will give him support. Ingles’ dummy is also still on the loose, and he’ll support the noose that hangs Billy on stage.

inline ImageI have no idea why, but with his Crypt episodes, Richard Donner seems focused on mining the sideshow sub-culture. His first season episode was about a man who became a carnival attraction because of the number of times he could die, and now this season’s episode is about a ventriloquist with a dummy that refuses to die. While Donner’s previous excursion had a lot of style behind it, this one seems decisively less interesting visually. The lighting is drab, the camera moves routine, and the whole production just doesn’t resonate the way a segment by a major Hollywood director should. Donner does a good job of creating pathos for the Billy character, especially when he refuses to shorten his painful and embarrassing routine on stage to a heckling audience. It is there that he captures emotional intensity, but Billy’s story is mostly sidelined for some death and gore courtesy of the dummy. Overall a pretty forgettable disappointment, the episode is made all the more of a letdown considering it was penned by Frank Darabont. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

inline ImageCarol Kane has always been one to choose those quirky, offbeat characters, and in Judy, You’re Not Yourself Today, she plays two. Judy (Kane) is an old fashioned wife who is married to a macho gun enthusiast, Donald (Brian Kerwin). As if that pairing wasn’t weird enough, Judy finds herself the victim of a body switch when a witch lady masking as a cream salesman comes knocking on her door. Donald comes home to find Judy trapped inside of the body of an old lady, and immediately goes off to find the body snatcher with a loaded rifle in hand. Bullets a fly and bodies a switch, and in the end American culture is the victim.

inline ImageThis segment is a weird little commentary on America’s obsession with guns and aging. The relationship between Judy and Donald is bizarre to begin with, but only proceeds to get weirder once the body switching is in place. Donald’s vice is that he likes to shoot his gun, and Judy’s is that she wants to stay looking young, and in the end both of those values end up clashing and resulting in a depressing disconnect. After all the body switching has subsided, Donald has the chance to be with Judy when she is in the old lady’s body, but instead chooses to wait for her to transfer to her young self. Its this focus on the exterior, and his macho obsession with guns that kills their relationship, and in the end the preoccupations of American society are to blame more so than the individual characters themselves. It’s an offbeat little piece on Americana, and in its originality and exaggeration, it’s quite effective.

inline ImageFitting Punishment takes an inside look at the embalming business…from inside the coffin! Penny pinching embalmer and funeral home director Ezra Thornberry (Moses Gunn) knows every trick in the book. Buy your coffins cheap from Taiwan, where people are shorter and require less lumber for a casket. If the dead don’t fit, then just hack off their legs. Ezra’s perfect little system is offset when his tall, basketball playing nephew Bobby (Jon Clair) comes to stay with him. Ezra treats Bobby with total disrespect, even going so far as to beat him just to get Bobby to do a few extra tasks. Ezra takes the punishment too far when he accidentally handicaps Bobby. Bed ridden and unable to work, Bobby is no longer an asset to Ezra. Ezra’s got an extra coffin, and Bobby’s got an extra six inches. Combining the two will be murder.

inline ImageDirected with panache by the underrated Jack Sholder, this is a fun little piece of southern gothic. Sholder goes against the norm by directing an all black cast with nice attention to character, with Gunn leading the way with a grumpy businessman’s swagger that would put Scrooge McDuck to shame. There are some nice shots, the story moves along quickly, and there are actually some good twists in it. Usually you know exactly how a Crypt episode is going to unfold, but this one isn’t quite as predictable. There are also some cool old school special effects that give the film added charm in its final minutes. Add in some copious bloodletting and an insiders look at funeral work, and this amounts to an enjoyable episode.

inline ImageKorman’s Kalamity takes an insider’s look at the creation of the Tales From the Crypt comic, except this time, what is drawn on the page doesn’t necessarily stay there. It follows Jim Korman (Harry Anderson), a struggling Crypt artist whose work has suffered ever since he started taking fertility pills to appease his domineering wife (Colleen Camp). One day, after being berated and humiliated by his wife, Jim takes it upon himself to draw her into his comics as a raving beast. All his emotion doesn’t just stay on the page though, it comes to life in locations throughout the city. Police officer Lorelei Phelps (Cynthia Gibb) just happens upon one occurrence, where a monster comes out of a washing machine to pulverize a would-be rapist. After Lorelei witnesses this and reads about several others, she tracks Jim down and a romance blossoms. Jim’s wife is aware of the fling though…and this is one monster that Jim just can’t erase from the page.

inline ImageIf the psychoplasmics of The Brood were applied to comic artists, you’d have Korman’s Kalamity. This is an enjoyably over-the-top look into the comic industry and a reflexive spin on the whole film noir genre. It is almost anti-noir, in the way it makes the female the aggressor rather than the passive femme fatale, with the two women in masculine roles. The colors are inverted as well, with the characters in total daylight and in the most vibrant eighties getup imaginable. The location is noir all the way – street corners and private offices, but yet everything occurs with a fresh spin. Teenage girls may have had the Brothers Gibb in the seventies, but in the eighties teenage boys had Cynthia Gibb. Youngblood, Salvador, Short Circuit 2 and Death Warrant, she carved a niche for herself until 1990 hit and she fell off the face of the earth. Still, it’s nice to see her here, adding spunk to what is already a punchy little story. All in all, an positively enjoyable riff on Tales From the Crypt and film noir.

inline ImageLower Berth goes into familiar Crypt territory in exploring once again the carnival freak show sub-culture. This time, the focus is on an aging entrepreneur (Stefan Gierasch) who hits it big on the freak show circuit with his popular find, Enoch the Two-Faced Man (Jeff Yagher). Despite Enoch being the hit of the show, the old man is exploited by the greedy carnival owner, getting only a portion of what he is worth. Enoch is also being exploited, as he yearns to break from his cave and start a family of his own. Enoch finds true love in the newest exhibit, Miryana, a mummified woman who had been buried alive thousands of years ago. A seedy businessman propositions the old man to split the proceeds on Miryana, but when an article in the paper reports her stolen the relations between the characters are fractured.

inline ImageThis is yet another segment directed by effects man Kevin Yagher, and like his previous effort this season, it features some wonderful effects work in an otherwise dull story. Yagher doesn’t seem to show much interest in the plot or characters, and much of it is rather boring. The most interesting parts are what you would expect, seeing all of Yagher’s freaks like the spectators in the episode. Although the ending does tie in nicely with the standard crypt keeper extro, it doesn’t really tie up the story that well. Some of the make-up and puppet effects are impressive, but the rest of this episode is not.

inline ImageMute Witness to Murder is a Hitchcockian look at the voyeur, and how some images are too disturbing for words. Suzy (Patricia Clarkson) and Paul (Reed Birney) are celebrating their wedding anniversary. She waits on the balcony while he grabs her his present. While waiting however, she witnesses a domestic disturbance on the other side of the apartment building. A husband and wife’s argument quickly turns to murder as the man silences his nattering wife. Indirectly though, he also silenced Suzy, whose witnessing of the event has rendered her mute. Her husband quickly goes out to find her a doctor, but when he comes back Suzy is shocked to discover that the doctor is actually the murderer across the street, Dr. Trask (Richard Thomas). The doctor gives her a shot before she can let on what is happening, and ends up sending her away to a sanitarium. It is just Trask and Suzy in the sanitarium…who will get the last word?

inline ImageDirected with skill by Jim Simpson, this is a fun little fusion of Rear Window and Mute Witness. Patricia Clarkson, who would go onto quite a career after this, gives a wonderful performance guided almost entirely on facial expressions. The natural impulse would be to overact physically when there is no way to communicate vocally, but Clarkson remains subtle and effective. In order to enjoy this one will have to suspend disbelief more than a few times, since many of the plot twists don’t really seem plausible in hindsight. True, she couldn’t talk, but she had ample time to write the husband a note about the murder but instead just sat there waiting to be taken away. There are even more questions like this brought up in the end, but the cleverly ironic ending will likely negate any plot concerns. This was Jim Simpson’s only real foray into horror (he’s directed only one other drama since) and it’s a shame, because he’s quite good at it.

inline ImageA sleazy television host gets what’s coming to him on national television when he ventures into a televised haunted house in Television Terror. Horton Rivers (Morton Downey, Jr.) is an aging sensationalist broadcast star whose having trouble attracting ratings. He decides to take a risk and do a live television show inside of a barred off haunted house. Several years ago, a crazy woman named Ada Ritter killed off twelve men and buried them in the basement before killing herself. Ever since, the place has been deemed haunted. Horton doesn’t really believe it, and neither does his hateful crew, but ratings is key. Horton goes inside, and after a lengthy and dull tour of the house, he gets a call from central office. They are going to pull the show if things don’t pick-up. Just then, the chandelier starts to shake, and Horton notices a man in a pool of his own blood. That is just the start of it, as Horton becomes trapped in the haunted house. He tries to escape, but the cameras keep rolling. Ratings are key.

inline ImageWithout a doubt the best episode of the season, Terror starts off as a humorous look at the politics behind television shows, and then ends as a relentlessly bleak little mood piece. The episode is even more impressive when taken into consideration that it predated movies like The Blair Witch Project and Halloween: Resurrection by roughly a decade. It’s themes about how far people will go to get ratings probably applies more today than it did fifteen years ago. It has a dark, dark sense of humor, and the ironic twist is without a doubt the best payoff of the season. But the ending, oh man, it is ruthless. Usually the structure of the show, with its ironic twist, makes it near impossible to generate true scares since there is always a joke lingering behind the horror. In Television Terror though, the ending is done with such skill and uncompromising nastiness that it really gets under the skin. This is a Terror that stays with you.

inline ImageMy Brother’s Keeper uses twins to illustrate metaphorically the contrasting personalities of good and evil that lurk within all of us. Frank (Jonathan Stark) and Eddie (Timothy Stack) are two brothers joined at the hip…literally. Conjoined twins, they do everything together, from going to the bathroom to having sex. The problem is, they are two completely different people. Eddie likes to go to the symphony, while Frank likes to go and get drunk at the bar. Eddie usually ends up doing what Frank wants, but all that changes when he meets Marie (Jessica Harper). He falls instantly in love, and wants to change his complicit ways. Frank has an offer that might be able to spliut them for good, but the risk is too high to get Eddie to commit. When relations with Marie heat up, both Frank and Eddie need to make choices as to just how far they will go to split themselves apart.

inline ImageThis is another great episode that would seem even better had it not followed Television Terror. Think of it as Dead Ringers lite, with a pinch of Stuck on You. It is for the most part funny and witty, but it also surprisingly raises some interesting questions about major psychological issues. What would happen if a Siamese twin killed somebody, while the other one remained an upstanding citizen. If you are unable to split them, how would you go about punishing one but not the other? That is one of the questions the episode raises, as well as illustrating how important it is to balance the good and evil impulses within the mind, since if one is gone, it can throw the other out of wack. There are of course the usual sight gags inherent in showing conjoined twins on screen, but this one digs a little deeper as well, and its great fun all the way through. Having Jessica Harper from Suspiria as the love interest is always a plus too.

inline ImageThe final episode of the season is called The Secret, and it follows a little orphan who realizes the truth behind the hairiest of secrets. Joey (Nicolas Ostrogovich) is not like the other boys at the orphanage. He is much older than everyone else, and he carries with him a deep dark secret. He doesn’t know who his parents are, but their secret is pivotal in him discovering his own. Joey is eventually adopted by the Colbert’s, who themselves have a deep dark secret. Their house is covered with metal bars, and they lock Joey in his room every night when they go out to attend to “business”. Joey befriends the butler, Theodore (Larry Drake), who himself used to be an orphan. Eventually, we discover the Colbert’s dirty little secret, but it turns out that Joey’s has even more bite.

inline ImageThe first thing that is noticeable this time around is the style, with a blue color palette that would make Argento proud. There are a lot of noticeable day for night shots, but the blues are so overemphasized it becomes less a hindrance and more a style. In terms of plot, this is a more loving tribute to the Universal monster movies than Van Helsing could ever aspire too. The big secret is good old fashioned horror fun, and the movie ends on a high note. It’s not all good though, as the plot is overly vague and not quite as rewarding as some of the better written ones this season. Larry Drake is completely wasted in a total nothing part. He makes Scatman Crothers in The Shining seem like Marlon Brando. Still, its stylish enough and crazy enough in its finale to make it outshine its comparatively flawed script.


With three times the amount of episodes this season compared to last, there were definitely much more enjoyable moments this time around in Tales From the Crypt. Like last season, Walter Hill’s episode was a definite highlight, although the favorite this season would have to go to the brutal and effective Television Terror. There were less stinkers this time around too, with no episode coming close to the lows of the first season. On the whole though, most are just entertaining without being memorable, which is fine for those looking for horror in small and harmless doses.

Image Quality

Tales From the Crypt is presented in its original 1.33:1 full screen ratio, and the video is a definite improvement over the previous season. Black levels are much more solid this time around, and colors look a wee bit more vibrant as well. The image is much clearer this time too, although there are a few episodes where mild edge enhancement is visible (particularly Mute Witness to Murder). The dust and specks from last season is carried on over to this season, with little bits of white and black momentarily showing up in each episode. The transfers could have been a little cleaner, but still, this is an improvement over last season and a job well done by Warner Brothers.

Sound

The stereo sound is also an improvement over last season, in that it sounds a little punchier. There are a few more directional effects this time around too, the most noticeable actually being in the last episode when a train circles from speaker to speaker several times over. There is no hissing at all, which is something that popped up momentarily in the first season. Again, like the video, this is a nice overall improvement over last season.

Supplemental Material

inline Image First up, it should be mentioned that the original intro to the show is nowhere to be found on these discs. On the DVD for season one it could be viewed upon inserting the disc, although it never played when the individual episodes were selected. Warner Brothers has decided this season to just do away with the introduction completely, which is a shame. What they should have done was just put it as a selectable title in the episodes menu, just so people could watch it before the episode if need be. Without it on there, the show seems somewhat incomplete, especially since the tail end of the opening sequence is always featured during the credits of the show.

As far as the extras themselves go, there are a few notables. Both the opening menu and the episodes select screen feature the crypt keeper with new material devised especially for this DVD. It is nice to hear at first, although it can get quite repetitive over the three discs. A little more variety would have made it much better in execution. The special features are spread over discs two and three. On disc two is “Fright and Sound: Bringing the Crypt Experience to Radio” and it’s a short three minute behind-the-scenes peek at a Tales From the Crypt radio broadcast. The footage is good in showing just how elaborate a live radio show can be, with several microphones recording several actors and sound effects all at once. Tim Curry speaks to the camera about the craft of using the microphone. At only three minutes it is much too short, but still a decent little peak into the radio side of horror.



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Disc three has a longer but still short featurette entitled “Behind-the-Screams Shockumentary”. It pieces together interviews with Director and crypt keeper creator Kevin Yagher, series producer Joel Silver and the voice of the crypt keeper John Kassir, among others. They first talk about how all the great directors that worked on the show set the series apart, and further mentioned how even Martin Scorsese wanted to be involved at one point. The remainder of the featurette is devoted to the crypt keeper himself though, from discussion about puppeteering to voicing the rotting host. Without any behind-the- scenes footage the whole talk becomes a little dry, despite the pleasure of seeing Kassir contort his voice into the crypt keeper at the drop of a dime. The featurette is, like the radio one, too short, this time clocking in at thirteen minutes.

There are no other extras on this release, so if you thought the forty five minute documentary on the first season was slim, then the combined sixteen minutes on this release will seem anemic by comparison. Considering the great talent the series was able to employ behind the camera, it would be nice if for future releases Warner Brothers could try to cull some director’s commentaries. Without them, these releases just seem empty.


Final Thoughts

Although the second season didn’t have the same number of A-list directors as the first, it is overall a more enjoyable season. You get a better bang for your buck with eighteen episodes, and some of them, like the Television Terror and Walter Hill one are great. Mostly though, it’s a collection of short and sweet little horror tales that you will probably enjoy while watching but forget about the next day. As for the transfers, the audio and video are much better on the second season. The supplements, unfortunately, are almost non-existent, which may make spending the money on all this forgettable entertainment a little tougher to do.

Rating

Movie - B
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - C

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 8 hours and 6 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 3 Discs
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Surround 2.0
  • English subtitles
  • French subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles
Supplements
  • Animated menus with new crypt keeper quips
  • "Fright and Sound: Bringing the Crypt Experience to Radio" featurette
  • "Behind-the-Screams Shockumentary" featurette

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Old 11-02-2005, 08:18 PM
October!
Wow, helluva thorough review. Thanks.
 
 

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