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Tales from the Crypt: The Complete First Season
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Here's some grisly good news for fear fans: the first season of HBO's long-running TV horror anthology Tales from the Crypt, based on the notorious '50s-era E.C. comic books, emerges on DVD in a two-disc set that's sure to have 'em shrieking (with joy, of course). Shepherded by a host of top Hollywood producers and directors (including Joel Silver, Richard Donner, Robert Zemeckis, and Walter Hill), the Tales from the Crypt series brought together major talent both in front of and behind the camera to give life to E.C.'s over-the-top stories of gruesome revenge and ghastly terror. Season 1 offers six star-studded spooktaculars, including Donner's "Dig That Cat He's Real Gone," with The Sopranos' Joe Pantoliano as a carnival performer with a knack for surviving horrible endings; Zemeckis's "And All Through the House," with Larry Drake as a homicidal Santa Claus terrorizing a woman who has just killed her husband (this story was also adapted in the 1972 theatrical version of Crypt); and Hill's "The Man Who Was Death," featuring a topnotch performance by William Sadler as a jailhouse executioner who takes the law into his own hands. Comic purists may decry liberties taken by updating the original stories (and current audiences may find elements in some episodes out of date, most notably Mary Lambert's "Only Sin Deep"), but the blend of gore and black humor should keep most horror heads happy, as should the chattering presence of the animatronic Crypt Keeper (well-voiced by John Kassir), who serves as the show's ghost host.
The two-disc set's chief extra is an interesting documentary about the original comics, featuring interviews with co-editor Al Feldstein and legendary artist Jack Davis, as well as directors and authors inspired by the comics like George Romero, John Carpenter, and R.L. Stine. The Crypt Keeper also weighs in with a new intro for the DVD, as well as his reminiscences of the first-season episodes, complete with plenty of behind-the-scenes production photos. In short, pleasant screams are ensured for all. --Paul Gaita
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1 - THE MAN WHO WAS DEATH - This story is about an out of work executioner who decides to take the law into his own hands. Very entertaining, and a classic "just desserts" situation.
2 - AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE - My personal favourite of the first season. This tale is about a lady who kills her husband for the inheritance money, only to later hear that there is an escaped mental patient on the loose... Dressed up like Santa Claus!
3 - DIG THAT CAT... HE'S REAL GONE - This story is about a man who is scientifically experimented on with cat genes, which afterwards gives him nine lives! Definitely far-fetched, but awesome nonetheless.
4 - ONLY SIN DEEP - This story is about a prostitute who "sells" her beauty to a pawn shop owner so she can go after a rich man. I won't tell you anything else.
5 - LOVER COME HACK TO ME - My personal least favourite of the first season. It is about a man who plans to kill his newlywed wife for inheritance as they go to her aunt's mansion for a honeymoon, though the wife is more than she seems. A very dumb and over the top sex scene and in my opinion too much filler. Though watch it anyway, it is entertaining enough.
6 - COLLECTION COMPLETED - This terrifying tale is about a newly retired man who comes home only to find his wifes many (many, many) pets running about to be a nuisance. He then decides to take up taxidermy!Read more ›
Enjoyed watching every episode !
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"Dig that Cat...He's Real Gone" stars Joe Pantoliano as Ulric, a homeless alcoholic who becomes a rich and famous sideshow performer after a mad doctor (Gustav Vintas) surgically implants a cat's gland into Ulric's brain. This procedure allows him to die and return to life nine times. Morbid hilarity ensues as a carnival barker (Robert Wuhl) presents Ulric the Undying to astounded audiences who watch him get electrocuted, hanged, drowned in a tank, and shot with an arrow (among other things).
In "The Man Who was Death," Bill Sadler (who eventually starred in the 1995 Tales from the Crypt film "Demon Knight") plays Niles Talbot, a state executioner who loses his job after spending 12 years pulling the switch. This resulted because the government unexpectantly repealed the death penalty. However, not wanting to abandon his favorite occupation, Niles drifts to the other side of the law by killing criminals who were acquitted by the courts.
The frightening and festive "And All Through the House" stars Mary Ellen Trainor as a devious housewife named Elizabeth, who brutally bludgeons her husband with a poker to collect on an insurance policy. Just when she is ready to eliminate the corpse, a homicidal maniac donning a Santa Claus costume (Larry Drake) terrorizes her with an axe. Even worse, Elizabeth can't call the police for fear of being convicted of first degree murder and losing custody of her daughter.
Vanity and greed play a central role in "Only Sin Deep," a tale about a street prostitute named Sylvia Vane (Lea Thompson). After killing a pimp and stealing his gold jewelry, she willingly sells her beauty to a strange pawnbroker (Britt Leach) in exchange for $10,000 cash. At first, Sylvia wins over the affections of a suave playboy millionaire. But immediately afterward, as a result of some black magic performed by the pawnbroker, she gets increasingly distraught as her face quickly ages. Desperate to buy back her looks, she shoots her rich lover dead, but is then forced to avoid prison by staying ugly for life.
Prepare for a honeymoon hell in "Lover Come Hack To Me." Here, a cunning bachelor named Charles (Stephen Shellen) marries a naive Peggy (Amanda Plummer) for her inheritance money. On a rainy night, after accidentally getting stuck in an abandoned mansion, the two go up to the bedroom and make perfect love for the very first time. Originally, Charles was going to kill Peggy and stage the crime to look like a burglary. But he soon discovers that her family history is cursed, and that much darker skeletons lie in the bride's closet.
Last but not least is one of my favorite episodes, "Collection Completed." M. Emmet Walsh plays Jonas, a grouchy tool salesman who finally gets to retire after 47 years on the job. His slightly odd wife Anita (Audra Lindley) has developed a fondness for pets...alot of pets. In fact, she keeps a zoo-full of cats, dogs, and birds in the house. On top of that, she talks to squirrels and runs an aquarium in the bathtub. Obviously, such an attachment to animals is enough to drive Jonas up the wall! Inevitably, he gets sick and tired of not having enough attention, and he gleefully takes up taxidermy as a hobby. But those poor animals weren't the only living creatures that ended up getting stuffed.
"The Man Who Was Death" is directed by Walter Hill and is about an Executioner who finds himself out of work when the death penalty is abolished and how he decides to keep his work going.
"And all through the House" is directed by Robert Zemeckis is a horrific Christmas episode which finds Larry Drake playing a homicidal Santa stalking a woman who just killed her husband.
"Dig that Cat he's Real Gone" was directed by Richard Donner. It stars Joe Pantoliano as a bum who becomes the featured star of a sideshow when a mad doctor ala Boris Karloff, gives him a cat gland which allows him to die and come back to life.
"Only Sin Deep" Directed by Howard Deutch. In one of those classic ironic twist stories of EC comics, a prostitute sells her beauty to a pawn shop but then finds herslef getting older and uglier vary rapidly.
"Lover come Back to Me" Directed by Tom Holland. A man marries a woman (Amanda Plummer) for her money but soon finds himself in for more than he bargained for with her family.
"Collection Complete" directed by mary Lambert. A retired salesman is fed up with living with his wife's house full of pets and takes up taxidermy to deal with the animals.
A solid first season with some of the great directors in film chipping in with their own efforts. The Richard Donner episode was a favorite due to its black humor and fine performances. Great to have these on DVD finally!
All 6 episodes from this first season are pretty good, but two of them stand out above the rest:
"And All Through the House," directed by renowned and Oscar-winning (1994's FORREST GUMP) Robert Zemeckis, is definitely the scariest of the six. It's a tense morality play about a disgruntled wife who murders her husband on Christmas Eve, only to then have a madman dressed in Santa garb show up to deliver her just deserts. But not only does it warn that "what goes around, comes around," it also makes a multi-faceted statement about innocence and youth, as it is the murderous woman's little daughter who ultimately lets "Santa" into the house. Larry Drake delivers a delectably deranged performance as the insane Saint Nick. (This has proven to be one of the most enduring stories from the original E.C. Comics series, as it was also previously dramatized in 1972 as one portion of an excellent five-part British flick entitled TALES FROM THE CRYPT. In that version, Joan Collins--DYNASTY's Alexis Carrington Colby--played the part of the homicidal wife.)
"The Man Who Was Death" stars William Sadler--who would later star in the TALES FROM THE CRYPT feature film DEMON KNIGHT (1995)--as an old-fashioned country boy who moved to the big city and ended up being employed as the state's executioner. However, when the death penalty is repealed, he suddenly finds himself without a job, so he decides to go freelance and bring his own "shocking" brand of justice to the murderers who fall through the cracks of the system. His zeal makes him a bit careless, though, and he eventually finds himself in the "hot seat" when the cops are able to trace him down just after the death penalty gets reinstated.
The DVD from Warner Home Video not only offers fairly clean digital transfers of these delightful episodes of this popular show, and it also features a couple of pretty cool extras, the best of which is a featurette that discusses what it took to get TALES FROM THE CRYPT off of the comic pages and onto the small screen.
In short, TALES FROM THE CRYPT--THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is a must-own for all serious horror fans.
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