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may decry liberties taken by updating the original stories (and current audiences may find elements in some episodes out of date, most notably Mary Lambert's "Only Sin Deep"), but the blend of gore and black humor should keep most horror heads happy, as should the chattering presence of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