One of my favourite TV shows is returning this year. Tales from The Crypt is getting a brand spanking new reboot set to air in the later part of 2017. That's the good news, the bad news? Its being written and directed by M. Night "I've only ever made one good film and my writing is terrible" Shyamalan and its going to air on TNT, which is known to censor everything.
If you don't know what Tales From The Crypt was or are too young to remember it - then allow me to quickly educate you.
Tales From The Crypt was a horror anthology TV show that aired on HBO from 1989 - 1996 based on the EC comic books of the 1950s. Not to be confused with the animated kid friendly spin-off, Tales from the Cryptkeeper, as Tales From The Crypt was far from kid friendly. The show was full of blood, gore, violence, sex, nudity and swearing. This was strictly adults only... but as I mentioned earlier, the reboot is set to air on TNT - oh dear.
Each episode of the show was a new story which would be introduced by the pun-cracking Cryptkeeper, voiced by John Kassir, this guy cracks more bad puns in a minute than Freddy Krueger could manage in his entire lifetime. The episodes were around 30 minutes long. The stories were a good mix of dark comedy, out right horror and even a few love stories thrown in too... but they were always macabre and twisted in their own way and often provided a sting in the tail.
The series also attracted some pretty damn big names from producers/directors like; Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner, Walter Hill, Tobe Hooper as well as actors (some allowed to direct episodes too) like; Lance Henriksen, William Sadler, Michael Ironside, Joe Pantoliano, Patricia Arquette, Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox and even the big man himself - Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was not a low budget show, they threw everything at this and it attracted some of the biggest names of the 80s and 90s as well as showcase the talent of some lesser known directors and actors who would become household names in the future. I mean, Brad Pitt is in an episode. It's great fun watching this now and spotting the amazing talent (past, present and future) this series had.
This new reboot is set to do things a little differently. From what I have managed to find out, this new Tales From The Crypt will be over an hour long per episode and will tell a continual story over a season much like a 'normal' TV show. An hour will be dedicated to telling the continual plot, but there will also be shorter segments that will be more like the anthology concept of the original show. Quite honestly, it sounds like a really good concept... but remember the bad news - M. Night "why do I keep getting work?" Shyamalan and TNT. I really doubt it'll be as great or as impactful as the original.
Anyway, enough of the new Tales From The Crypt. I'm here to yak about the original show. Tales From The Crypt ran for 7 seasons and a total of 93 episodes. Like most TV shows, the series had its ups and downs. Thankfully, there were many more ups than downs as there are a huge amount of episodes well worth watching and plenty that are pure genius. It would be hard to do a top 20 list, tough to do a top 10 list... so I'm going to do something even tougher. I'm going to chose only 7 episodes from the 93 that I think are well worth checking out and limit myself to only one episode per season.
I'm not necessarily going to chose the 'best' episode of each season, more a case of good episodes (no spoilers) that I think are a great place to start for new-comers or old fans that may need a refresher. I'd better crack on...
Season 1: The Man Who Was Death
For my first pick, I've chosen the very first episode.
Directed by Walter Hill. Niles Talbot (William Sadler) is a prison executioner, the man that flicks the switch on the electric chair, and he really enjoys his job... a lot. When the death penalty is abolished, Niles soon finds himself out of a job. So he becomes a vigilante dealing his own brand of justice to the criminals he believes deserve death.
I chose this one because it really sets the tone and style the series continues to provide for the next 93 episodes. It's dark with a great sense of humour. There is some nudity, swearing and even a little 4th wall breaking too - everything is just right and it all sets up Tales From The Crypt for the next 7 seasons.
Season 2: Lower Berth
For my second choice, I'm going with a tale that adds an interesting backstory.
Directed by Kevin Yagher. Enoch, The Two-Faced Man (Jeff Yagher) is an attraction in a freak show. Enoch falls in love with a 2000 year old mummy which eventually leads to the conception and birth of a very familiar face...
I get a lot of joy from this episode as its very tongue in cheek but also quite heart-warming/breaking at the same time. A bittersweet ending that our friend, the Cryptkeeper holds dear to his heart... if he has one.
Season 3: Yellow
Next choice is often said to be the best episode of the entire show... ever.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Set during World War I. Lieutenant Martin Kalthrob (Eric Douglas) starts to show his fear of death and wants out of the army. He goes to his father, General Kalthrob (Kirk Douglas) and asks to be discharged. His request is turned down but the General does say he will send his son to the rear lines to avoid the conflict if he first leads a patrol into German territory. Martin Kalthrob soon shows his yellow steak and gets his platoon killed. After discovering his own son's cowardice, General Kalthrob has no choice but to send his own flesh and blood to face a penalty of death by firing squad... or does he?
So many great things to say about this episode. The amazing cast featuring the likes of; Lance Henriksen, Dan Aykroyd and of course, real life father and son Kirk and Eric Douglas. There is some truly tremendous acting in this episode and the ending packs a hell of a punch too. As I said before, this is often cited as the best episode of the entire show - but here's something a little interesting... it's not actually a Tales From The Crypt episode, well not originally anyway.
You see, the producers of the show were enjoying the high ratings and critical praise the show as getting and so they set out to create a spin off show called; Two-Fisted Tales. They made 3 pilot episodes for this new spin off titled; 'Showdown', 'King of the Road' and 'Yellow'. Two-Fisted Tales was never picked up as a show and so the three episodes were given to HBO, Cryptkeeper intros were added and they became episodes for Tales From The Crypt instead.
Season 4: Strung Along
My fourth pick is a great example of what Tales From The Crypt does so well.
Directed by Kevin Yagher. An ageing and long forgotten children's TV star/puppeteer, Joseph Renfield (Donald O'Connor) is asked to take part in a tribute show and a chance to revive his old act. His overbearing wife, Ellen (Patricia Charbonneau) hires a young man, David (Zach Galligan) who is experienced in modern puppeteering techniques to help Joseph rekindle and renew his career. But his wife may have ulterior motives for asking David to help.
This one is a great tale full of intrigue and a few plot twists too, all topped off with an ending that will leave a wicked smile on your face.
Season 5: Two for the Show
Number 5 is a story of cat and mouse... and a dead wife.
Directed by Kevin Hooks. Andy Conway (David Paymer) murders his wife Emma (Traci Lords) after she tells him she is leaving him for someone else. Andy's neighbours call the police reporting they have heard screaming from Andy's apartment. Officer Fine (Vincent Spano) turns up to investigate but finds no evidence of any disturbance - so leaves. Andy decides to get rid of his wife's body by cutting it up, putting it in a trunk and taking it out of the city. He boards a train with his dead wife hidden away as luggage... only Officer Fine is on the same train for an undercover case he is working on. Coincidence?
This one is a great story and well written too. Not everything is as straight forward as it first seems and the ending is a little predicable... but still manages to surprise at the same time.
Season 6: The Assassin
A great tale with suspense, action and a hell of a twist ending.
Directed by Martin von Haselberg. Janet McKay (Shelley Hack) is a loyal and very house-proud housewife who says goodbye to her husband, Jeremy (Marshall R. Teague) as he sets off for work. Shortly afterwards while Janet is home alone - she is visited by 3 CIA agents (Chelsea Field, Jonathan Banks and Corey Feldman). The agents are looking for her husband, a suspected rouge agent gone AWOL who they are hired to kill. But it seems the CIA agents have the wrong house... or do they?
A really fun episode with a twist that is clever and unique. Not really as horror-centric as most of the episodes, but this one has a wicked sense of humour. Also be on the lookout for a great cameo in the Cryptkeeper introduction from William Sadler who reprises his Death character from Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.
Season 7: The Third Pig
A massive departure for Tales From The Crypt and the very last episode of the series.
Directed by Bill Kopp and Patrick A. Ventura. A modern and very twisted re-telling of the classic kids story, Three Little Pigs. The 3rd pig (Cam Clarke) is sent to stand trial for the murder of his two brothers who, of course, were actually killed by the wolf (Bobcat Goldthwait). Unfortunately, for the 3rd pig - the jury is made up completely of wolves and they find the pig guilty. To extract revenge, the 3rd pig makes himself a zombie Frankenpig to kill the wolf who killed his brothers.
The only episode in the entire series to not only be fully animated, but also the only one not based off a story from the original EC comics. To be honest, the 7th and final season is disappointing (but still good in its own right) as the budget was slashed and production was shifted to England to save cash. But this final episode is a complete riot. Try to imagine an episode of Tom & Jerry on cocaine and you'll only be about halfway there.
So there you have it kiddies, my choices of one episode of each season from Tales From The Crypt. I love this show and have just binged watched the entire 7 seasons, 93 episodes over the last 4 days just to select only 7. It was a tough list to compile as there are dozens and dozens of sublime episodes to select. I have only scratched the surface of what Tales From The Crypt has to offer. Yes I know I have not mentioned loads of classic and fondly remembered episodes (hey, that's what the comment section is for).
So are you looking forward to the reboot show coming later this year? I'm going to approach it as open-minded as I can. But for me, M. Night "seriously, who keeps hiring me and why?" Shyamalan and TNT are probably the two worst things that could happen to my beloved Cryptkeeper.
So then boils and ghouls, let me know in the comments what are some of your favourite Tales From The Crypt episodes as well as share you views on the upcoming reboot.