Starring John Kassir as the voice of The Crypt Keeper
Created by William H. Gaines
Distributed by Warner Home Video
The Fifties were a nutty time. One of the biggest mediums of entertainment back then was the comic book, and it has been going strong ever since. William H. Gaines (who later went on to create MAD Magazine) is a comic book pioneer. He asked three very important questions of the industry: What if comic books didn’t have to be filled with kiddie stories? What if they didn’t need super heroes or anything of the sort? What if gore drenched tales of murder, monsters, and mayhem could replace the usual squeaky clean subject matter? His answer came in the form of a slew of new comics geared toward the macabre side of life put out by his father’s then struggling comic company, EC. Soon you could find titles like The Haunt of Fear, Shock Suspense Stories, and of course Tales from the Crypt on every newsstand, and they were selling like hotcakes. A new day in the comic book industry had dawned, and it was painting the town blood red. Of course some government group had to step in and ruin everyone’s good time, but these stories have endured and are cited as big influences on many of today’s film-makers, a group of which got together to produce the hit HBO series Tales from the Crypt. These nerve-shattering short stories were poised to invade our minds once again, and the result was seven seasons of scars and scares. Which brings us to Warner Home Video’s release of Tales from the Crypt: Season Three on DVD.
Season Three was a bloody one indeed. Let’s look at a few of its highlights. In Carrion Death an escaped criminal is hunted through the desert by a relentless police officer on his way to Mexico. All the while a vulture is on both of their tails waiting for its next meal. This didn’t seem like much of a terror trip to me until its last act. Why do I mention this one? Because the last five minutes of this episode contained some of the most wince-inducing stuff I have ever seen put to film. It takes a lot to get me squirming. This one did it. Later we have Abra Cadaver, which plays like a really trippy cross between The Serpent and the Rainbow and Re-Animator. I’m a sucker for all things dead related so this fresh spin on the sub-genre was much appreciated by my blackened gore-filled heart. Speaking of death, the standout episode in Season Three has to be a splatter filled mini-epic titled Undertaking Pallor. In it a group of kids break into the local morgue only to find its proprietor is engaged in some deadly dirty dealings with the town pharmacist. Sporting some of the most gruesome effects and nauseating situations, this is without question the darkest entry of the series thus far. Things move along with great consistency until the very last episode, which falls really flat. Yellow is an episode that is extremely well made and has some big-gun stars in it. The trouble lies in the fact that it is barely a horror tale and focuses more on the failed relationship between a father and his son during World War I. This story is no more a horror film than Apocalypse Now and stops all the ghoulish fun right in its proverbial tracks. That’s okay though; we still have Season Four to look forward to.
What made Tales from the Crypt such a unique series was its no holds barred approach to storytelling. These stories were originally written with the intent to shock, disgust, and revolt its readers. The TV show does all that with style. How I wish it were still on the air and in its fifteenth season. Tales also served as a vehicle for Hollywood’s stars to get their grave on. Half the fun of watching Tales is seeing who will either be starring or even directing an episode or two. Season Three is no exception as some of the industry’s top talent show up for some bloodletting. Michael J. Fox, Walter Hill, Robert Zemeckis, Steven de Souza, Todd Holland, and Tobe Hooper all make some devilish directorial efforts while talent like Andrew McCarthy, Mariel Hemingway, Teri Garr, Jon Lovitz, John Astin, Kirk Douglas, Tim Roth, George Wendt, and even Whoopi Goldberg light up the small screen with big time chills. However, even with all of that talent there is only one true star of this show, and that is John Kassir as The Crypt Keeper. Kassir has an unmistakeable voice and truly brings life to his puppet alter ego. No one else could ever do it better, and in Season Three Kassir’s clearly at the top of his game.
On the DVD features side of things we seem to get just enough from Warner Home Video. Most of the back stories of Tales from the Crypt were included on the Season One DVD so to be honest, unless they start shooting new stuff, there’s not much more ground to cover. What is included does suffice though. First up we get a truly ludicrous and hokey music video that has The Crypt Keeper rapping titled (hold the vomiting please) Crypt Jam. Watch this if only to indulge yourself in the blissful humor of seeing old Crypty showing up dressed as if he just walked out of an N.W.A. video. There’s no way not to laugh at this. Also included is a look back at Season Three by the show’s creators and stars and an unedited version of the Tales from the Crypt reunion panel discussion from the San Diego Comic-Con. Not bad, but not great. It’ll be interesting to see what Warner pulls out of its extras hat for the release of the next four seasons, if anything at all.
In short, yeah the extras are a bit on the tame side, but don’t let that dissuade you from making this purchase. It’s worth it just to own the shows. Even if this were a bare bones release, I’d still be quite happy. Tales from the Crypt is a series that pushes the envelope and radiates energy. As a horror fan you just can’t help but have fun, and as such every episode of this series should be sitting proudly on display in your DVD library.
Fourteen episodes on three discs
A Tall Tales Panel – series creators and admirers discuss the show in a Crypt seminar featurette
A Tales From the Crypt Reunion unedited panel discussion featurette
Crypt Jam music video
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