Tales From the Crypt’s visits to the carny have not been very successful for me. From Lower Berth to Dig that Cat, they just fall flat. Maybe that’s because carnivals have too much natural overlap with the cruel, campy narrative that a good episode should have. You can go over the top, but you can’t go over the big-top.
Or maybe I am uncharacteristically on the fence over the exploitation of people who are different. Say what you will about society’s treatment of the bearded lady, she ain’t laying on a couch collecting unemployment and becoming the fat lady. The market has spoken.
Under the opening credits, we get a great unbroken shot of a midget with a withered arm, a midget playing an accordion, a giant, a gorilla in a dress, coupla topless floozies, a clown, a strongman, a tattooed guy, more midgets, a bearded lady and finally ending up 2 minutes later on the very interesting pixie-haired noggin of
Carnie Connie (Joan Chen).
Zambini is yelling at Connie to let him into her mind for a little light reading. She can read his mind, but he wants to liven up the act. After frying up a flaming dinner and chowing down, Zambini tells her he wants some “desert, the kind that only Connie can give.” It is a little disconcerting that while she is hearing his lurid thought, his Gene Simmonsesque tongue is licking his plate. More disconcerting, he is salaciously licking the china while psychically broadcasting his desires — is this a subtle un-PC joke on the Chinese Ms. Chen? If so, I kind of have to say kudos. Anyhoo, he gets his wish and we see that she doubles as a sword-swallower.
In the next show, she demonstrates that she is genuinely psychic. She should be playing the bigger rooms; or at least the bigger tents. After the show she wants to hang out with the other acts, but Zambini orders her back to his wagon. Things get a little too melodramatic as the fire-eater stands up for her. She sneaks out to hook up with him, but her orgasmic thoughts are broadcast back to Zambini, who hears her thoughts for the first time.
We are treated to the Siamese Twins in the shower and see that they are joined at the breasts. Interesting, but frankly they took the trouble to cast sisters and talked them into getting naked. Mucking up their naughty bits with hokey make-up was not a good use of that resource; the hip would have been fine. However it is a nice bit as one of the midgets sneaks under the door. More kudos for the sound effect was he wipes his goggles clean (see, it really doesn’t take much to make me happy).
Connie has decided to escape with the fire-eater. Zambini psychically hears her plan. That night, he dowses the fire-eater with gasoline and lights him up. Connie sees the burnt body and runs back to the wagon to pack.
That night, Zambini gets boozed up and tries to psychically summon Connie back to the wagon. He hears, “I hear you, I’m coming.” Then he hears up on the rooftop, click click click . He sees movement through the skylight, then a body drops through the glass to the floor — it is the gorilla. It is the gorilla’s inside voice saying, “this is for you, Johnny Fire-eater.” In no time, he has the top of Zambini’s head off like Ray Liotta in Hannibal and is chowing down on brains.
It was the gorilla’s mind that Zambini had been reading. Johnny Fire-Eater had been nice to the gorilla, so she was jealous of Connie and fur-ious when Zambini killed him.
There is a great idea here, and the performers and sets are all pretty great. The direction and an overly melodramatic score, however, brutally undermine the episode. Even at about 20 minutes (excluding the Cryptkeeper, as I do) it drags despite its many assets.
-  What exactly was making that click click click noise? Is there an alternate ending where Herbie wants to be a tap-dancer?
- Title Analysis: It really only makes sense in the last few seconds of the episode, and even then it would be more on-target if reversed.
- I enjoyed seeing Kathryn Howell and Margaret Howell in the opening credits. I’ve never heard of them, but I deduced immediately that they would play Siamese Twins. It made me feel smart, like Sherlock Holmes. The game is a 3rd foot, Watson!
- Sadly unable to work in a Zamboni reference.