Tales From the Crypt – Well Cooked Hams (11/03/93)

tftchams1Billy Zane is a magician doing something and his hat catches fire.

If I seem less than thrilled, you are indeed perceptive — maybe it is external influences. There actually are several things to like here. Maybe I’ll just dwell on these rather than unfairly criticizing the episode.

Billy Zane is actually pretty good as the incompetent magician Miles Federman.

His assistant Maryam d’Abo is absolutely beautiful although given too little to do and saddled with a terrible accent — oops sorry, trying to stay positive here.  Her twin blonde replacements are pretty snappy numbers also.

tftchams2The real episode-maker, though, is Martin Sheen playing a role unlike any I’ve ever seen him portray (i.e. not indistinguishable from actor Martin Sheen).  Sheen is unrecognizable as Kraygen — literally, as I did not recognize him (although I finally placed the voice).

The sets are interesting, and the score is fine.  I really don’t know why I was so uninvolved in the episode.

Post-Post:

  • Title Analysis: Not quite as pathetic as People Who Live in Brass Hearses.  At least half of this one makes sense.
  • Andrew Kevin Walker went on to write Se7en.  So, I’m not about to fault him for my ennui.

 

Tales From the Crypt – House of Horror (10/27/93)

tftchorrorhouse01I don’t really get the whole fraternity concept.  But then I’m not much of a joiner; also not much of a being-asked-to-joiner.  The episode starts off with almost-naked Wesley Crusher in just his tightie-whities scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush.

For anyone thinking of doing their own blog, let me offer this advice:  If you are viewing this episode at Panera Bread, sit with your screen facing a wall [1].  I also have to think Subway would be a little sensitive to this scene also after recent events.

We open at the frat house, populated as always on-screen by drunk bullies reading naughty magazines.  Kevin Dillon enters swinging a pledge-paddle — another tradition I don’t get.  Wesley, kneeling, addresses him as “Grand and Glorious Pledge-Master Wilton, Sir.”  Dillon helpfully points out the dog poop that he has just tracked in.  Before Wesley can get to work, Dillon tells him to kiss the bottom of his shoe.  The last pledge who refused was hazed to the point of having a nervous breakdown.

Polynesian Night?  What the hell kind of cultural appropriation is that?  Trigger warning!

Mona from Delta Omega Alpha drops by offering her new chapter to be a sister to the frat; although a sister you could totally do it with. She invites them over for dinner just to assure them it isn’t a “doghouse.”  That night, Wesley and 2 other pledges are blindfolded and taken to a haunted house.

Then some stuff happens, and the episode ends.  Its all perfectly fine and perfectly predictable.  The fake haunted house is really haunted.  Well, not exactly haunted, but there will be blood. The ending is a non-sequitur, not the ironic twist you hope for in a good TFTC.

The high point is Kevin Dillon who is excellent, really getting into the campy spirit of the series.  The rest of the cast covers the talent spectrum, but there are some brutal line-readings here.

I rate it a 1.5 out of π.

tftchorrorhouse04Post-Post:

  • [1] More Panera advice: try the Mediterranean Egg-White Breakfast Sandwich.  Holy crap!
  • Title Analysis:  I give it a pass assuming they were going for a “frat house of horror” reference.  But no great shakes.
  • Seems like a campy show like TFTC would have done more with the selection of the frat’s Greek letters.
  • But then, it took me a week to get Delta Omega Alpha’s acronym, so maybe I’m missing it.
  • There actually is a Gamma Delta Omega fraternity.
  • Based on 30 seconds of thinking back many years, it seems like some Greek letters are heavily favored over others.  I can understand not wanting to be identified as an Iota, but where are all the Mus, Rhos, Upsilons and Omicrons? Everybody can’t be an Alpha.  Just me, baby.
  • OK, Mu might be just asking for trouble for a sorority.

Tales From the Crypt – Two for the Show (10/20/93)

tftctwofor03Beautiful trophy wife Traci Lords is picking at her food — good thing, too: broccoli, potatoes and rice — the carbs, my God, the carbs!  She is bored to death listening to her much older husband talking about some business affairs.  I think we can all agree, we’d rather hear Traci talk about her old business affairs.

Finally, Traci tells her husband Andy that she is leaving him; not only that, she was having an affair.  He does not take it well, and after a struggle Andy stabs her. A neighbor calls the police after hearing screams from their condo — unusual because her husband is at home this time.  One of the cops hanging around the station after his shift ended volunteers to respond.

He shows up as Andy is stuffing Traci in a trunk.  There is a great scene as the officer searches the condo.  Traci is dead in the tub, covered by water and Mr. Bubble, but her face is exposed through a gap in the suds.  Andy block’s the officer’s view and brushes more bubbles over her face.  Suspenseful and visually interesting.  Kudos.

tftctwofor05After getting rid of the cop, Andy begins hacking Traci into more manageable pieces.  We see him pulling bloody arms and legs out of the tub.  Finally he pulls out a severed Traci-head with her mouth agape.  Actually, she could probably sell a latex model online and make some serious coin.

He loads up a suitcase and takes her to the train station.  He tells the baggage clerk he wants to check the bag through to Chicago.  Inexplicably, the clerk hands him a baggage tag marked CRP — Corpus Christi.  I’d really like to think this was a sly corpus joke.  However, in my heart, I suspect it was just a mistake.

As luck would have it, the officer is at the train station about to leave on vacation.  Andy can’t just dump the bag with a phony name and go home.  He must get on the train — again, as luck would have it, in a seat right across from the officer.

tftctwofor11Andy tries to get away by going to the dining car.  The officer follows him and says that he is working on a case that will require every bag on the train to be searched.  Andy goes to the luggage car, switches tags with another bag and tosses Traci’s Samsonite coffin off the train.

Naturally the officer was lying about investigating a case, and suspected Andy of murder the whole time. Once things begin to unfold, the episode really stunned me.  There were some fun switches, and the score — iffy up to this point — really kicked in and heightened the suspense.

Sadly, Traci Lords is killed off very early in the episode — I think the Cryptkeeper got more airtime.  It wasn’t a likable role, but I always enjoy seeing her. David Paymer and Vincent Spano were also great as Andy and the cop.  The episode’s tone was a little spotty in the beginning, but then it just soared, easily redeeming the whole thing.  The ending does fall apart if you think about it for 2 seconds, but it doesn’t even matter.

I give it 1.8 for the show.

Post-Post:

  • Traci Lords is always awesome; I saw her at a show in Dallas, and she was awesome off the screen too.  She doesn’t seem to work much — I don’t know if it is by choice or if Hollywood is really that stupid.
  • Title Analysis: 2nd consecutive episode to have a pathetic title.  I would create a “pathetic” tag, but I already have one called Ray Bradbury Theater.  I am baffled by “Two for the Show.”  I get the reference, but what two?  What show?  I would have even settled for the not-entirely-accurate homage, “Stranglers on a Train.”

Tales from the Crypt – People Who Live in Brass Hearses (10/13/93)

tftcpeoplewho01How the hell is this thing rated as the 10th best episode of the series on IMDb?

In retrospect, I jumped the gun.  The episode did get off to an abysmal start. First, there is the presence of the worst actor ever to make a good living at it, Bill Paxton. He is about as obnoxious as usual without the redeeming qualities that occasionally make him interesting.  Add in a wife-beater, a mullet and some god-awful tattoos and he nearly crashes the episode on take-off.  Luckily, Brad Dourif is on hand to take the controls and add some gravitas to the acting.

However, the episode quickly establishes itself as being exactly what TFTC does best, and should do more often.  It had laughs, gore, surprises, and some over-the-top scenes. The only minor non-Paxtoncentric criticism — nay, observation — is that they have featured Siamese twins in two, dare I say, back-to-back episodes.

Paxton — and does it really matter what his character is named? — has just gotten out of jail.  He lives with his brother Virgil who is clearly meant to be “slow.”  However, Virgil is at least reading a comic book (Jesse James vs. Predator), while Paxton is pacing like an animal, slapping the staticky TV, and snacking on a stick of butter.  Kudos on the butter thing, though — that was the first sign of life that turned this episode around for me.

tftcpeoplewho02Paxton reviews their plan for the great ice cream warehouse heist.  He blows up at Virgil who forgets that he must disengage the fire alarm before unlocking the door.  To be fair, though, fire doesn’t generally care whether a door is locked or not.  Maybe disengaging the burglar alarm would be more productive.

Paxton and Virgil take their Impala out to meet the local ice cream truck.  Paxton is upset that the driver Mr. Byrd ratted him out from stealing money from his own ice cream truck route, and cost him 2 years in prison.  I’m not sure what this scene accomplishes other than introducing Mr. Byrd, and giving Paxton a chance to attempt to order butternut, butter brickle, and buttermilk before settling on butterscotch.  For some reason, this butter humor is killing me.

Paxton goes to the ice cream warehouse where Virgil works.  There is some wheel-spinning while we meet the manager, and hear Mr. Byrd trying to get his truck resupplied.  It is worth the wait, though, to see how Virgil screws up his assignment.  When you’re in a gang with Bill Paxton and you aren’t the brains of the operation, that is a bad sign.

tftcpeoplewho03The episode is only about 20 minutes once you skip the odious Cryptkeeper.  They were wise not to pad it out, as there is surprise after surprise from here on out.   Sometimes it is a dead body, sometimes it is a grappling hook, sometimes a gunshot.  It just goes down like butter.

This is too rich to spoil — I rate it 3 scoops.

Post-Post:

  • Title Analysis:  Pathetic — no brass and and no hearses are to be seen in the episode.  C’mon, with a story built around an I-scream truck, you couldn’t come up with anything?
  • “Impala is a kind of horse, right Billy?”

Tales From the Crypt – Food for Thought (10/06/93)

tftcfoodthought12Tales 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).

tftcfoodthought04Zambini 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.

tftcfoodthought14We 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 [1].  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.

tftcfoodthought19It 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.

Post-Post:

  • [1] 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.