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Tales From the Crypt Season 2

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Actors: John Kassir, Miguel Ferrer, Teri Hatcher, Kyle Secor, Laird Macintosh / Directors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charlie Picerni, Chris Walas, David Burton Morris, Fred Dekker / Number of discs: 3 / Classification: 18 / Studio: Warner Home Video / DVD Release Date: 25 Oct 2005 / Run Time: 486 minutes

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      20.05.2013 19:19
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      An excellent second year for the cult series

      Good evening, boils and ghouls. Tonight's, er, Monsterpiece Theatre is season two of Tales from the Crypt. Tales from the Crypt was a cult horror anthology television series based on the infamous and influential (everyone from Stephen King to George Romero grew up loving them) fifties EC horror and suspense comics published by William Gaines. The enjoyably lurid and colourful comics (which were rather gruesome and risque - although tongue-in-cheek and with their own twisted sense of morality) offered all manner of deaths, monsters, zombies, murders, ghosts, and general macabre mayhem stirred by greed, lust and envy until parents began to notice what their children were reading and the comics were banned - even becoming the subject of Congressional subcommittee hearings. The television series became something of a phenomenon after its debut in 1989 and ran for seven seasons until 1996. Why did it work so well? A number of reasons. The series had very solid foundations right from the start with Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis as executive producers and was consequently able to attract some notable directors and actors. It was also a HBO cable show and so didn't have to worry about censorship. There is of course our recurring host for each episode too (he performs the Rod Serling framing function if you will) - the "Crypt Keeper", a very cheeky (I always think there is a bit of John Lydon in the Crypt Keeper) animatronic puppet who looks like a zombie and makes all manner of deliberately terrible puns ("It was so hack-citing, I actually got scared for a moment - I thought my heart had started...") as he introduces the story we are about to see. The Crypt Keeper works because he's such a likeable character. I think great credit must go to the puppeteers and John Kassir (who supplied the voice) for giving him so much personality.

      Finally, there is the simple fact that this series is an awful lot of fun and the production values are high. Very glossy comic book come to life with some scenery chewing performances. Usually with anthology shows you have to endure your fair share of duds to get to the great episodes but very rarely do you encounter a dull Tales from the Crypt episode. All are only about twenty-five minutes long and so never threaten to outstay their welcome. I think when you look on the series as a whole it only really begins to creak somewhat in the last season when for reasons of finance production was moved from the United States to Britain and every story seemed to revolve around a country mansion with an all British cast. It just wasn't the same. I think we did the anthology horror film better (Dead of Night, Dr Terror's House of Horrors, From Beyond the Grave etc) but EC comics are very pulpy and American. The great pity about the first two seasons on DVD is that - for reasons best known to the studio - the intro is absent. A swooping camera glides through the grounds of a fog shrouded ruined mansion, crackles of lightning flickering in the gloom. We enter the mansion and descend below where the Crypt Keeper awakes in his coffin, all of this playing out to Danny Elfman's jaunty Tales from the Crypt theme. A shame it doesn't appear on the DVD releases until season three. There are eighteen episodes in season two and as season one was a tentative toe dipping exercise consisting of just six stories this is for all intents and purposes the first bona fide long player series of this enjoyable show.

      "Tonight's tale is a sickening stab at suspense, about a gold digger who wanted big bucks to buy baubles and bangles. Look out, Cathy! I see you might just buy the big one!" Dead Right was written by Andy Wolk and directed by Howard Deutch. Deutch was a protege of John Hughes and directed Pretty in Pink, but I digress etc. Dead Right revolves around Cathy (Demi Moore), a bored and rather mean and shallow scheming secretary who yearns to make some big money and escape from the humdrum world of low wage work. Cathy visits fortune teller Madame Vorna (Natalia Nogulich) during her lunch break and is told by the psychic she will be fired that afternoon but still find a brand new job before the day ends. She laughs this off as nonsense but when she is promptly fired that afternoon by her miserable boss Clayton (Earl Boen) and then immediately offered a new position by nightclub owner Al (Troy Evans), Cathy presumes that Madam Vorna must be genuine and returns to hear more. This time Madam Vorna tells her she will marry a very overweight man who will inherit a vast amount of money and then die a few days later. Turns out that Cathy has an admirer at the nightclub - a repulsive and obese man named Charlie (Jeffrey Tambor). Charlie is so large "he probably has his own zip code" and his personal hygiene leaves a lot to be desired but surely Cathy can put up with him for a few days if it means inheriting a fortune? A few months later Cathy is still married to Charlie but with no sign of either his death or a fortune. Was Madame Vorna wrong? This is a really solid start to season two and builds to an enjoyably dark twist that you may or may not see coming. The story is set in the 1950s and the period atmosphere is excellent. So many familiar faces too. Demi Moore is wonderfully sarcastic as the gold digging Cathy, her scenes with Tambor's dreadful Charlie darkly comic. Look out for the bit where she vomits when she has to kiss him. Tambor is a great actor (I think his finest hour was Larry Sanders) and although his make-up and the fatsuit he wears is rather grotesque he somehow manages to make Charlie sympathetic. There's Earl Boen from the first two Terminator films and Troy Evans from ER and Natalia Nogulich steals every scene she's in as Madam Vorna. Not my favourite episode in this collection but still a very entertaining beginning to the second year.

      "Tonight's story is about an old man who finds a new wrinkle in the fountain of youth. A twisted tale that we call The Switch." The Switch was written by Michael Taav and directed by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Carlton Webster (William Hickey) is an elderly man besotted with the much younger Linda (Kelly Preston). In order to test her true feelings about him, he keeps his wealth a secret and proposes marriage. Linda declines his offer of marriage and says she could only marry him if he had a much younger face. Not to be denied, Carlton visits the eccentric Dr Thorne (J Patrick McNamara) for a most unusual and expensive medical procedure. Dr Thorne says that he can transform Carlton by swapping his body parts for those of his handsome young assistant Hans (Rick Rossovich). They start with swapping faces but when Linda grumbles that his body is still old, Carlton has to keep returning to the mad doctor to swap more and more body parts with Hans, all at great financial cost of course. Will his transformation finally win the heart of Linda? The Switch reminded me very much of a Twilight Zone story by Rod Serling called The Trade-Ins. That was set in a future world where old people could undergo an expensive procedure to alter their body and appearance and become young again. Serling was rather ahead of his time I think because he wrote more than a few Twilight Zones that predicted a future world rife with vanity and grotesque plastic surgery where people are obsessed with trying to hold back the sands of time - even if it means they lose who they really are. The Switch is rather lightweight in comparison and like many Tales from the Crypt episodes played for laughs but it's entertaining all the same. William Hickey gives a touching performance as our lovestruck geriatric and I loved J Patrick McNamara as the anachronistic underground doctor. It's fun that in the Tales from the Crypt universe you can always rely on a dodgy doctor in some gothic laboratory if you need bizarre medical surgery. The moral is a simple one about remaining true to yourself rather than trying to be anyone else and even though I saw the ending coming I still had a good time. Arnie doesn't appear in this as an actor (even though the part of Hans seems tailor made) but he does have an amusing cameo at the start, making the Crypt Keeper pump some iron. "What's the matter with you? You want to keep that 90 pound corpse for the rest of your death?"

      "You know kiddies after a night of slithering through the sickening slime of my crawly crypt, I take a little tip from the Marquis De Sade. He likes to unwind with a little red hot poker. Tonight's tale from my collection of terror tomes is about a couple of real sharpies who'll do anything for a stab at the jackpot. So ante up fellas. The game's about to begin!" The next episode is called Cutting Cards. This was written and directed by Walter (48 Hours) Hill and is a lot of fun. Compulsive and arrogant gambler Reno Crevice (Lance Henriksen) rolls back into town after a year away and - as ever - heads straight to the casino. He is not too happy though to see that an old foe is present - an equally arrogant and compulsive gambler named Sam Forney (Kevin Tighe). The ever bickering pair have a long and very competitive history and agree to a "loser leaves town" wager before blustering straight back into their old rivalry as if no time had passed at all. They start with Russian Roulette but soon move onto "Chop Poker" as the stakes are upped. What is Chop Poker? Well, if you lose a round of cards you have to have a finger chopped off! These two just don't know when to back down though so this contest could get rather gruesome in the end. This is a terrific episode. Love the neon hazed direction by Walter Hill and the jazz score by James Horner. And the two leads are on top form. The always great Lance Henriksen plays Reno like a swaggering cowboy caricature and Kevin Tighe (you'll recognise the face, he was John Locke's menacing dad in Lost) makes a suitably determined and cocky adversary. The two actors hold nothing back as this preposterous rivalry is played out to the hilt over the gaming tables and beyond. This episodes really encapsulates the spirit of Tales from the Crypt. Very over the top and macabre but all done with black humour. The final payoff image is great. Cutting Cards is an amusing meditation on macho bravado and well worth watching for the actors alone. Definitely one of the more memorable stories in season two.

      "Ah, welcome to my cozy crypt. Have I got a story for you. A tacky tropical tale of love and lust, greed and ghouls, and my personal favorite: death. But I'm warning you, it's not a pretty picture. So, pack up your passport, and prepare for this horror tale of putrification in paradise. I'm sure you'll find it... a-peeling..." Til Death was written by Jeri Barchilon and directed by Chris Walas. This marks the first entry of voodoo (such a staple of these old anthology shows and films) capers into season two. Logan Andrews (DW Moffett) is a crafty businessman on a Caribbean island who is having some severe cash flow problems. He decides that what he really needs to do to solve his problems is marry a very rich woman and he targets snooty British widow Margaret Richardson (Pamela Gien) to achieve his ends. But Margaret is completely uninterested in Logan and his advances so he resorts to voodoo and is given a love potion by local voodoo priestess Psyche (Jane Hubert). "Use one drop to marry her, and a second to make her yours for the rest of her life." Will all go according to plan? Somehow, given that this is Tales from the Crypt, I think there may be one or two unexpected developments for Logan before the Crypt Keeper wraps this twisted tale up. This episode is a bit obvious but turns out to be very arresting in the end. Reminds me very much of George Romero's Creepshow anthology film (which was of course based on EC comics too) in spirit. Chris Walas is best known as a special effects guru and isn't exactly Stanley Kubrick behind the camera but the payoff here is enjoyably ironic and gross in that trademark over the top macabre/funny Tales from the Crypt fashion. The make-up effects in particular are excellent and that final reel is truly like an EC comic that has sprung to life. This episode has (to me at any rate) no famous faces in the cast but I thought Pamela Gien in particular was game here throughout and does well as the haughty Margaret.

      "Hello, party animals. Are you ready to bop 'til you drop? Dead, that is. Tonight I've chosen chosen a fiendish little tale from my hold of moldy oldies. We've been invited to an anniversary celebration of holy deadlock. You know to love and to perish, for richer, for horror, in sickness, and in stealth, 'til death do us part. This is one anniversary the husband will never forget." Three's a Crowd was written by Kim Steven Ketelsen and directed by David Burton Morris. This is a most unusual Tales from the Crypt episode based around domestic turmoil and jealousy rather than horror but rather disturbing all the same for the more realistic backdrop. I can see though how some viewers might find this one a bit slow and atypical alongside the broader and more immediate pleasures this anthology bauble from yesteryear frequently serves up. This story revolves around married couple Richard (Gavan O'Herlihy) and Della (Ruth de Sosa), about to celebrate their tenth anniversary. The couple have been treated to a country log cabin holiday by wealthy friend Alan (Paul Lieber) but Richard becomes increasingly paranoid about Alan and starts to suspect that his wife is having an affair with him. This is an interesting episode with a noir atmosphere courtesy of music by Jan (Miami Vice) Hammer. What elevates it above the ordinary and makes it lodge in the memory more than it might otherwise have done is the central performance of Gavan O'Herlihy and the twist ending. You'll recognise O'Herlihy (he was in everything from Superman III to Never Say Never Again) and he's terrific as the tightly bound and increasingly angry and suspicious Richard. The story steadily builds to a point where you just know he's going to snap at any moment. The twist is one of the darkest in the entire series and will certainly be one you remember afterwards. Three's a Crowd is an unusual entry in the season two and maybe not one you'd return to in the same way you will the tongue-in-cheek fun episodes but it is worth your time.

      "Oops. Looks like you caught the old Crypt Keeper checking out one of his ghoulie magazines. Which gives you a little hint about tonight's dead time story. It's all about the way some men just die over a pretty girl. But don't worry kiddies. If it starts to reek a little of rotted romance, I think the title of our nasty narrative makes no bones about where it's heart is really at. I call it The Thing From the Grave." The Thing From the Grave was written and directed by Fred Dekker. Dekker seemed to be destined for great things after The Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps but the deeply troubled Robocop 3 blotted his copybook so badly it essentially ended his directing career and he ended up as a television writer. A shame really. This is a much more standard Tales From the Crypt episode than the previous one and a bit obvious but fun all the same. Mitch Bruckner (Miguel Ferrer) is an abusive and violent man who is very controlling of his beautiful fashion model fiancee Stacy (played by a very young Teri Hatcher). Bruckner becomes convinced that Stacy is having a secret affair with photographer Devlin Cates (Kyle Secor) and he's right to be suspicious. Devlin is kind and decent, everything that Bruckner isn't, and Stacy has been seeing him behind her financee's back. At a secret meeting, Devlin gives Stacy a necklace that he claims has mystic powers and will keep any promise that is made. He promises that he will always protect Stacy. The problem? Bruckner has Devlin killed and buries his body in the woods before setting off to kidnap Stacy. Can Devlin still keep his promise to protect Stacy despite being dead? As this is Tales From the Crypt I think you might possibly be able to guess the answer. This is not a vintage episode but it is entertaining as far as it goes. Miguel Ferrer (best known as the yuppie sleazeball from Robocop) essays another villain in fine fashion and the make-up effects and spooky woodland locations add to the off-kilter ambiance. Teri Hatcher was not much of an actress in her early days on the evidence of this but is certainly believable as a fashion model in various skimpy outfits. This is just a good solid standard Tales From the Crypt entry with the recurruring swirling themes of lust, jealously, nastiness and horrible people getting their comeuppance.

      "Eye of newt, bladder of cobra, and whisker of a rat. Oh, hi, kiddies. I was just rustling up a sickening snack for a ghastly guest. Let's see... I need the blood of a sacrificed goat. Whoops. It's got to be a virgin goat. Guess you're off the hook, Nelly. Tonight's story is about a different kind of sacrifice. A sacrifice made for love." The Sacrifice was written by Ross Thomas and directed by Richard Greenburg. This is a very film noir episode and probably not one of the best offerings in this second season collection. Insurance huckster James (Kevin Kilner) becomes romantically involved with the attractive Gloria Fleming (Kim Delaney) through some business with the Fleming family and together they come up with a scheme to murder her rich tycoon husband Sebastian (Don Hood) and then live happily ever after with his money. They think they've got away with it but an old flame of Gloria named Jerry (Michael Ironside) suddenly turns up claiming he has photographic evidence of this brazen murder. Once again Tales from the Crypt mines the themes of lust, jealously and greed but this time in more restrained fashion than usual. This would make a decent Night Gallery story but seems a little run of the mill for Tales from the Crypt (the Tales from the Crypt stock in trade is of course being completely over the top). Kim Delaney is a bit dull and not the greatest femme fatale but I enjoyed the performance by Don Hood and Michael Ironside is of course great in anything. His line in cold calm menace is deployed to good effect here. The story was mildly interesting but I think without Ironside this would have been hard work and so I can't really place it amongst the better entries in the second year.

      "Tonight's little riff is ripe with sex, death and rock & roll. Now that's entertainment! You'll meet a putrified promoter of pop with an ear for a hit. I don't want to kill it for you. Let's just say we come into the story just when his career is getting real... hot." Cryin' Out Loud was written and directed by Jeffrey Price. This is a fun episode. This one begins with a man about to be executed but the twist is that he absolutely can't wait for his life to end. We then go back to the start of this latest offering from season two to see how he arrived at this unusual state of affairs. The moral of this story? Always listen to your conscience. Wealthy and famous nightclub owner and concert promoter Marty Slash (Lee Arenberg) has stolen a million dollars from a benefit show but now his conscience (voiced by the late alternative comedian Sam Kinison) is starting to speak to him in his head, trying to badger him into a confession. Marty tries to ignore the voice but it becomes more and more nagging and obstreperous - to the point where Marty's sanity begins to come under severe threat. This episode plays out in Marty's volume heavy nightclub and is powered by an entertainingly manic performance by Lee Arenberg as our increasingly frazzled embezzler. Marty becomes increasingly bonkers as the voice of his conscience drives him ever crazier. He rams Q-tips in his ears, screams, shouts, and even resorts to murder when his banker Mrs Kilbasser (Katey Segal) tries to blackmail him out of some the money he stole. Plenty of shenanigans with him trying to hide the body. Not a classic but this is a fast paced entertaining completely over the top story with a neat twist at the end. Look out for a cameo by Iggy Pop performing in the nightclub.

      "She loves me. She loves me not. She loves me. She loves me not. Blah! What do flowers know about love, anyway? Well, hello there. Just getting in the mood for tonight's tawdry tale: a story of love and lurid lust in the dust. Sure to arouse the sickies amongst you to some heavy breathing. A tale I call Four-Sided Triangle." Four-Sided Triangle was written and directed by Tom Holland. This is a rather bizarre episode but it's very strong on atmosphere and has more than enough weirdness and twist in the tale Cryptness (that's a shorthand term I've just invented) to be one of the more memorable stories in this collection. It's the sun baked deep south of the United States somewhere or other and pretty farm girl Mary Jo (Patricia Arquette) is treated like a slave and prisoner by the mean spirited married owners George (Chelcie Ross) and Luisa (Susan Blommaert). The lecherous George is becoming more and more obsessed by Mary Jo and the fact that it's always incredibly hot and she wears very few clothes isn't helping. The sullen Luisa is suspicious of her husband but George is constantly rebuffed by Mary Jo because she says that she's in love with the scarecrow out in the cornfield! Hmmn. Stay tuned to see what happens next. I really liked this one. Tom (Fright Night) Holland displays a decent amount of flair and invention behind the camera and the sultry stifling countryside atmosphere makes this stand out from the more familiar city based comic book episodes. The cast are good too and the twist is excellent. If you've ever wanted to see, er, Patricia Arquette seducing a scarecrow then Four-Sided Triangle is the place to go. You should definitely stick to the end with this one because it does become more compelling as it goes along.

      "Now I can dole out a diseased little ditty about the schizo-frantic nature of show biz and how to hack your way to the top. So, grab hold of your guts, kiddies, cause tonight you get to rub elbows with The Ventriloquist's Dummy." The Ventriloquist's Dummy was written by Frank Darabont and directed by Richard Donner. You expect a classic episode with that pairing but this is maybe not one of the most memorable episodes. Ventriloquism has been a recurring staple of anthology fantasy/horror since the Ealing compendium classic Dead of Night. The Twilight Zone in particular did a couple of spooky episodes in this well mined genre but The Ventriloquist's Dummy is not as good as you want it to be. The premise is quite promising and carries the story for a while before it becomes a bit repetitive towards the end with a twist that you'll probably predict before it arrives. Billy (Bob Goldthwait) is an aspiring ventriloquist with only one problem - he's rubbish. He decides to seek out his hero, a retired and reclusive ventriloquist named Mr Ingles (Don Rickles), for some advice and inspiration. Many years ago a strange accident ended Mr Ingles career and he now lives in a remote cabin. Will Billy manage to get any motivation from his grumpy hero and what is the big secret that Mr Ingles is hiding? This is certainly watchable but the direction is nothing special (strange given that Richard "Superman" Donner is behind the camera) and you don't really get the darkly comic twist in the tale. There is a twist but it's unveiled a bit earlier than usual. I quite like stories set in and around a certain low-rent strata of showbusiness and the scenes involving Billy's nightclub act are reasonably well done. Bob Goldthwait (best known for the Police Academy films I suppose) tones down his usual screechy voiced madman act somewhat here and gives a decent performance with some sense of pathos. Don Rickles, a veteran American comic who isn't really known outside of his native country, also gives a perfectly fine performance as the mysterious Mr Ingles. I found this fairly entertaining but on the whole you'd probably expect a bit more from Darabont and Donner.

      "Oh, hello there, fright fans. I've just been sitting here waiting for my blood pack to harden. My cosmotologist said I was starting to look a little lifeless. Which reminds me, tonight's poison parable is about a couple who take their appearance very seriously. Needless to say, they're going to end up trying to save face. I call this one Judy, You're Not Yourself Today." Judy, You're Not Yourself Today was written by Scott Nimerfro and directed by Randa Haines. This is not really one of the best episodes in series two and deploys the old body swap plot device so beloved of comedy films. This is played very broad (even for Tales from the Crypt) and never really grips or entertains the viewer in the way that the better Tales from the Crypt stories do. The premise has housewife Judy (Carol Kane) answering the door to an elderly cosmetics saleswoman (played by Frances Bay) who is really a witch. The witch has a necklace which if worn by another person enables her to swap bodies with them. So the witch uses this necklace to steal Judy's body and promptly sets off for the train station. But Judy's gun nut husband Donald (Brian Kerwin) sets off in hot pursuit when he finds out what has happened. Will Judy get her body back in the end? This is played as a farce with some horror elements thrown in later but it's never that memorable. It's ok for what it is but it can never quite get around the fact that the story here is not the most original or exciting. It seems to be a satire on gun owners more than anything.

      "There you are, sports fiends. You know, dead people like me make excellent point guards. When we can't get off a shot, we simply pass... away, that is! Speaking of which, allow me to be your fear leader for tonight's halftime show. It's a putrid playlet about my personal favorite sport: being a mortician. I fittingly call it, Fitting Punishment." Fitting Punishment is next and a very dark and watchable episode set in - appropriately enough for this series - a funeral home. When young Bobby (Jon Clair) becomes an orphan because of an accident to his mother he has to go and live with his miserable penny pinching mean spirited Uncle Ezra (Moses Gunn). Ezra is the local funeral home director and an altogether horrible person. He treats the dead with an appalling lack of respect (even wrenching out any gold teeth he finds and cutting their feet off so he can put them in smaller coffins!) and his attitude towards his nephew isn't much better. Bobby makes it known he doesn't approve of the way Ezra runs the funeral home but he's beaten for his trouble and left with a bad injury. Ezra starts to consider doing away with his do-gooder nephew permanently but this being Tales from the Crypt - a place where nasty people tend to get a well deserved grisly comeuppance for their horrible deeds - he might be wise to tread carefully. I enjoyed this one a lot. The funeral home setting works well and gives this a gothic atmosphere and Moses Gunn is great as the awful Ezra, purely one of the most loathsome villains in the series. His use of Bible quotes (which he often gets wrong) to justify his actions make him all the more creepy I think and you really feel for young Bobby and want Ezra to get his just deserts in the end. This is directed with some style and it's also quite funny at times. "He's dead, you damn fool. He doesn't know the difference," snaps Ezra when Bobby points out they should be using chemicals rather than water to embalm new arrivals!

      "Hi there fright fiends. How do you like my rancid rendering, not bad for an amateur. Hopefully it will give you an inkling of what tonight's fungusy photoplay is about because long before my eerie offerings appeared on your silver screen, they were a magazine called, get a load of this, Tales From the Crypt. So tonight, let's take a behind the screams look at a struggling artist named Jim Korman who one day got a little too drawn into his work." Korman's Kalamity was written by Terry Black and directed by Rowdy Herrington. This is not an episode I could get into much to be honest and it plays like one of those slightly tiresome Tales from the Darkside comedy stories. Korman's Kalamity is set in the offices of the Tales from the Crypt comic and revolves around Jim Korman (Harry Anderson). Jim is struggling to come up with good ideas and also constantly henpecked and humiliated by his brassy wife Mildred (Colleen Camp). When Jim vents all of his pent up emotion and frustration onto the page by drawing his wife as a big green monster, said monster starts appearing in the city in real life. That's about it really as far the story goes. I found the early scenes set in the office of the comic a trifle dull and wearisome and so struggled to stay the course thereafter. Not much horror or gore here aside from a murder by the monster and this always felt a bit too broad and self-indulgent for me to really enjoy. The likeable Cynthia Gibb also features as a police officer who becomes a romantic interest for Jim but there isn't too much really to dwell on in Korman's Kalamity.

      "Crypt Keeper here kiddies and speaking of kiddies, tonight's sickening saga should be subtitled a Tale from the Crib. Yes, dear fans I've got a real nursery crime for you this time. It's all about the humble beginnings of my favorite horror hero. So call the babysitter and break out the barf bags as I narrate a nauseating novella with a very special place in my heart. I affectionately call this one, Lower Berth." Lower Berth was written by Fred Dekker and directed by Kevin Yagher. Lower Berth - like the previous story - is also somewhat unusual. In the case of Lower Berth the novelty is that our wisecracking host the Crypt Keeper is actually mentioned in the story because this twisted tale is all about his origin and parents. Turns out he's the offspring of a sideshow circus exhibit called Enoch the two faced freak (played by Jeff Yagher) and Miryana - the 2,000 year old Egyptian mummy of a slave girl. This is not the most exciting Tales from the Crypt episode but it is rather sweet and has a good period atmosphere. It's set at the turn of the 20th Century and the direction by Kevin Yagher creates a vivid little carnival world. The acting in this one is excellent. Stefan Gierasch is superb as the heartless and greedy owner of Enoch and Jeff Yagher is great as Enoch, bringing real sadness and heart to the story. The story is a trifle dull but the acting, make-up and atmosphere are certainly compensations.

      "Good evening, kiddies. I just had quite a scare. I actually thought my heart was beating again. Tonight's twisted tale is a villainous voyage; a murderous medical madness that screams out the cryp-sequences of getting too nosy with your neighbors. So the next time you stare into someone's window, remember, curiosity killed the cat." Mute Witness to Murder was written by Nancy Doyne and directed by Jim Simpson. This is one of my favourite episodes from season two. Mute Witness to Murder is more like an episode of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense than Tales from the Crypt and the Hitchcock riffs are enjoyable. A well to do couple named Suzy (Patricia Clarkson) and Paul (Reed Birney) are enjoying their wedding anniversary. Paul nips off to get her present while Suzy waits for him on the balcony. But in the apartment across the street she witnesses an argument between another couple that ends with the husband murdering his wife. Suzy is so shocked by what she has seen she becomes mute and loses the power of speech and a worried Paul (who has no idea what happened) sends for a doctor. When the doctor (a Dr Trask - played by Waltons star Richard Thomas) arrives it turns out to be the man Suzy just witnessed murdering his wife! Dr Trask sedates Suzy and has her committed to a sanitorium for the insane to preserve his dark secret. Will the mute Suzy ever be able to escape or communicate to anyone what Dr Trask has done? This is a very enjoyable half hour or so of anthology fun. The direction is solid and the tension slowly builds as Trask makes Suzy a prisoner in a special asylum ward that he controls. Patricia Clarkson does some wonderful expressive acting with her eyes and face as the mute Suzy and it is of course always a treat to see John Boy Walton as the villain.

      "I just love home videos, don't you? Especially when the home is haunted. Tonight's twisted tale, my dear couch potatoes, is filed under "T" for television. Or should that be terror? Mr Horton Rivers is about to find out, so stay tuned to this totally titillating tube..." Television Terror was written by Randell Johnson & GJ Pruss and directed by Charlie Picerni. This is another great episode. Bombastic and vain television host Horton Rivers (Morton Downey Jr) is looking for a way to drum up ratings and comes up with the idea of broadcasting live from a haunted location (both Rivers and Tales from the Crypt were clearly way ahead of their time with this idea). At a haunted house where twelve people were once brutally murdered, Rivers arrives with his cameraman Trip (Michael Harris) and ignores local warnings not meddle with the house. All seems normal, even a trifle dull, as the investigation and outside broadcast begins but Rivers is about to have an experience that makes anything Michael Parkinson went through in Ghostwatch look like a teddy bear's picnic. This a terrific and scary episode. It predates things like Blair Witch with the camera POV atmosphere and of course the previously mentioned Ghostwatch and shows like Most Haunted. This is constructed in a very clever fashion with a slow buildup that establishes Rivers as a shallow selfish git and also lulls us into the story with a false sense of security. It's like a satire on the world of television but then gradually grows very bleak and atmospheric as the horror takes over. Morton Downey Jr was actually a radio talk show host in real life and so he brings a certain amount of authenticity and he seems so real world that it's almost a surprise when things turn dark for him. This is a terrific episode.

      "Are you alone tonight? Consider yourself lucky. There could be two of you and imagine what a frightmare that would be. Not so for tonight's stars, Frank and Eddie... two brothers who are touchingly close. When a woman tries to come between them, she finds herself caught in a tangled web of jealousy and intrigue. I think you'll find it a twinning combination. So without further ado, I bring you My Brother's Keeper." My Brother's Keeper was written by Jeffrey Price and directed by Peter Seaman. This is not in the same league as the two previous episodes but it's still very good and has more of a traditional tongue-in-cheek Tales from the Crypt atmosphere. This revolves around conjoined Siamese twins Eddie (Timothy Stack) & Frank (Jonathan Stark). The brothers might be stuck at the hip but they couldn't be more different. Eddie is boorish with a mean streak while Frank is more cultured and sensitive. Eddie wants them to have a risky surgical operation to separate but the operation runs a risk of killing them too so Frank has always refused. Not to be beaten just yet, Eddie comes up with an elaborate ruse to persuade his brother to have surgery. Will it work? Think of this as Cronenberg's Dead Ringers done as a slapstick comedy and you aren't a million miles away. The two lead actors are good value (especially Timothy Stack as the more obnoxious brother) and the scenes of them fighting each other are amusing and well staged. Jessica Harper brings some class to proceedings as love interest Marie and the story works as a fun meditation on the capacity for good and evil that lurks inside all human beings. There are two twists here and some typically glossy Tales from the Crypt cinematography. Good stuff.

      "Ah, now here's a story you can sink your teeth into. A toothsome tale of tommyrot guaranteed to scare the dickens out of you! Lean in, fright fans. I'm going to let you in on The Secret." The final episode in season two is called The Secret - written by Doug Ronning and directed by J Michael Riva. This is a decent way to end and is memorable for the enjoyably daft twist. Actually, out of all the Tales from the Crypt episodes I have watched this is the twist I always remember the most for some reason. Theodore (Mike Simmrin) is a little orphan boy adopted by the wealthy and secretive Mr and Mrs Colbert (played by Grace Zabriskie and William Frankfather). Theodore is given a lavish bedroom at their country house but you don't have to be Adrian Monk to realise there is something rather strange going on. There are bars over his windows and they lock him in his room when they go out. His main contact is with the kind but tight-lipped and secretive butler Tobias (Larry Drake) who brings Theodore endless amounts of sweets, puddings and ice cream on behalf of the Colberts. There seem to be some weird secrets swirling around this house but what exactly is the secret of the Colberts? Hmmn. I liked this episode although it's a bit of a slow burner. The end is a bit silly but it is satisfying and good fun to boot. I liked Grace Zabriskie in this and it was nice to see Larry Drake even if he didn't have an awful lot to do. A strange episode that relies a lot on its twist but I enjoyed The Secret.

      The second season of Tales from the Crypt is a lot of fun on the whole and any anthology connoisseur who does sample this will certainly be curious to seek out the rest of this fondly remembered series. The only real shame is the lack of intro credits for these first two years on DVD and also perhaps the fact that the extras here are relatively threadbare given the long and successful history of this show. You get some new stuff with the Crypt Keeper on the select screen features although (unavoidably) this does become slightly repetitive in the end. There is a brief feature on the radio series and then a behind the scenes featurette and a piece about the Crypt Keeper with actor John Kassir (who voiced him in the series). All of these documentaries are preposterously short and it's a pity the behind the scenes film couldn't have a proper documentary length because many notables are involved and many interesting titibits emerge. Did you know for example that Martin Scorsese wanted to be involved in the show at one point? Still, I don't think you can complain too much as you do get eighteen episodes that are for the most part a lot of fun. I think the thing that shines through most of all in this series is that it was a real labour of love for the people who made it and they clearly had a great time trying to bring those old comics from their childhood to life. At the time of writing you can buy series two of Tales from the Crypt for about £20.

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