Tales from the Crypt

Wicked Wednesday: Tales from the Crypt “Death of Some Salesman” (1993)

This month has been absolutely nonstop. So keeping up with writing has been a true struggle. Thankfully, though, it’s possible to squeeze lots of disturbing, hilarious horror into a thirty minute episode of Tales from The Crypt

Like most Tales from the Crypt episodes, the character at the heart of this episode is truly unlikable – and is in no way redeeming. That makes travelling cemetery plot salesman Judd Campbell an easy guy to dislike. He’s so smarmy and gross (played excellently by Ed Begley Jr), that you can’t help but root for his demise. I mean, one of his early lines is, “I said I loved you, and you dropped your little panties. It’s called salesmanship”

Gross.

So Judd spends his time roaming the countryside, preying on the bereaved via the obits in the newspaper. He cons an elderly woman (Yvonne De Carlo) out of everything that remains of her money after her husband’s funeral.

After pocketing the cash, Judd goes to a second farm where he meets the less-than-gorgeous Ma and Pa Brackett (both played by Tim Curry). Both are seemingly smitten with travelling salesmen. Despite arriving at the wrong address, Judd is invited into the Brackett family to sell them plots in a (probably fake but most likely shitty) cemetery. The couple seem very willing (and rich), but they need to see the land first.

Judd somehow manages to convince them to pay upfront, so Pa goes into the basement with Ma for their money. When left alone, Judd soon discovers the body parts of other men – other salesmen.

After being knocked out, Judd wakes up handcuffed and on the Brackett’s couch. Ma and Pa disagree on how to best deal with their latest victim, but ultimately leave the decision of Judd’s fate in the hands of their daughter, Winona (also played by Curry).

When Judd awakens, he finally gets to meet Winona. She’s…not super cute. Certainly not to the “standards” that Judd holds himself to with women. But he tries to win over Winona and ultimately win his freedom.

Winona takes Judd to her bedroom where she arouses him. They then have sex (which Judd claims to be the most incredible he’s ever had). When Winona suggests marriage, Judd seems pretty smitten, but he’s completely won over when he hears the word “dowry”. A dowry that just happens to be buried in the Brackett’s basement.

Judd and Winona ask Pa (a priest, apparently) to marry them. The wedding goes forward, but when it comes to the vows, Pa refuses to take Judd’s handcuffs off him.

After an argument between Pa and Winona, Pa seemingly dies when his neck is snapped. Winona makes into the basement for her dowry, soon followed by Judd with a gun. With a hole in the floor of the basement, Judd assumes that the dowry is near. He shoots Winona and hops in the hole, only to find a cemetery plot certificate with his name on it.

“Death of Some Saleman” is a pretty comic episode. The sex scene is…a bit too much for me (it oddly verges on rape but…who am I to judge?). Curry is, as always, a maverick. While you can only tell that it’s the same actor by similar facial features, the make-up and Curry’s acting makes each character to different and vibrant.

It’s funny. It’s quotable. And it’s one hell of a way to spend 30 minutes if you haven’t the time for Motel Hell.

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Wicked Wednesday: Tales from the Crypt “All Through the House” (1989)

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Christmas is just ripe for the horror genre to twist and mutilate. There’s just something gleeful about taking a wonderful holiday and turning it into your worst nightmare. GremlinsBlack Christmas, Christmas EvilHome for the Holidays … it’s a never-ending list of quality holiday ruining. And I love it.

So when I learned that there was a Christmas-themed Tales from the Crypt episode, I definitely thought, “Tis the season.”

“And All Through the House” is an early episode from the show, season 1 episode 2 from 1989. And it already shows the greatness Tales from the Crypt would be. I mean, it’s directed Robert Zemeckis and a screenplay by Fred Dekker (who’s written some of the best cult films). The pair create a rather ghoulishly fun 20-minute show.

The episode opens with Nat King Cole crooning “The Christmas Song” over shots of flickering candles, Christmas lights and soft snow falling from outside. It’s a beautiful shot, but also pretty unsettling (because why by Tales from the Crypt if something crazy didn’t happen in the first five minutes?). A wife (Mary Ellen Trainor) is at home over Christmas with her husband, a husband she kills off with a poker from their fireplace. “Merry Christmas you son of a bitch.”

Her young daughter runs down the stairs to check if Santa has been by, her mother becomes flustered and rushes her daughter up the stairs before she can notice the hole in the forehead of her step-father. The little girl pleads her her mother to open the window as it’s too hot for her in the house. The mother obliges before heading outside to dispose of her husband’s body.

She calls up her presumed lover and tells him that her deceased husband’s money will be all theirs. Then proceeds to wrap the dead man’s head in a plastic bag (a la Black Christmas) with a rather festive red bow on top.

As she drags the body out of the house, she misses the radio announcement than a man who murdered four women has escaped from the local institute for the criminally insane earlier in the day. Oh and he’s dressed as Santa, of course.

While trying to dispose of the bloody evidence, the woman misses the fact that someone steals the ax off the nearby chopping block.  Before she can throw the body down the well, she’s attacked by Meth-Face Santa, the escaped patient. After a tussle, the woman gets inside the house and away from Ol’ Rotten Teeth.

She calls the operator, but spots her husband’s corpse spread out on the lawn like a starfish. So she hangs up instead of, I don’t know, blaming it on the ax-murderer terrorising her. Though she eventually gets to this idea after getting a phone call warning her about the escapee. She chops the man when he attacks her through the window and calls it a day.

While she’s busy faking her attack to the phone, she misses the fact that the man is being called up by her daughter through the open window. When she finally notices that the body of the Santa has moved, she’s already late. Her daughter is hand-in-hand with a man waiting to give her her just desserts.

“And All Through the House” is pretty dark and fun, and we even have the Crypt Keeper reassuring us that the daughter is safe. Not much is better than watching an awful person get a taste of their own medicine, especially when it’s well written and directed. And ax wielding has to be a part of the Christmas tradition at this point.

Happy holidays!

Meat Loaf Mondays Pt. 1: Tales From the Crypt Season 4, Episode 6 “What’s Cookin’?”

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Meat Loaf Mondays? What’s Meat Loaf Mondays, you ask? Well, welcome to another (probably bad) decision I’ve made for a new series on this blog. MEAT LOAF MONDAYS! Both tasty and cheesy! MLM, much like WWW, will be a weekly adventure of film and television, but this time everything is centered around the career of musician and actor Meat Loaf (born Michael Lee Aday). Why Meat Loaf? Why the hell not Meat Loaf?

But much different to my Wicked Wisconsin Wednesdays, MLM isn’t necessarily about Meat Loaf. Rather, this is just a way to explore film and television through a rather varied and strange career. For the first week, we’re looking at an episode from a classic television show, a rather delightful treat with plenty of cannibalism.

“What’s Cookin'” is from the sixth episode of the fourth season of Tales From the Crypt, which aired in 1992, about a year after I was born. Growing up, I never was a fan of Tales From the Crypt, and I suppose a major reason for that was mostly because of age. Growing up I watched the much milder Are You Afraid of the Dark? and found that terribly terrifying at a young age. Everything scarred me at that age, which I suppose makes me rather glad that I watched this show when I was a bit older (though my older sister did enjoy tormenting me by talking like the Crypt Keeper).

This episode from Tales From the Crypt is much more gruesome than anything that would have been shown on a politely twisted Nickelodeon show, despite both shows being aired around roughly the same time. Much of it is pretty standard TFTC fare: puns, a bit of gore and a weird (sometimes incomprehensible) twist at the end.

Married couple Fred (Christopher Reeve) and Erma (Bess Armstrong) are struggling to keep their restaurant open. This is mostly due to the fact that no one is interested in a squid-only restaurant. They can afford to keep one man on staff: Judd Nelson.

Gaston (Nelson) is a drifter who keeps telling Fred and Emra that he has a fantastic recipe for BBQ. But Fred pushes these suggestions aside, deeply believing that someone loves squid enough to keep going to this crappy restaurant.

After closing shop one night, Fred is approached by Chumley. Chumley is, of course, played by Meat Loaf, who has the silliest accent put on here. I’m not entirely sure what he’s trying to achieve in the scene, but he gets to say great lines like “Today is today,” which is totally excellent. He’s clearly enjoying his brief appearance because he wears an excellent white suit and matching fedora. Chumley (which is a name only given to horrible people) is around the restaurant to collect the overdue rent Fred has to pay. Chumley heads to the door after evicting Fred, but Fred follows and accidentally cuts Chumley with his knife.

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Outside, Gaston is chatting to Erma. He tries to coax her into leaving her husband, but really, in a battle between Judd Nelson vs Christopher Reeve – is there really a competition? Even if in this reality Reeve owns a crap squid restaurant, there’s not much of a battle here (even though Judd Nelson is still a lovely-looking man).

Anyway.

As Erma heads home, Gaston spots Fred and Chumley leaving the restaurant in an argument. The wheels are clearly turning in his head, which can only mean the horror is about to be brought on.

The next morning, Fred feels completely defeated as they’re supposed to be evicted. When Officer Phil (Art LaFleur) enters and orders a steak, he’s almost turned away before Erma finds some steaks sitting in the fridge.

Gaston offers up his apologies and explains that he got a good deal on the meat and really wanted to give his BBQ idea a try. So the steak is fried up and served to Phil, who seems to enjoy it immensely while explaining that their landlord, Chumley, has disappeared the night before.

As customers pour in from smelling the incredible sizzle of meat, Fred heads back to the freezer to fetch more steaks. At this point, he finds his now-former landlord strung up on a hook in the freezer. Gaston pops up and explains that this was his idea all along. But the lure of money and the threat of being accused of as the murderer, Fred folds and allows Gaston to become 50% owner and continue his murdering ways all for the sake of sizzling meats!

This is by far the most disgusting part of the episode. Yes watching Meat Loaf’s body slowing getting hacked away at is mighty gruesome, but there’s something really upsetting about watching the customers enjoy it.

But as the restaurant becomes more successful, Gaston becomes more threatening. Nelson plays an excellent psycho, as usual, and it’s pretty fun to watch him go off on Fred and Erma, and it’s even more satisfactory when it all crashes in on him in the end.

Despite the episode missing a great joke (no meatloaf being served, really), this is a really excellent episode of Tales From the Crypt. It’s gross and darkly funny all in one. It’s well worth a watch, and for TFTC fans, re-watch again if only for Meat Loaf’s great accent.