Proof that HBO was gutsy before The Soprano’s comes with season five of Tales from the Crypt. By this point, the series had become a well-respected cult favorite, and these 13 episodes, spread over three discs, are some of the series’ best. The show, based on a classic comic book series, really became my generation’s version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. It was a half-hour series that told twisted tales of mystery and horror, and was hosted by a very decomposed Crypt Keeper. The Keeper was full of really bad puns, yet that was part of the show’s charm. He was the one thing that ties each episode together, and he became something of a pop culture icon, on par with both Freddie Krueger and Jason Voorhees.
One of the really great things about this show is that the creators somehow convinced Hollywood’s elite actors and behind-the-scenes personalities to lend their crafts to the production. Each week featured a different director or actor that viewers would be surprised to find working on the series. This season saw guest appearances from Tracy Lords, Martin Sheen, Steve Buschemi, Billy Zane, The Who’s Roger Daltrey and more. This is a series that is just plain fun. If you start watching these episodes, you may very well find yourself going back and picking up the seasons you may have missed. The good news is, this is not a show that you necessarily need to watch in the correct order, so there’s no reason why viewers can’t start here, and pick up the earlier seasons later. The important thing is that you start somewhere.
Audio quality here is basically poor, but it is no worse than it was during the original broadcasts. The shows are presented in basic stereo, with no frills added for the modern home theater. Viewers might as well just use their standard television speakers to watch this set. In fact, the episodes might even be more entertaining that way. Part of the fun of this show is that it has that certain late night cable broadcast feel, and the shoddy TV audio just contributes to that feeling.
The video quality is better than the audio, but we’re still just talking about basic TV quality. The shows are presented in the original full screen, with all the grain and dull color issues that you would expect. The whole thing is a bland mess, which just makes the blood and gore that much more of a campy good time. No, the audio and video aren’t the best. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
There is just one extra here, but it is a really good one. A complete reprint of the original comic Death of Some Salesmen is included on disc three. The book is presented video-style, with the original artwork presented with dynamic backgrounds. It is a really cool thing to see, complete with narration by the Crypt Keeper himself. If it were available, I would purchase an entire disc of these comics presented in this format. I hate to rate the extras so low, because this segment is so fantastic, but unfortunately one comic is just all that is here.
There really aren’t a ton of TV shows that are camp classics like this one. One of the things that I love about horror films is that there is so much room for risk taking. Not only can films be good in spite of key shortcomings, they can be good because of them. Nowhere else can audiences see Hollywood heavyweights cast off the burdens that come with being the best talents in their field, and just have fun. If you are a horror fan, do yourself a big favor and pick up this fantastically entertaining show on DVD.