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Based upon those wonderful EC comics published by William M. Gaines, which I’ve only been fortunate enough to see in the occasional reprint, the HBO series of TALES FROM THE CRYPT brings to life those ghoulish, macabre and darkly comic tales that delighted kids and outraged adults during the puritanical era of the 1950s.  Although gruesome and disturbing, the stories contained in the pages of Tales From The Crypt had a strong moral streak running through them, one in which the wicked always managed to find themselves being punished by some ironic twist of fate.  As a television series that debuted on HBO and syndicated elsewhere, TALES FROM THE CRYPT kept to the trappings of the original comic book stories.  Just like the comic books, each story in this anthology series is amusingly book ended by the comments of The Crypt Keeper (voiced by John Kassir), the show’s rotting corpse of a host who does look a little worse for the wear than did his print counterpart.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON comes to DVD is a two disc set that features the six episodes that debuted in the show’s freshman year: The Man Who Was Death, And All Through The House, Dig That Cat...He's Real Gone, Only Sin Deep, Lover Come Hack To Me, and Collection Completed.  The Man Who Was Death features William Sadler in the story of a prison executioner who keeps working, even after the state no longer requires his services.  And All Through The House brings to life a genuine Tales classic, in which a murderess is terrorized on Christmas Eve by an axe wielding madman in a Santa suit- the cast features Mary Ellen Trainor, Larry Drake and Marshall Bell.  Dig That Cat...He's Real Gone finds Joe Pantoliano as a man that has inherited the nine lives of a cat, which he puts to good use as a sideshow attraction.  Lea Thompson stars in Only Sin Deep as a woman who pawns her beauty and finds herself rapidly turning into an old crone.  Lover Come Hack To Me finds fate delivering the unkindest cut of all in this story that features Amanda Plummer as a woman who turns the tables on her fortune seeking husband.  M. Emmet Walsh and Audra Lindley headline Collection Completed, a story of a man who takes up taxidermy to deal with the stray animals his wife has allowed to get under foot.

Warner Home Video has made the episodes that constitute TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts.  Image quality is pretty darn nice, the picture reasonably crisp and nicely defined.  Colors appear fairly vibrant and maintain the look of a comic book brought to life.  Blacks are inky, whites are crisp and contrast is reasonably good, with the picture certainly not appearing as flat as a typical eighties era sitcom.  The film elements from which the episodes have been mastered display some blemishes and other bits of debris, but aren’t too bad.  A grain structure is noticeable much of the time, but never particularly excessive.  Digital compression artifacts are well concealed.

The episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 channel Surround Stereo.  Considering the television production origins, the sound quality is solid.  As expected the forward soundstage is dominant, with the surround channels adding ambient sounds and musical fill.  Channel separation across the front isn’t very pronounced, but the overall sound is effective for the material.  Background hiss and other audible distortions are virtually non-existent.  Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and always easy to understand.  Fidelity is more than respectable, with the music coming across nicely and the sound effects seeming reasonably convincing.  No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extras, which are offered on disc two of the set.  Tales From The Crypt: From Comic Books To Television is an excellent fifty-minute documentary that traces the history of TALES FROM THE CRYPT from its comic book form through reemergence and renewed popularity thanks to the television medium.  The Crypt Keeper’s History Of Season 1 runs five minutes and feature The Crypt Keeper, who discusses his collaboration with the creative team responsible for bringing TALES FROM THE CRYPT back from the dead.

Watching the series again on DVD (plus the supplemental features), make this fan long for either a new reprinting of the original comic books, or perhaps an electronic version of those wonderful comics published by William M. Gaines.  As for TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, Warner delivers the goods in the form of quality presentations and thoughtful extras.  I know I can’t wait for additional seasons to arrive on DVD.  Recommended.



Tales from the Crypt - The First Season (1989)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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