TALES FROM THE CRYPT:
Almost solely responsible for the comic book industry beginning self-censorship, Tales From The Crypt (along with its sister publications The Vault Of Horror and The Haunt Of Fear) remains the most notorious comic book of all time. Published by William M. Gaines’ EC comics, Tales From The Crypt stirred up a hornet’s nest of outrage, due to the graphic nature of the stories contained therein, that made these comic books almost as feared as the red menace during the 1950s. Although my experience with Tales From The Crypt is limited to my exposure to reprints, I can see how an entire generation of kids was emotionally scarred, when the comic book industry imposed self-censorship. For my money, Tales From The Crypt was a great comic book- albeit sick and twisted one. Still, Tales From The Crypt was pulp fiction of a high moral fiber, because its stories guaranteed that the guilty were always severely punished by some ironic twist of fate- generally in a very grisly fashion.
TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON ($40) comes to DVD in a three-disc set that features all thirteen episodes that were aired during year five: Death Of Some Salesmen, As Ye Sow, Forever Ambergris, Food For Thought, People Who Live In Brass Hearses, Two For The Show, House Of Horror, Well Cooked Hams, Creep Course, Came The Dawn, Oil's Well That Ends Well, Half-Way Horrible and Till Death Do We Part. Just like the comic books, each story in this anthology series is amusingly bookended 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 original print counterpart).
Season five’s guest cast for TALES FROM THE CRYPT includes: Yvonne DeCarlo, Ed Begley Jr., Tim Curry, Adam West, Hector Elizondo, Miguel Ferrer, Patsy Kensit, John Shea, Sam Waterston, Lysette Anthony, Steve Buscemi, Roger Daltrey, Marshall Bell, Paul Dooley, Ernie Hudson, Joan Chen, Bill Paxton, Michael Lerner, Lainie Kazan, Brad Dourif, Traci Lords, David Paymer, Vincent Spano, Kevin Dillon, Michael DeLuise, Brian Krause, Wil Wheaton, Meredith Salenger, Maryam D'Abo, Martin Sheen, Billy Zane, Anthony Michael Hall, Jeffrey Jones, Brooke Shields, Perry King, Michael J. Pollard, Alan Ruck, Rory Calhoun, John Kassir, Priscilla Presley, Lou Diamond Phillips, Costas Mandylor, Martin Kove, Clancy Brown, Cheech Marin, Charles Martin Smith, John Stamos, Eileen Brennan, Robert Picardo and Frank Stallone.
Death Of Some Salesmen finds a crooked salesman suffering grave consequences when he marries into the wrong family. As Ye Sow is the story of a husband, who unfortunately hires a detective to do his dirty work, when he thinks his wife is cheating on him. Forever Ambergris tells of a photographer, who decides eliminate a protégé, who has surpassed the master. Food For Thought is concerned with a circus performer, whose mind controlling abilities unfortunately turn out to be real. People Who Live In Brass Hearses follows a con who plans to take revenge on the ice cream man who sent him to the cooler. Two For The Show tells of a murderous husband who can’t seem to shake a cop after chopping up his wife and hiding her body in a trunk. House Of Horror is the story of a fraternity initiation in a supposed haunted house that may be the real deal. Well Cooked Hams is the story of a young prestidigitator, who steals an older magician’s act and then tries to make the old conjurer disappear. Creep Course is the story of a jock, a nerd, a professor and a mummy engaged in some deadly games. Came The Dawn delves into PSYCHO territory with its tale of a man who picks up a woman at the side of the road and takes her to his isolated cabin in the woods. Oil's Well That Ends Well is concerned with a couple of con artists that try to convince the locals there is oil under the cemetery; of course, what is ultimately unearthed proved to be totally unexpected. Half-Way Horrible tells of a drug that can trace its origins to voodoo in the South American jungles, and a manufacturer who is willing to kill to bring it to market. Till Death Do We Part finds a gigolo engaged to an older woman in more trouble than he can imagine, when he gets involved with a younger woman.
Warner Home Video has made the episodes that constitute TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. The episodes look better than broadcast, although these DVDs are far from being demonstration material, even at the television level. Sharpness and detail are about one should expect from a mid 1990s television series, with mildly soft shots creeping up all over the place. Colors are rendered at a fairly natural level of saturation, although certain hues seem more vibrant than others. Blacks are fairly deep, whites are crisp, contrast is respectable, but dark sequences can be a tad murky. The film elements from which the episodes have been mastered display occasional blemishes, but they never become excessive. A grain structure is noticeable much of the time, but isn’t distracting. Digital compression artifacts maintain a low profile.
All of the episodes that comprise TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON arrive on DVD with their soundtracks presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Stereo. Again, not demo quality, but the soundtracks get the job done without any problems. There isn’t much by way of noticeable channel separations and the rear channels are very subdued. Background hiss and other audible distortions are virtually non-existent. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand. Fidelity is more than respectable, with the music sounding more than respectable. 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 the collection's sole supplemental feature- a virtual comic book version of the season opener Death Of Some Salemen, which features the artwork of the original comic book upon which the episode is based, along with narration by The Crypt Keeper himself John Kassir.
As always, TALES FROM THE CRYPT is black comic horror fun that genre audience will eat alive. Warner's DVD collection is pretty much on par with the previous sets, not perfect, but really not all that bad either. If you loved the original comic books, or the HBO series, then TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON is another must have. Recommended.
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