Well, boils and ghouls, I believe it’s about time for a new edition of everyone’s favorite monster themed column Beautiful Creatures and what better monster to talk about than the master of scaremonies himself, The Crypt Keeper and a wonderful show we all know and love called Tales from the Crypt. As a child, I knew from that high pitched, wicked cackle that I really needed to go crawl back in my bed and go to sleep but I couldn’t help myself. I had to lie on the floor, crawling like some foot soldier slogging through the battlefield below rows of barbed wire to slide up to the side of the couch and try to catch a glimpse of Tales from the Crypt without my dad catching me. There was gore, foul language, and, if the plot was moving really slow, a pair of tits bouncing almost as high as that fading eighties Farrah Fawcett hairdo. But the one thing I loved more than anything else about it, that stuck with me from my early adolescence and into my adult life and writing career, was watching that animatronic puppet make terrible puns as he introduced the evening’s entertainment. Sure, it came at a price, usually in the form of terrible nightmares, but looking back it was totally worth it. You could literally start an entire column on this site devoted to the original run of the HBO classic. I think we’ll start with one of my favorite monster stories from the series, a fun little tale I like to call Korman’s Kalamity. Korman’s Kalamity Korman’s Kalamity is just one of the many times that Tales from the Crypt got a bit meta and featured itself (or the old EC comic book the show was based on) as the central location for the story. Jim Korman (Harry Anderson, Night Court, It) is a struggling comic book writer who just can’t catch a break between his overbearing wife harassing him at work and his editor breathing down his neck. While taking some experimental fertility pills because his monstrous spouse is demanding a child, he stumbles into a story so strange that it literally could have -and did- jumped off the page at him. After a particularly nasty encounter with his dehumanizing wife Mildred in the middle of the office, he catches just the inspiration he needs to really finish up the edition he’s been working on. Leaving the laundromat, yet another of the tedious errands he finds himself solely responsible for, a beautiful young woman who just happens to be a cop is attacked first by a stereotypically rapey redneck who, in turn, is devoured by a monster. With more questions than answers and a list of strange happenings going on all through town, officer Lorelei Phelps comes across a newsstand featuring the latest Tales from the Crypt, her an eating monster, and the name Jim Korman. Phelps wastes zero time and surprises Korman in the back seat of his car with the craziest sounding theory in the universe which, in a more than welcomed distraction to prevent him from returning home to Mildred, he obliges, taking her back into the office to draw a slew of new monsters to see if her plan holds water. While it doesn’t immediately materialize, the monsters keep coming and all signs continue to point to an emotionally abused cartoonist. Being that every episode is limited to a 30 minute run time, the story moves ludicrously fast so we also see a romance blooming between Phelps and Korman, either caused by a mutual attraction or, as hinted at in the episode, because he’s in a “romantic mood” and starts drawing some love comics instead. This eventually leads to a final showdown between the love triangle of Korman, Mildred, and Phelps plus a monster in Mildred’s dress that helps bring in a happy ending for everyone. Okay, maybe not happy, but definitely well deserved. The episode is a perfect blend of horror and comedy that truly lives up to the legacy of the comic. Only Skin Deep Sometimes a monster is unsettling and terrifying because of its simplicity. Molly from the season six episode Only Skin Deep is exactly that sort of monster. The episode has everything you’d expect from a Tales from the Crypt story. It has an initial, diversionary plot introducing some loathsome character that you just know is going to get exactly what he deserves in the end. I mean, after all, Tales from the Crypt has always been first and foremost a morality play showing people getting their karmic just desserts. In this case, we see Carl Schlag, a controlling and abusive scorned lover showing up at a costume party to further harass and intimidate the woman who has most recently left him. After all, in his mind, he is the victim and needs to avenge himself for her decision to no longer being a figurative (and literal) punching bag. After being rebuffed by this former lover and told to leave by the host of the party, he ambles off into the kitchen where he meets a beautiful woman wearing an unsettlingly plain white mask named Molly. He and Molly share some slightly twisted, co-dependent sounding banter before wandering back to her place for some no strings attached, still wearing their masks, sex. Carl catches some feels pretty quickly and that’s when things start to go downhill. The next morning Carl wakes to some strange hallucinations but quickly shakes them off as he has an early morning shot of liquor and decides that Molly is going to be his new woman. When she turns him down, he begins to go through that stereotypical abusive male bullshit. The psychological warfare and ultimatums, the total invasion of her privacy as he opens closets, medicine cabinets and purses looking for more information on who Molly is beneath the mask. As he continues to snoop and pry, he starts to feel unsteady. Wandering at last into her workspace he finds a curio with dirty glass windows. Wiping away the grime he finds men’s’ faces sawed from their heads and preserved on display in a trophy case. As the now apparent roofy-juice cocktail he had takes full effect, he struggles to escape Molly only to discover that the mask she wears is, in fact, her actual face and that he is about to become just another prize in her strange collection. It’s a fantastic, though formulaic, set up of monsters preying on other monsters and while there are no cinematically or graphically astounding, the simplicity and lack of any overt horror elements (slathering fangs or glowing eyes, that kinda’ thing) is what makes the creature so wonderful. The beautiful girl is, at her core, the most terrifying thing in the entire story. Well, Kiddies… So, at the start of this, I talked a little bit about everyone’s favorite pun spewing host, the Crypt Keeper voiced by John Kassir. I mean, when you think of iconic horror creatures he’s right there in the top ten or twenty of the most recognizable cinematic monsters of all time. Ranking with Dracula, Frankenstein, Freddy or Jason, the Crypt Keeper with his cackling, high-pitched laugh, catches your eye and holds your attention as he welcomes you to another installment in the anthology series. Since his start as a bent and gnarled old man in the EC Comics Vault of Terror and Tales from the Crypt, he’s the all-important hook that grabs hold and reels you in, that sets you up from the black comedy and gruesome horror of the story you’re about to experience. The evolution from that 1950’s trope to the resurrected and desiccated ghoul of the late 80’s-early 90’s is in and of itself a bit of humor. The creators couldn’t very well resurrect Tales from the Crypt without resurrecting the Crypt Keeper. Between his poker matches with high stakes and hacked limbs to guest appearances by celebrities like Death from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and a posthumous cameo of Alfred Hitchcock ala Forrest Gump techniques, you could always count on the Crypt Keeper to keep things…lively. Even in the more child-friendly cartoon series that ran on Saturday mornings in the mid-90’s he was a source of twisted laughter as he introduced a generation of children to monsters, mayhem, and murder. In April of this year, I started reading a ton of articles about M. Night Shyamalan and TNT Network revamping Tales from the Crypt in a new, hour-long installment, anthology series. Now, and this might cost me some credibility with readers, I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan. As a writer and director, I feel like he is on a par with Rod Serling. The problem for him, however, is that he works in the wrong medium. Whereas his work comes across with the feel of some Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode, he ends up with a 2-hour runtime and has to stretch a 45 plot to fill it. This is why so many of his works have been completely trashed by critics and viewers alike. I was excited to see that he was involved in the resurrection of the series, the second coming if you will. The only problem was, there wasn’t going to be a Crypt Keeper in it. I was more than a little shocked and disheartened but it was a short-lived concern when they announced a “revised” Crypt Keeper would soon be coming to our television screens as well. I’m going to hold my judgement about all this until I see it next year when it premieres but, as a fan of the comics, the show, and the films like Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood, I can only hope that the new will honor and continue the traditions of the old while welcoming a new generation into the fold. Well, kiddies, I may not have touched on all the best monsters that the series offered and I certainly could have said more about the Crypt Keeper as well but I think it’s really just one of those things you have to see to believe. Dig it up on DVD or screaming… I mean, streaming, and see for yourself. See larger image Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Seasons 1-7 (7-Pack) Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Seasons 1-7 (7-Pack) New From: $62.99 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response And Finally | Danno of the Dead Blog September 7, 2016 […] my column for Psycho Drive-In. The latest update talks about some of my favorite monsters from Tales from the Crypt including the master of scare-a-monies himself as well as the upcoming reboot of the series. Check […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.