Tales from the Crypt (1989–1996)
|Genre||Comedy, Crime, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller|
|Content Rating||TV-MA (TV-MA)|
|Awards||Nominated for 7 Primetime Emmys. Another 15 wins & 34 nominations.|
|Company||Home Box Office (HBO), Tales From The Crypt Holdings|
Tales from the Crypt (TV series)
Tales from the Crypt, sometimes titled HBO's Tales from the Crypt, is an American horror anthology television series that ran from June 10, 1989, to July 19, 1996, on the premium cable channel HBO for seven seasons with a total of 93 episodes. The title is based on the 1950s EC Comics series of the same name and most of the content originated in that comic or the other EC Comics of the time (The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror, Crime SuspenStories, Shock SuspenStories, and Two-Fisted Tales). The show was produced by HBO.
Because it was aired on HBO, a premium cable television channel, it was allowed to have full freedom from censorship by network standards and practices. As a result, HBO allowed the series to include content that had not appeared in most television series up to that time, such as graphic violence, profanity, sexual activity, and nudity. The series is subsequently edited for such content when broadcast in syndication or on basic cable. While the series began production in the United States, in the final season filming moved to the United Kingdom, resulting in episodes which revolved around British characters.
Each episode begins with a tracking shot leading to the front door of The Cryptkeeper's decrepit mansion. Once inside, the camera pans down from the foyer to the hallways and stairways, finally descending into the basement. The show's host, The Cryptkeeper, then pops out from his coffin, cackling wildly; finally, green slime pours down over the screen as the main title appears. The Cryptkeeper is an animated corpse, as opposed to the original comics in which he was a living human being. The wisecracking Cryptkeeper (performed by puppeteers like Van Snowden, Mike Elizalde, Frank Charles Lutkiss, Patty Maloney, Anton Rupprecht, Shaun Smith, David Stinnent, Mike Trcic, and Brock Winkless, and voiced by John Kassir) would then introduce the episode with intentionally hackneyed puns, e.g., his frequent greeting to viewers: "Hello, Boils and Ghouls" or "Hello, Kiddies". Each episode was self-contained, and was bookended by an outro sequence, again involving the Cryptkeeper. Comic book cover art was created by Mike Vosburg and Shawn McManus.
The success of the series led to numerous spin-offs and films.
In 1995, a film spin-off from the TV series was produced by Universal Pictures, Demon Knight. After it became a commercial success, Universal greenlit two more Tales from the Crypt films, intending to produce a trilogy. The second film, Bordello of Blood, was released in 1996. It was a box office bomb, and was generally disliked by critics and fans of the series.
As a follow-up to Demon Knight, producers planned to make a film titled Dead Easy (a.k.a. Fat Tuesday), a New Orleans zombie film, but the producers felt the scripts lacked humor and leaned too heavily towards horror. A rewrite was done by The X-Files writer Darin Morgan. The executive producers loved it but the producers Gilbert Adler and A L Katz rejected it. The third film that was planned, Body Count, written by two other writers of The X-Files, James Wong and Glen Morgan also never found its way to the screen again due to Adler and Katz rejecting the script. Both Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk till Dawn and Peter Jackson's The Frighteners were considered as possible Tales from the Crypt films. The film Ritual (2002) was not produced as a Tales from the Crypt film, but is considered to be an unofficial third entry in the Tales series.
Tales from the Cryptkeeper
In 1993, a Saturday morning cartoon called Tales from the Cryptkeeper was spun off from the HBO series. Produced by Nelvana for ABC in the United States and YTV in Canada, the violence of the prime time series was substantially toned down and the gore was omitted. Nelvana employed a child psychologist to review the scripts to ensure the episodes would be suitable for young viewers. The Cryptkeeper puppet was considered as the host for the series but it was ultimately decided that it might frighten youngsters, so instead an animated version was created; John Kassir reprised his role. Kassir later said "Nelvana created a kinder, gentler personality for the children's Cryptkeeper, and it feels a little uncharacteristic at times,". In addition to the Cryptkeeper, EC Comics' mascots The Vaultkeeper and The Old Witch also made frequent appearances, often fighting with the Cryptkeeper for control of the show's hosting duties. The series lasted two seasons on ABC with a total of 26 episodes.
In 1999, the series was revived on CBS for an additional 13 episodes under the title New Tales from the Cryptkeeper.
Secrets of the Cryptkeeper's Haunted House
A kid's game show called Secrets of the Cryptkeeper's Haunted House was featured on CBS from 1996 to 1997. The Cryptkeeper (again voiced by John Kassir) was the announcer of the show (he would often break into the action with appropriate wisecracks), and contestants competed in physical challenges on a variety of elaborate haunted house sets at Universal Studios Florida. In addition to The Cryptkeeper, the series also boasted an original character named Digger the Skeleton (voiced by Danny Mann).
In 2000, several Tales from the Crypt "radio shows" were recorded for Seeing Ear Theatre, an online subsidiary of The Sci-Fi Channel, and were offered free as streaming RealAudio files on their website, as well as for sale on Audible.com. Although 13 episodes were planned (with forthcoming episodes listed as "TBA"), only eight stories were recorded. Seven of the eight shows were released on CD in 2002 by Highbridge Audio ("This Trick'll Kill You" was omitted from the CD set).
In 1991, the Fox television network aired a pilot for Two-Fisted Tales, a spin-off based on the 1950s EC action comics. When Fox passed on the pilot, Cryptkeeper segments were tacked onto the three stories ("Yellow", "Showdown", and "King of the Road"), and HBO ran them as Tales from the Crypt episodes.
Perversions of Science
After the original series ended, a spin-off called Perversions of Science premiered in June 1997 on HBO, this time being based more on science fiction instead of horror. The series was unsuccessful and lasted for a short run, ending only a month after it had begun airing. This iteration of the franchise featured a stylized female robot host in place of The Cryptkeeper.
A variety of famous faces have starred in episodes of Tales from the Crypt. This includes Academy Award-winning actors and A-list celebrities.
Some of the most famous people to have starred in episodes are listed below.
- Anthony Michael Hall
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Benicio Del Toro
- Bobcat Goldthwait
- Brad Pitt
- Brad Dourif
- Brad Garrett
- Brooke Shields
- Catherine O’Hara
- Cheech Marin
- Christopher Reeve
- Corey Feldman
- Dan Aykroyd
- Daniel Craig
- Demi Moore
- Don Rickles
- Ewan McGregor
- Hank Azaria
- Iggy Pop
- Isaac Hayes
- Jada Pinkett
- Joe Pantoliano
- Joe Pesci
- John Lithgow
- John Stamos
- Judd Nelson
- Katey Sagal
- Kirk Douglas
- Lance Henriksen
- Lea Thompson
- Lou Diamond Phillips
- Malcolm McDowell
- Martin Sheen
- Meat Loaf
- Michael J. Fox
- R. Lee Ermey
- Robert Patrick
- Sandra Bullock
- Steve Buscemi
- Teri Hatcher
- Tim Curry
- Tom Hanks
- Whoopi Goldberg
- Vincent Spano
In 1991, Big Screen Records released a soundtrack album featuring assorted music from the series. The album includes the theme music, suites from 11 episodes and an original song titled "Crypt Jam" performed by The Cryptkeeper (John Kassir). A music video for "Crypt Jam" was filmed and is available as an extra on the Region 1 Season 3 DVD.
|01||Tales from the Crypt (Main Title)||Danny Elfman||2:27|
|02||Three's a Crowd||Jan Hammer||3:50|
|03||Cutting Cards||James Horner||3:45|
|04||Loved to Death||Jimmy Webb||3:19|
|05||Dead Wait||David Mansfield||4:04|
|06||Undertaking Palor||Nicholas Pike||3:10|
|07||Carrion Death||Bruce Broughton||3:32|
|08||Ventriloquist's Dummy||Miles Goodman||3:32|
|09||The Thing from the Grave||David Newman||2:53|
|10||The Man Who Was Death||Ry Cooder||4:22|
|11||Reluctant Vampire||Cliff Eidelman||3:50|
|13||The Crypt Jam||Chuckii Booker||4:30|
Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas
In 1994, a Christmas album, Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas, was released by The Right Stuff, a subsidiary of Capitol Records. Most of the songs are spoofs of holiday standards performed by The Cryptkeeper, such as "Juggle Bills" (Jingle Bells), "We Wish You'd Bury the Missus" (We Wish You a Merry Christmas) and "Deck the Halls with Parts of Charlie" (Deck the Halls), with narration and a few original songs mixed in. The CD booklet includes a black and white reprint of the comic "And All Through the House".
|01||Intro to Album||0:51|
|02||Deck the Halls with Parts of Charlie||1:55|
|04||We Wish You'd Bury the Missus||2:20|
|06||A Christmas Card for the Cryptkeeper||0:51|
|08||Intro to Cryptkeeper's Family Christmas||0:32|
|09||Cryptkeeper's Family Christmas||2:03|
|10||'Twas the Fright Before Christmas||3:55|
|11||Twelve Days of Cryptmas||3:42|
|12||Intro to Revenge of the Cryptkeeper||0:24|
|13||Revenge of the Cryptkeeper||2:18|
|14||Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas||2:21|
|15||Should Old Cadavers Be Forgot||3:38|
Monsters of Metal
In 2000, Capitol Records released another album titled Tales from the Crypt: Monsters of Metal. This album is a compilation of horror-themed songs from popular heavy metal bands with wraparound narration by the Cryptkeeper (John Kassir).
|01||The Cryptkeeper Intro #1||John Kassir||0:30|
|02||Heaven and Hell||Black Sabbath||6:54|
|03||Creepy Feelings||Armored Saint||5:21|
|05||The Cryptkeeper Intro #2||John Kassir||0:14|
|06||Cemetery Gates (Demon Knight)||Pantera||5:47|
|07||Eyes of a Stranger||Queensrÿche||4:40|
|09||The Cryptkeeper Intro #3||John Kassir||0:35|
|10||Dead Inside||Arch Enemy||4:11|
|11||Beyond the Realms of Death||Judas Priest||6:53|
|12||Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck||Prong||4:12|
|13||The Cryptkeeper Intro #4||John Kassir||0:16|
|14||Don't Talk to Strangers||Dio||4:52|
|15||Bordello of Blood||Anthrax||4:12|
|16||The Bell Witch||Mercyful Fate||4:34|
|17||The Cryptkeeper Intro #5||John Kassir||0:21|
|19||Hollow Ground||The Haunted||4:10|
|20||Beyond the Black||Metal Church||6:22|
|21||The Cryptkeeper Ending||John Kassir||0:46|
Warner Home Video has released all seven seasons on DVD Region 1. The DVDs for the first three seasons feature all-new Cryptkeeper introductions and segments. No new segments were filmed for seasons 4–7. On June 6, 2017, all seven seasons were reissued in a box set entitled Tales From the Crypt: The Complete Series. A Region 2 version of the whole series was released by '84 Entertainment on June 4, 2010,
Until mid 2020, The series was also available through the streaming platform Vudu.
|1||6||2||July 12, 2005|
|2||18||3||October 25, 2005|
|3||14||3||March 21, 2006|
|4||14||3||July 25, 2006|
|5||13||3||October 31, 2006||Death of Some Salesmen: Virtual Comic Book|
|6||15||3||July 24, 2007||Whirlpool: Virtual Comic Book|
|7||13||3||October 23, 2007||Fatal Caper: Virtual Comic Book|
|Complete series box set||93||20||June 6, 2017|
Reruns aired on Fox from 1994 to 1995 under the name Primetime Tales From the Crypt. It aired on CBS in 1997. It also aired on other channels, such as Syfy, Chiller, and Fearnet.
In the United Kingdom, the series aired Fridays on ITV. Sky1 Satellite and cable channel Horror Channel (then Zone Horror) aired the series in both late night and daytime slots. The daytime versions were billed as "cut"; however, they remained uncut.
Tales from the Crypt is not available on HBO streaming services HBO Go (discontinued), HBO Now, or HBO Max reportedly due to licensing issues.
Tales from the Crypt won the following awards:
- 1991 Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing – Television Half-Hour – ADR
- 1992 Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing – Television Episodic – Effects and Foley
- 1993 Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing – Television Episodic – Effects and Foley
- 1994 American Cinema Editors' Eddie Award for Best Edited Half Hour Series for Television (for the episode "People Who Live in Brass Hearses")
- 1990 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (William Hickey in the episode "The Switch")
- 1991 Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Cable Special (Mike Simmrin in the episode "The Secret")
- 1992 Casting Society of America's Artios Award for Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Episodic
- 1994 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kirk Douglas)
- 1994 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Tim Curry in the episode "Death Of Some Salesman"), Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume Design for a Series and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series
- 1994 Young Artist Award for Best Youth Actor Guest Starring in a Television Show (Raushan Hammond in the episode "People Who Live in Brass Hearses")
- 1995 Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume Design for a Series
- 1996 American Society of Cinematographers Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Regular Series (for the episode "You Murderer")
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In July 2011, it was announced that Gilbert Adler, who produced the original series, was working with Andrew Cosby to develop a new Tales from the Crypt series. It was said to be a continuous story, rather than an anthology, and would also omit The Cryptkeeper. The series was unsuccessfully shopped to several major networks.
In January 2016, Entertainment Weekly reported that M. Night Shyamalan would helm a series reboot as part of TNT's new two-hour horror block. The network ordered a 10-episode season that was slated for fall 2017. The series was to keep the episodic anthology format, but without The Cryptkeeper. In June 2017, it was announced that TNT would not move forward with the series due to legal rights issues concerning the rights for the characters from Tales from the Crypt Holdings.