Tales from the Crypt: From Comic Books to Television! DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by CS Films, Inc.
Directed by Chip Selby
Narrated by Simon Arnstein
2004, Region 1 (NTSC), 56 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on October 31st, 2004
William M. Gaines
George A. Romero
In 1944, using money from selling his share of All American Comics — which featured superheroes such as Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern — Max Gaines started Educational Comics. Putting out bland comics such as Picture Stories from the Bible and Picture Stories from American History, Educational Comics was deep in debt when Gaines died in 1947.
Under pressure from his mother, William Gaines reluctantly took over Educational Comics, and began an uphill battle to pay off the creditors at the door and, maybe, turn a profit.
Well, by 1951, Educational Comics (now known as Entertaining Comics, or EC Comics) was not only turning a profit, it had a top-selling comic.
And not only was it a top-selling comic overall, it was the No. 1-selling comic of its kind. In fact, it was the only comic of it kind. And it started a new genre in comics.
The genre was horror.
The comic was Tales from the Crypt.
This is its story.
I first caught Tales from the Crypt: From Comics to Television when I reviewed Tales from the Crypt: The Complete First Season—it was one of the special features. Well, it was basically the only special feature. However, I was so impressed by the documentary, I went online to find out more about the documentary. Much to my surprise, I found it was available separately on DVD—with three hours of bonus features.
And one of those hours isn’t a commentary, as there is no commentary.
The documentary itself runs 56 minutes, and it is an in-depth look at EC, from its difficult beginning to its tragic ending—and the decency hearings that caused it—in 1954.
Using interviews from comic historians, EC artists and people influenced by EC, director Chip Selby paints a fascinating history of one of the coolest comics ever to be published.
Whether it’s ripping off Ray Bradbury—and being called on it by Bradbury himself—to the hearings William Gaines spoke at in defense of his comics, EC’s rise, fall and rise again are covered.
The artists are covered, the writers are covered, the comics are covered.
Everything is covered and it is all bloody goodness.
Video and Audio:
Like the comic, Television is rich with color. The blues and reds are deep and full and there is no noticeable bleeding. I first watched the documentary on my smaller TV, and later watched it on my 48" widescreen. I wish I would have watched it on my big screen first, because the smaller screen simply did not do it justice. A fantastic-looking disc.
Television's offered 5.1 surround sound mix is terrific. Surprisingly, there is use of the rears and sides, and the score has a thumping bass on occasion. Grant Slawson's and Chip Ellinghaus' score is absolutely perfect for this documentary. With the right mix of upbeat and haunting sound, it would be the best music to listen to when reading an EC comic.
A stereo mix is also offered.
Oh, dear Lord, this is probably one of the most packed DVDs I've ever seen for a documentary.
On disc one, "Bradbury & EC" is a feature that has EC editor Al Feldstein talking with Ray Bradbury about their collaboration. This is the first time they talked about this on camera and it is moderated by comic book historian Jerry Weist. This is the best special feature offered, as Feldstein and Bradbury obviously have much respect for each other's work and both are thankful for the chance they had to work together. They share many stories and it is a very enjoyable trip down memory lane.
Disc two contains the meat of the special features, starting with interviews with EC artists Marie Severin, Jack Davis, Al Williamson and Jack Kamen. All four are fascinating to listen to, but my favorite was Severin's interview. There's something really cool about listening to a grandmotherly figure describing how she colored the brains, blood and guts.
There are also bonus interviews with George Romero (The Dead Quadrilogy), EC Library publisher Russ Cochran and EC fan Robert Overstreet. Like with the artists, all three interviews are informative and enjoyable, but Romero's is the best. He describes the influence EC had, and didn't have, on his filmmaking and he talks about the relationship between Tales from the Crypt, the comic, and Creepshow, which he directed.
"A Visit With Jack Kamen" is, well, a video of Selby spending the day with Kamen, an EC artist. Kamen shows Selby some of his artwork, which is awesome. Kamen comes off as extremely likeable,and the video is well worth the watch.
The final feature on disc two is a chapter on EC historian Roger Mill, which includes Hill's biography, a blurb on his fanzine and him talking about EC's self-censorship of one of its bloodiest covers. It is brief, but informative.
Before I watched Tales from the Crypt: From Comic Books to Television!, I only knew of the comics and TV show, but not its fascinating history. After watching, I damn near feel like an expert. Television packs a lot of information into its two-disc special edition and it is worth every bloody penny of its $24.95 MSRP. If you have any interest in either EC Comics or Tales from the Crypt, this is an absolute must purchase.