Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Fifth Season DVD Review
Written by Sham
DVD released by Warner
Various writers and directors
1993, Region 1 (NTSC), 380 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on October 31st, 2006
The Crypt Keeper returns for his fifth — but not final — outing in "Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Fifth Season." The DVD box cover colorfully displays the Crypt Keeper, cheerfully grinning, as he cuts off his rotten fingers with a butcher's knife. If that doesn't appeal to you as the heart of a television series, stop reading now.
In this fifth season, the Crypt Keeper happily opens thirteen macabre episodes, introducing each tale with silly puns and comic book violence. The prologue for "Death of Some Salesmen" is easily the best, featuring the Crypt Keeper in full business attire as he tries to sell overpriced items on the Home Chopping Network.
The actual tales, which can certainly be classified as the most violent of any of the seven seasons, are equally impressive. Like any television series, there are standout episodes this time around, the most memorable being "Death of Some Salesmen," "People Who Live in Brass Hearses," "Well Cooked Hams," and "Creep Course."
Series producer Gilbert Adler sits in the director's chair for "Death of Some Salesmen," the story of a gravesite solicitor who becomes the prey of a bizarre family with a hidden agenda. This episode features Tim Curry (Stephen King's "IT") in full comic mode as three different characters, each performance being gleefully over-the-top. There are several great twists to the plot, but it's mostly worth a look just to see the excellent makeup effects.
"People Who Live in Brass Hearses" is the best episode of the season, and one of my personal favorites from the entire show. Bill Paxton (Frailty) and Brad Dourif (Child's Play) star as two brothers whose murderous ice cream truck robbery goes awry. In one of the season's most insinuating scenes, Paxton's character — in complete fear of being put in prison — searches the ice cream vendor's house for money. He pulls open a cabinet door in the kitchen, and instead of finding fame and fortune, he finds Life (the cereal). It's this kind of subtlety that makes the show more than an excursion into gratuitous sex and body eviscerations.
Billy Zane (Demon Knight) and Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now) play tricky rivals in "Well Cooked Hams," a pre-Prestige horror version of what happens when magicians take their love for magic one step too far. The climactic magic trick is the best part, featuring one of the magicians as he attempts to escape a "death box" about to be dumped in acid and impaled with swords.
Finally, in "Creep Course," an Egyptology student falls victim to her teacher's preserved basement mummy. This episode has the best — and most brutal — comeuppance of the season, a moment I can surely endorse as one of the biggest cringe-inducers of the whole show. It stars Jeffrey Jones (Beetle Juice) as the malignant teacher and Anthony Michael Hall (TV's "The Dead Zone") as a devious apprentice who helps the professor lure students to his basement.
Even with the bad episodes - and yes, there are two this time around — the fifth season of "Tales from the Crypt" is ideal endorsement that this horror anthology still holds up a decade later.
Video and Audio:
I'll admit something right off the bat. I was impressed with the cleanup job on Season One of "Tales from the Crypt."
I'll admit something else. The faster Warner releases these DVDs, the worse the picture quality is getting.
In this case, you have to choose between two things: speedy DVD releases, or better picture quality. You can't have everything.
While Season Five's picture quality is a small step up from Season Four, I can't help but notice how soft it all looks, and how incredibly murky the colors are. The reds are nowhere near as vibrant as they should be, and that's disappointing given the show's comic book style. I've included a screenshot of a severed head in this review, and I want you to look closely at the blood for a minute. Doesn't it appear browner than it should? Unfortunately, that's one of the better shots of the DVD. The picture quality also suffers from poor focus and an accumulation of macroblocking issues.
However, I feel that for a television show from the early 90s, it could look a lot worse. Everything can be seen and appreciated, and that counts for something, but I know Warner can do better than this.
Audio is presented in standard 2.0 Dolby surround. Unlike the picture, the DVD sounds really good. The dialogue and soundtrack are all balanced, and Danny Elfman's signature prelude is always a blast to listen to.
- "Death of Some Salesmen" Virtual Comic Book
Take a moment to look over the special features. It shouldn't take you long.
Like the picture quality, the bonus material Warner racks up for each new "Tales from the Crypt" DVD seems to get smaller and smaller. Last season, we had two features, and they were both disappointing. This time, we have one special feature: a virtual comic book of one of the season's best episodes.
This leaves me wondering: what kind of rating do you give a DVD's bonus material if the one special feature sucks? Would you give it zero stars like you would a movie, or would you be generous to the distributor for putting something out there for the fans?
Luckily for Warner, I enjoyed the one special feature, and I feel they have two more chances to pile on the bonus material in case they have more features up their sleeves.
"Death of Some Salesmen" virtual comic book is an awesome feature. It's a 14-minute segment narrated by John Kassir — in complete Crypt Keeper mode — as he weaves a comic tale of business and murder. While watching the actual episode is a more entertaining experience (Tim Curry's absence shows how effective he is), this is a fun feature. I hope they include something like this on their next two DVDs.
Just as long as there are other features to go along with it.
Even with the DVD's shoddy picture quality and lack of special features, it's hard to discourage DVD collectors away from Tales from the Crypt.
The fifth and most violent season is available now.
(Tools of the Trade: Sony KF-60WE610 60" Grand Wega TV, Harman/Kardon AVR 330 receiver with Bose speakers and an Emerson DVD player.)