Welcome back to EnCRYPTed, kiddies. We have come to the first episode of Tales from the Crypt‘s second season, the season which started slow, and very quickly flew off the rails into completely off-the-wall territory.
The first season of Tales from the Crypt, as I have already observed, was – generally speaking – comparatively less cartoonish than the rest of the series. There was still some gore, but it wasn’t yet extreme. There were moral lessons, but they weren’t quite so lurid (despite being plenty lurid). Season two’s first episode was – as we shall immediately see below – still largely subdued, but the following episodes would quickly become completely weird. This may be due to the fact that the popularity of Tales from the Crypt was ever expanding, more and more celebrities were attracted to the show, and the creators took on a “let’s do whatever the heck we want” attitude. This season saw the weirdest episode of the entire series in “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy,” but we’ll get to that one in due course.
The first episode of the second season was “Dead Right,” which aired on the 21st of April 1990, nearly a full year after the last episode. It was based on a William Gaines story first published in “Shock SuspenStories.” It was written by prolific TV writer Andy Wolk and directed by Howard Deutch who also directed “Only Sin Deep.” Like the first season, the premiere of the second season was a special omnibus episode that incorporated crammed three episodes into a single night. If given their druthers, I think the show’s celebrity production team would have done it this way every week. “Dead Right” aired back-to-back-to-back with “The Switch” and “Cutting Cards.”
And its similarities to “Only Sin Deep” are myriad. Both are about pretty, gold-digging young women who date men they don’t love for their money. Both involve creepy mystics who provides the lead character with the means to their fortune, and the mystics allow their magic to ironically undo the leading ladies. The Deadly Sin of the week is greed.
“Dead Right,” like a few of the previous episodes, takes place in a weird world that is a mixture of the 1950s and the present day. Demi Moore (in 1990, rowr) plays an ambitious secretary named Cathy who wants nothing more than to marry a rich man. She visits a playful gypsy psychic (Natalia Nogulich) who tells her she’ll be fired that day and that she’ll find a new job immediately thereafter. Sure enough, she’s fired from her secretarial job for taking a long lunch, and, out on the street, is immediately hired to be a waitress in a strip club. Whenever I see a strip club on this show, I imagine it was less because of organic storytelling necessity, and more the show’s producers demanding increased titillation. HBO does this a lot. They incorporate cussing and boobs just because they can.
Moore returns to the psychic asking if she’ll marry a rich man, and the psychic intones a few cryptic predictions: She’ll marry a man who is poised to inherit a fortune, and he will soon thereafter come to a violent death. Moore begins looking around for said suitor, and comes to the sad conclusion that it might be Charlie (Jeffrey Tambor) the ugly, smelly, awkward, unappealing, hugely overweight regular at the strip club. Tambor had to wear a lot of makeup to look as gross as he does in this episode. Charlie takes a shine to Cathy, and she allows his advances to advance, knowing that he has a rich uncle somewhere. They do marry, all while Cathy dreams of the violent death.
The big twist: Cathy ends up being the 1,000,000th customer at her local automat, and wins a million dollars. Now rich, she hastens home to tell Charlie to go get stuffed and how awful she always thought he was. Charlie, deeply hurt, grabs a kitchen knife and carves a bloody hole in her chest. So he did inherit a fortune. Cathy’s. And he did come to a violent death shortly thereafter, when he was executed in the electric chair. This is the third episode to feature death by electrocution, and the second with an electric chair. We’ll see Ol’ Sparky again in the future.
“Dead Right” has a much simpler moral than the similar “Only Sin Deep:” Don’t marry for money, and don’t be greedy. Demi Moore and Lea Thompson play essentially the same character, only one was obsessed with vanity as well. Although the magic is less complex in this episode, the tone is a bit wilder; Howard Deutch seems to be a little more comfortable with the weird material this time around. It would be his last episode as a director. I think I like this episode better, although it’s difficult to articulate why. I think since the characters are broader and more cartoonish, one can more deeply appreciate the moralizing. It’s more like a fable.
The Crypt Keeper’s voice (provided by John Kassir) hasn’t yet become the familiar cackle we all know and love quite yet; it’s still raspy and scary. It’ll change soon enough.
Until next week, kiddies, the crypt is closed. Join me then for “The Switch,” directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.