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Season number four of the infamous Tales From The Crypt television series has finally hit DVD, and I don't think that I need to fill you readers in on what type of material the series contains. To be honest, I'm sort of glad that I don't; after reviewing seasons one through three, I'm running out of ways to introduce it. So then, let's get straight down to the review.
Review by Chad
Added: July 31, 2006
In terms of directors and cast members, this is the season where Tales really started to pick up; honestly, just look at the directors that were involved with this one. You've got Tom Hanks (who should need no introduction), William Friedkin (The Exorcist), Gary Fleder (Kiss The Girls), Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2, but we won't hold that against him), and Gilbert Adler (Demon Knight). The cast is sprinkled with names such as Tom Hanks, Tia Carrere, Heavy D, John Vernon, Kathy Ireland, Meat Loaf, Judd Nelson, and last but not least, Christopher Reeve. Oh yeah - did I mention that all of these names were pulled from the first six episodes alone and that the rest of the season is just as star-studded?
In terms of the stories, however, this is the season where Tales started to lose some of its steam thanks to the earlier seasons using up all of the best stories. Now, don't get me wrong; this season contains some great episodes, and in fact, What's Cookin' is my (thus-far) favorite Tales episode of any season. This is the perfect example of what a Tales episode should be: it has gore, blacker-than-black humor, a good storyline, and a shocking twist ending. Watching Christopher Reeve in the lead role makes the episode all the better; honestly, who'd have expected the former Superman to pick up a role such as this?
Other great episodes include the season opener of None But The Lonely Heart which features some excellent zombie action, the all-around entertaining On A Dead Man's Chest, and an episode that features a very interesting storyline and a damned good ending in The New Arrival. There are some other goodies to be found, but sadly, there's more than a couple of turds as well. Before getting into those, however, I should probably get the obligatory episode list in place.
Season Four Episode List:
1. None But The Lonely Heart (directed by Tom Hanks)
2. This'll Kill Ya (directed by Robert Longo)
3. On A Dead Man's Chest (directed by William Friedkin)
4. Seance (directed by Gary Fleder)
5. Beauty Rest (directed by Stephen Hopkins)
6. What's Cookin' (directed by Gilbert Adler)
7. The New Arrival (directed by Peter Medak)
8. Showdown (directed by Richard Donner)
9. King Of The Road (directed by Tom Holland)
10. Maniac At Large (directed by John Frankenheimer)
11. Split Personality (directed by Joel Silver)
12. Strung Along (directed by Kevin Yagher)
13. Werewolf Concerto (directed by Steve Perry)
14. Curiosity Killed (directed by Elliot Silverstein)
The problems begin at episode number eight. Showdown tells the tale of a ghostly cowboy and how his past catches up with him, and while it's nothing great, it is an interesting story. However, it really doesn't feel like a Tales episode - there's very little gore to be found (a few gunshot wounds), no black humor, no twist ending, and really, there's not even any horror. The same could be said about King Of The Road, an episode that has to rank in the bottom five of the entire Tales catalog. Perhaps I missed something, but what in the hell is scary about a couple of guys going drag-racing? Sure, one of them dies, but this episode could just as easily have been a TV movie of the week to warn kids about the dangers of going over the speed limit. These two stinkers lead us directly into Maniac At Large, an episode that features an interesting storyline, but much like Showdown, it feels completely out of place in this series. This is due to the material coming from Two-Fisted Tales, a crime-oriented comic series produced by EC Comics, the guys responsible for the Tales From The Crypt comics. Although this magazine did produce some good Tales episodes (And All Through The House is the best from the series, in my humble opinion), this one in particular just did not work in the Tales universe.
Things get much better with the next couple of episodes (how couldn't they?), but then it all ends with yet another depressing episode. I do have to give Curiosity Killed points for sticking to the Tales formula - there's a small amount of gore, voodoo, horror, and humor, and for that, I'm grateful. However, the episode just didn't work for me thanks to some bad casting decisions, a weak storyline, and a twist ending that isn't just silly but downright stupid.
On paper, this season looks to be one of the best yet; read through some of the names found within and it's like a who's-who of Hollywood circa 1992. Sadly, the season doesn't live up to those expectations by a long-shot, and the special features found within this DVD package are just pathetic. There's a commentary track for the What's Cookin' episode which is tedious to get through thanks to John Kassir staying in the Cryptkeeper character throughout the twenty'ish minute episode and butting in with a bad joke or pun whenever anyone else attempts to say something. I respect what the Cryptkeeper brings to the show with his introductions and I'm well aware of his style, but this just doesn't work when stretched out for this long and especially when it overshadows what the other commentators have to say. The other special "feature" is a four-minute recap of the season, showing us which actors were involved and who directed some of the episodes. Putting this on the disc and labeling it as a "special feature" is insulting enough, but putting it on the final disc (meaning, you'll likely have seen all of the episodes by the time you watch this) was a god-awful decision.
Season Rating: 6/10.
DVD Package Rating: 3/10 (it was nice to finally get the episodes on DVD, at least).