Friday, September 30, 2011

Tales From The Crypt, Season One: The Man Who Was Death

The Man Who Was Death.
Starring: Bill Sadler

"After the death penalty is abolished, an executioner continues his former job through freelancing..." (IMDB).

This is a perfect first episode; good music, clever script, nice little twist at the end, and an actor who can carry it pretty much all on his own. Bill Sadler (you'll probably remember him from Shawshank Redemption a few years after this) was perfect as execution specialist Niles Talbot. The script mentions Oklahoma as Talbot's home state, but whatever southern accent he was going with was *perfect* for this sort of narrative and kept the character from becoming too stoney and sociopathic---he's just a good old boy, after all, right? He drops the early syllables on a lot of his words and damn if it wasn't (almost) sexy? Behind becomes 'hind, between, 'tween, and so on. I almost think listening to this as a radio program would work just because of his voice! "Treat whores like queens and queens like whores and they're on their backs quicker than you can say 'Son of Sam.'" Words of wisdom, Niles, words of wisdom. I first saw this episode back in 89 when it first hit HBO; I have never forgotten that statement.

The music was perfect, too. Those eerie, circus-y themes going on during the walks (both first and last) to the electric chair were damned creepy, almost too happy and manic for what was happening on screen, but they worked. As the biker Jimmy Flood is riding up to the fence (which Niles has of course electrified) the instrumental is a good one, Link Wray's Rumble (which Tarantino used during the uncomfortable silence segment inside Jack Rabbit Slim's).

The twist at the end is predictable, but a good one---not unlike the sort of turning of tables that goes down in The Obsolete Man in The Twilight Zone's second season. And should we talk a little bit about the introduction, also? Opening theme by Danny Elfman, of course, (who else) and John Kassir does the voice of The Crypt Keeper. Excellent character, although this introduction had him a bit more reserved than later ones, hardly any cackling at all and mostly throaty giggles and a lot of hand-rubbing. I prefer my Crypt Keeper obnoxious with high-pitched womanly laughter, thank you; the self-electrocution was a nice touch, though, I'll keep that.

I love this show. Check out Niles's final project below (spoilers):

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