Season 1 Episode 3
Sideshow freaks, unfortunately, are a thing of the past. In fact, it is not even politicly correct to use the term “freak” when discussing this long-gone form of entertainment. Which is okay, time moves forward, and progress must be made. Luckily for anyone wanting to scratch that sideshow itch, Tales from The Crypt season, episode 3 has the cure for what’s ailing you.
The Crypt keeper’s introduction starts with him lighting a match from a human skull so that he can ignite his candle to read one of his tales. The tale this week he lets the “kiddies” know is about a man who was able to enjoy dying since he was able to do it more than once. In fact, he enjoyed dying so much that he started making a living at it. The tale is about Ulric the Undying.
The scene then changes to the outside of a carnival. The Big Top Carnival. As the camera snakes its way into the big top, it is greeted by the carnival barker. The barker may seem familiar to you because it is none other than character actor Robert Wuhl. Wuhl you would know from many shows; however, the film that sticks out to me the most is Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, where Wuhl played Alexander Knox. The barker begins walking the camera through the tent into the main attraction, Ulric the Undying. A man who can die and be resurrected right before an audience. Ulric is placed in a coffin and buried alive. Ulric, of course, will also be familiar since he is one of the great character actors of our time, Joe Pantoliano. Joe played Cypher in The Matrix, Teddy in Memento, and Captain Howard in Bad Boys.
The scene then follows Ulric into the coffin, where he lets us know that he will be dead when they dig him up. The flashback of the day this all began starts where we find Ulric living in a back alley drunk. A man approaches him and offers large sums of money if he allows the man to experiment on him. They go back to the strange man’s lab, where there are many cats in cages. The doctor begins explaining to Ulric that he discovered how a cat can have nine lives and wants to give Ulric those nine lives. He will do this by surgically removing a gland from the cat and grafting it to Ulric’s brain.
They go through with the surgery, and when Ulric asks how he is sure he has nine lives, the doctor shoots him in the head. Ulric falls back to the bed and dies…but only for a moment. He then jumps up and asks for his money. The doctor hands him the cash and presents him with an idea to make more money than he could ever imagine, and that is how Ulric gets into the sideshow business.
Step right up and see a man die! The doctor speaks to the Big Top Carnival barker and negotiates a deal with him for Ulric to join the sideshow. The barker decides to take a chance, seeing how his show seems to be dying itself. Perhaps Ulric will not only be able to resurrect himself but the barker’s profits as well. Ulric is placed in a large tube filled with water so that those gathered around him may watch him drown. His bravery catches the eye of a woman working the carnival named Coralee (Kathleen York). She asks him out to dinner, that is, if he is still alive that night. As the crowd watches, he begins to drown. After he is dead, the barker reveals they plan to keep him in there for a full hour. At the end of the hour, they drain the tank. When Ulric does not rise automatically, the crowd begins to clear out, thinking it was all a hoax, but right when the last one is leaving, he jumps up alive, and they all rush back in. It looks like Ulric, and the doctor will become very rich.
In the next show, Ulric is dressed in old west attire and is hanged before a live crowd. He dies for only a moment and then comes back. The money is pouring in at this point, and Ulric’s love life with eh carnival worker seems to be going great. Ulric, now wealthy, decides he doesn’t want to share his wealth with the doctor anymore. They go for a late drive in a storm, and Ulric crashes the car to kill the doctor.
Now it seems it is time to take the show up a notch. A lottery system is created to see who can kill Ulric. It’s not good enough to just witness the death of another human at this point; the people want to be the ones to carry out the murder. Ulric is hooked up to deadly amounts of electricity. A sweet-looking old lady has the winning ticket to throw the switch. She is thrilled and pulls the lever to deliver the shocking death to Ulric. This time it takes a bit longer to resurrect Ulric. He makes his way into the morgue, and his girlfriend rushes in to ensure the man on duty does not embalm him. While the mortician (Larry Hankin) is arguing with her, Ulric jumps up, scaring him half to death, and I bet that man only has one life.
Due to the scare, Ulric makes sure that his girlfriend gets his body if there are any issues. The show then takes a twist where for $1000, an audience member can take one shot at Ulric with a crossbow. The first show misses, and the next guy stands up with his young son, trying to force the kid into killing Ulric. The kid starts to cry that he doesn’t want to do it but then shoots and misses. The next one to try the shot is the 1987 state fair archery champion. He shoots Ulric straight through the heart, and he falls over dead.
Ulric, now resurrected, retreats to his trailer with Coralee. The barker brings him his take of the profits from the show, and when the barker leaves, Coralee stabs Ulric to steal all of the money. In a fit of anger now, Ulric has to earn all that money back, so he tells the barker that he wants 100% of all the profit for his next show, since it will be his last, of course. Now, he is buried in the coffin, alive, waiting to die. While waiting, he starts thinking back to all of his deaths and then realizes when counting that the cat died giving him his gland. That means…that Ulric does not have one life left; this is his last.
This is a well-acted and entertaining episode. It is always fun to watch the turn of events in someone’s life who is down on their luck and then flush with money. It is a testament to the human nature of forgetting where we come from.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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