Season 1: Episode 1
The 1980s brought so many excellent horror movies. When thinking back on the 80s horror genre, most will drift to the Jason’s and Freddy’s of the decade. While there is no issue with this, it is unfortunate that one of the excellent anthology series is often forgotten. I am, of course, talking about the HBO series Tales from the Crypt.
With the hit that the anthology movie Creepshow was in 1982, it was a no-brainer that a television show with the same style would be created. On June 10th, 1989, the television show that would inspire writers and creative alike throughout the 90s aired on HBO for the first time. The show was created by Steven Dodd and William Gaines. The premise of the show was ultimately based on the EC Comics series of the same name.
What really helped this series to succeed was the fact that it aired on HBO, allowing it to have the freedom to show the violence, nudity, and sexual scenes. Due to this freedom, each episode was creative and let the stories be told the way each writer intended.
Each episode would begin the same way. The very eerie theme song written by the legend that is Danny Elfman would start playing. At the same time, the camera floated into the host’s mansion. The host, who would become a pop culture icon, was The Cryptkeeper.
The first episode that aired was called The Man Who Was Death.
The episode opens as every episode will do from here on out, with the Cryptkeeper giving an opening monologue.
The monologue he provides in this episode is
“Aww, poor little fellas. When I think of their childhood, all those cute little maggots, hahaha. Our story is about a man with nobler ambitions. He likes to kill human pests, and he does it in front of an audience. Now that’s entertainment, hahaha. So, hang onto your hats, kiddies; this one’s a real shocker.”
The premise of this episode surrounded a man who works for a prison as the electrocutioner. In most cases, this would be a challenging job for anyone to take on; however, it is a dream come true for Niles Talbot (William Sadler). He loves electricity and especially loves doling out the volts as punishment for the crimes committed by those he executes. Talbot takes great joy in his job and loves to pass judgment as well as death on each prisoner that takes a seat in his chair. The first prisoner that is introduced is a man by the name of Charles Ledbetter. Talbot explains to the camera that Ledbetter, after some shots of Vodka, decided he deserved the raise that he was refused so much that he took a .45 into his bosses’ office and killed him along with the secretary. Ledbetter is now sitting in the electric chair screaming, “Wait a minute! He’s gonna call! The governor’s gonna call! He’s got to!” however, the call never comes in. Niles throws the switch, and its lights out for Ledbetter.
Things are going great for Niles Talbot. He lets us know that he is just a country boy who moved to the city and started working on generators at the prison before working his way up to electrocutioner. He says he likes electricity because it’s dependable. Niles is the type of executioner who sticks his nose up to gas chambers and lethal injections. He thinks these are methods you use to put down dogs or cats, but they’re not suitable for a man.
Yup, things sure are looking good. But just when we think that things can’t get any better for good ol’ Niles Talbot, we see a news report that the death penalty is possibly getting banned, and the next day that’s just what happens. Like Charles Ledbetter, Niles is frustrated with his job, or lack thereof, to be more accurate. Niles not only loses his position as the executioner, but the warden feels that it would be unsafe to have him go back to his old job as the prison electrician because the prisoners would all know who he was and what he did. So now, Niles is without employment.
Most people in this situation would be most upset about losing a paycheck or putting the time and effort in at a job that ultimately didn’t care enough about them to take care of them in this type of situation. That’s what would upset most people; however, Niles is primarily upset about the criminals that will no longer be put to death by his hand.
Naturally, Niles decides he does not need the prison to carry out his judgment. He hears of a man named Jimmy Flood, a biker who was guilty of murder but let go due to a technicality in the warrant. Niles sets up a chain-link gate to produce enough electricity to ensure that Jimmy Flood never hurts anyone again. After the flood is killed, Niles sets his sights on Theodor Carne and his girlfriend, Cynthia Baldwin. The couple is on trial for the murder of Theodor’s wife. They are found not guilty, but Talbot has it in his mind that they are guilty. He goes to their house, where they are in the hot tub, and stands over them with an appliance plugged in. Just before he drops the electric current into the water with them, Cynthia confirms Talbot’s suspicion. She confesses that she didn’t want to kill the wife, but Theodor made her go along with it. He then fries them.
Now feeling like he is unstoppable, Niles goes in for another kill when he is suddenly stopped and arrested for his crimes. The story comes full circle as the death penalty is reinstated, and Niles Talbot has been chosen as the first one to fry. As he is strapped into the chair, he screams that it was his job, and he was only doing what he was supposed to do. He then starts screaming, “don’t worry, the governors gonna call.” That call, however, never comes in, and Talbot takes the same trip on the electric highway that he sent so many before him.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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