Tales From the Crypt ran for seven seasons, produced two theatrical movies, and spawned a few spin-off series. Here are some facts about the series.
Based on the EC Comics series of the same name, including the Vault of Horror, Shock SuspenStories, Two-Fisted Tales, Crime SuspenStories, and The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt was an anthology series created by Steven Dodd and William Gaines (the former head of EC comics who was also directly involved in the making of the comics). Each episode was hosted by the Crypt-Keeper (John Kassir) who introduced and closed out each segment while spouting macabre puns.
The series ran for seven seasons, produced two theatrical movies, and spawned a few spin-off series. The TV series was as gory and terrifying as the comics, giving EC fans exactly what they “axed” for.
Initially, Tales from the Crypt signed on to HBO for three seasons. Co-creator William Gaines was alive to see all three seasons until his death in 1992 and was extensively involved in the making of the episode “And All Through The House.”
The series’ runners felt this set the tone for the rest of the show’s episodes. Fortunately, due to the success of the series, the show was signed on for four more seasons before ending its run in 1996. By its conclusion, the series produced a total of 93 episodes.
John Kassir nailed his audition and was almost hired on the spot. After presenting the voice of the Crypt-Keeper to series executive producers Joel Silver and Richard Donner, Kassir’s fate was sealed.
However, there were a total of eight to 10 actors who auditioned, including Charles Fleischer who voiced Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Michael Winslow from the Police Academy franchise. While he did not get the part, Fleischer later appeared in Tales from the Crypt’s Demon Knight, alongside Billy Zane and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Fans Of Tales From The Crypt
There were many fans of the original EC Comics who worked behind the scenes, including executive producers Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Walter Hill, and Richard Donner. All of them relished the comics and claimed some of their movies were inspired by them.
John Kassir distinctly remembered reading the comics as a child, along with Crypt-Keeper designer Kevin Yagher, who was delighted to see these stories brought to life.
Inspiration Behind The Crypt-Keeper’s Voice
Kassir based the hallmark voice of the Crypt-Keeper partially on actress Margaret Hamilton (who portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz), Henry Youngman, and notorious film director/TV host, Alfred Hitchcock.
Kassir took into consideration the character’s decaying state and brewed these aspects together to create the voice. To retain his voice, Kassir would swallow honey and lemon juice after recording his lines.
The series attracted many A-listers who worked behind and in front of the camera, including Tom Hanks, John Lithgow, Demi Moore, Patricia Arquette, and Tim Curry. Some of the big names had been directed by the series’ executive producers and invited them to come along.
Michael J. Fox remembered Robert Zemeckis (who he worked with on Back to the Future) extending him an invitation to direct an episode, which he accepted by directing “The Trap.”
Keeping The Spirit Of The Comics
One aspect the series’ executive producers and crew prided themselves on was how they stayed true to the comics. Each episode was based on a specific comic issue and there were some scenes shot with the same angle as depicted in the comics. Those who worked on the show said the comics even served as storyboards.
They felt it was integral to stay honest to the source material and they stuck by their word. There was only one episode not based on a comic issue and that was the series finale, “The Third Pig.”
Almost Deadly Accident
In the episode “Terror Television,” Morton Downey Jr. portrayed an exploitive news show host who investigated a haunted house with his crew. Unbeknownst to him, it was not only haunted, but the ghosts who dwelled there were malevolent spirits who did not care for visitors.
According to a “behind the scenes” documentary, the actress playing the chainsaw-wielding ghost accidentally slipped on the rug, causing her to get closer to Downey Jr. than intended. In response, he instinctively pushed the lamp against her to defend himself.
The Look Of The Crypt-Keeper
Designer Kevin Yagher (who also designed the killer doll Chucky in Child’s Play) mentioned that the Crypt-Keeper was an amalgamation of the three horror hosts who appeared in the EC horror comics series, including the Vault-Keeper, Old Witch and Crypt-Keeper.
In the practice of staying true to the source material, Yagher wanted to have the Crypt-Keeper be reminiscent of all three horror hosts. Yagher also used the same cold blue eyes he implemented for Chucky.
Back From The Grave
Thirty-eight years following the death of Golden-age actor Humphrey Bogart, the actor was seen once again in the episode “You, Murderer.” To achieve this effect, the crew utilized and updated the same technology from Forest Gump that achieved the effect of portraying John Lennon and John F Kennedy on-screen with Tom Hanks.
For Bogart’s character, a cameraman was dressed up to play the part from his point of view. Robert Zemeckis directed this episode and also directed Forest Gump.
As previously mentioned, Gaines was incredibly involved with the making of “All Through the House.” While he was fine with most everything, he did have one comment. In the final scene, where Mary Ellen Trainor’s character is screaming her head off at the sight of her daughter holding the killer’s hand, was extended.
He requested she continuously scream and scream for an incredibly long amount of time. They obliged and felt this helped the series make its imprint.
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