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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Seventh Season
Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Seventh Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // October 23, 2007
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 26, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

Tales From The Crypt had it all - a fantastic roster of directorial talent, great writers, some amazing casting choices, and of course, a wise cracking undead puppet host voiced by John Kassir to open and close each episode. Steeped in the rich tradition of William M. Gaines' horror and suspense comics from the fifties - Tales From The Crypt, The Vault Of Horror and Shock Suspense Stories respectively - the series, which lasted seven seasons on HBO, has remained a fan favorite from the time its first episode aired on June 10, 1989 until it went off the air on July 19, 1996. Warner Brothers finally brings the complete seventh and final season of the show to DVD, ending the series' run. While this collection of episodes proves to be the weakest in the series' history, there's still enough here to make it worth a look.

Just like the notorious comic books that they were based on, the episodes almost always blended a twisted sense of black humor with the gore and shock scenes and twist endings that they became known and subsequently reviled by parents for. Critics would often blast the comics for being too intense or too depraved for the younger audiences that they were aimed at, despite the fact that there was very often an obvious moral to the story and that usually the stories were quite tongue in cheek. With the TV show the creative teams didn't have to worry about that so much. Since the series aired on HBO and not on a regular network, the show was free from the standard censorship issues inflicted on regular broadcast television and as such, the series was aimed primarily at adult viewers - just like it should have been.

The thirteen episodes that comprise the seventh season, all of which, once again, come with the full opening scene in which the camera pulls us into the crypt with Elfman's music playing overtop, are spread across the three discs in this set play out as follows:

Disc One:

Fatal Caper: Bob Hoskins (who also directs) plays the lawyer of an old man near death. His two sons bicker over their upcoming inheritance and are shocked when they find out that everything has been willed to their long lost reclusive brother. If they fail to find him, the man's vast fortune will be donated to charity and the brothers won't see a penny of it.

Last Respects: The last project to be directed by the late, great Freddie Francis (who directed the Tales From The Crypt movie for Amicus in 1972 alongside a bunch of Hammer films) this episode follows a trio of sisters who seem to have consistently bad luck. When they stumble across a lucky monkey's paw they think they've found their way out of their slump but there's more to this charm than they realize.

A Slight Case Of Murder: Directed by Brian Helgeland (of Payback fame) this episode tells the tale of a woman named Sharon (Francesca Annis) who makes her living as a very successful mystery writer. When her jealous husband kills her for cheating on him, things get tricky - especially when the would be scribe who lives next door continues to arrive in hopes of borrowing ingredients for her baking.

Escape: Peter McDonald (of Rambo III fame) directs this story about a man who betrays the army he's enlisted in. He winds up in a prison camp under an alias and is soon disturbed to find that one of the men he stabbed in the back has arrived at the same camp and is intent on revealing his true identity.

Horror In The Night: Directed by Russell Mulcahy (of Resident Evil: Extinction), this turns out to be one of the better episodes in the collection. Two men are hired to rob a jewelry store by the owner in hopes of making an insurance claim. One thing leads to another and a double cross occurs. One thief steals the jewels and hides out in a sleazy hotel where he's visited by an attractive dark haired woman who tends to his wound. And then he starts seeing strange, violent visions... Look for former British punk icon Eddie 'Tenpole' Tudor in a supporting role as the desk clerk.

Disc Two:

Cold War: A young Ewan McGregor shows up in this episode where a twenty-something female burglar (Jane Horrocks of Absolutely Fabulous) ditches her male partner - he's screwed up a job for the last time. Soon, however, she takes on a new partner with the intentions of making her last one jealous. Her motives, however, are far more sinister than simply playing head games with her former boy toy.

The Kidnapper: A young man takes pity on a down on her luck pregnant woman and decides to take her in and put her up for a while. When her son is born, the man starts to become increasingly jealous of the new infant who requires all of her time and attention, and so he decides to take the kid out of the picture once and for all. Serena Gorden of Goldeneye stars.

Report From The Grave: William Malone (of the House On Haunted Hill remake) directs this off the wall story about an inventory who creates a machine that is capable of transcribing the thoughts of the dead. When his girlfriend passes away suddenly, he decides to take it upon himself to bring her back to life but, as is usually the case in situations like this, it doesn't go as planned.

Smoke Wrings: Blackadder director Mandie Fletcher directs and Daniel Craig (of Casino Royale stars in this story about a young man who is hired by a quirky business executive to work at a marketing company. What the business executive doesn't know is that the new hire is in on a scheme with that person's former business partner and that revenge is the order of the day.

About Face: Oscar nominated production designed Thomas E. Sanders (of Apocalypto and Saving Private Ryan) earns his only directorial credit to date with this episode about a priest who finds out that years ago he fathered two little girls, one quite beautiful and the other quite ugly. The ugly daughter is afraid that her looks will force her father to flee and when he does indeed announce that he's leaving, she is forced to make him stay... no matter what.

Disc Three:

Confession: From director Peter Hewitt (the man behind Garfield: The Movie!) comes this tale of a screenwriter who, based on his work, finds himself fingered as a suspect in a case where serial killer has been running around cutting the heads off of women. Eddie Izzard stars!

Ear Today... Gone Tomorrow: An aging burglar is no longer at the top of his game since his hearing has started to go. In order to get back in good with his boss and to start cracking safes again, he hires a doctor to perform an unorthodox surgery on his ears but soon learns the hard way that this is no regular surgery.

The Third Pig: The final episode of the series is an animated take on The Three Little Pigs, albeit one with a Crypt-tastic twist! Narrated by John Kassir in character we learn about Dudley, the third pig, who winds up being framed for the murder of his two brothers and for the murder of the Big Bad Wolf (Bobcat Goldthwait). Once he's found guilty he creates a Frankenpig to hunt down and kill the real murderer.

While this series of episodes (most of which involve British talent) aren't as strong as any of the seasons prior, there's still enough good material here that established fans of the series will want to take a look. Interesting casting and directorial talent add some value to the stories and the series' trademark black humor is still running strong throughout this shorter swansong season. Unfortunately the final episode ends the series on a very weak note. The animation is uninspired and the humor uninteresting - a sad way for one of the finest horror TV shows in the format's history to end. Thankfully, the highlight episodes can easily allow us to forget the limp last episode and focus on the good stuff. It's a little odd seeing the entire season placed in the UK when the six seasons that came before it were almost all based in the U.S. but it does allow the producers to explore some interesting English talent, even if at times some of the episodes feel more like something out of the Hammer House Of Horror series than actual Tales From The Crypt episodes.

The DVD

Video:

The episodes for season seven are presented in their original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio - that's the format they were composed for and the compositions look dead on. There is some murkiness in a couple of episodes and fine detail could have been sharper but the color reproduction looks good and the skin tones look lifelike and natural (at least when they're supposed to). Edge enhancement and mpeg compression artifacts are kept to a minimum while aliasing appears only occasionally. There are some problems with softness and marginally heavy grain in a few episodes but even when this is apparent it doesn't make anything unwatchably bad. Tales From The Crypt doesn't look perfect on DVD, it simply looks okay.

Sound:

Each and every episode on this set is presented in a nice English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix with optional subtitles available in English, French and Spanish. The sound on these episodes isn't exactly home theater demo material but it does the trick on this set and there aren't any noticeable problems with the audio. Dialogue is clean and clear and free of any hiss or distortion. Bass levels are fairly strong and the sound effects and background music is well balanced to ensure that it doesn't overpower the performers or their dialogue.

Extras:

As with the last release, the only extra here is a virtual comic book of Fatal Caper which uses some of the original art from the comic book story that the episode was based on. This plays out as a nine and a half minute slideshow and John Karris handles the narration in character as the Crypt-Keeper, which makes it fun, but unfortunately there are no interviews or retrospective documentaries here, nor are there any commentary tracks. Animated menus are included, as are episode selection and play all options.

Final Thoughts:

Tales From The Crypt - The Complete Seventh Season is undoubtedly the weakest of the series. That said, there are a few stand out episodes and fun casting choices here that make it worth a look for fans, particularly those who will want to complete the run on DVD. The audio/video/extras are no great shakes but they're at least acceptable. Recommended for fans, a solid rental for everyone else.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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