Tales from the Crypt: From Comic Books to TV

If you read my ‘Seed of Chucky’ review you’d know that I grew up on ‘Child’s Play,’ Count Chocula and ‘Tales from the Crypt.’ I was pretty excited when I heard that there would be a documentary released on the evolution of the classic E.C. comic, which lead to the HBO series. Now that it’s on DVD I can almost taste the box set coming in 2005. What I really love about the documentary is that it appears they left out nobody- they’ve got interviews with pretty much anyone you could possibly think of and it cover so much ground in such a short period of time.

The documentary begins way back at the beginning of the 1900’s where a man by the name of Max Gains started a company called E.C. Comics. His son Bill would end up creating an immortal line of comics that would never be forgotten. Bill hated his father and didn’t want to follow in his footsteps, but when his father passed on, his mother persuaded him to take charge. When he took over the company it was in financial ruin and he resurrected E.C. with his ideas that changed the comic book world forever.

Old horror radio shows inspired Bill and his crew to create ‘Haunt of Fear,’ ‘Vault of Horror,’ ‘Crime Suspense Stories’ and ‘Crypt of Terror,’ which became the legendary ‘Tales from the Crypt.’ The key selling point would be what they all called the “just dessert twists,” which were the twisted outcomes to deserving people. Ideas were hard to come by so they started using Ray Bradbury’s stories as adaptations, until he called and asked where his royalties were. This just took the comic to another level as they began working with Bradbury and adapting tons more of his stories into comics.

The documentary covered everything and touched on every ground when it came to the comics history. They dabbled on censorship and how Bill was forced to shut down E.C. because he couldn’t take it anymore- only to build MAD comics to what it is today! It’s a crazy true story. It wasn’t until 1972 when ‘Tales from the Crypt’ was finally resurrected from the grave- in movie form. Things took off from there- basically that’s how they said it.

It was really interesting to see George Romero and John Carpenter talk about how they were inspired directly by E.C. comics. Romero used E.C. comics style lighting, angles and shadows in his classic genre changing ‘Night of the Living Dead.’ John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ characters and ghostly revenge story was directly inspired by the comics.

I really loved the way the doc was edited and how they turned a boring history into something entertaining. The first thing they did was bring color to the screen. The editors backlit everyone being interviewed with greens and blues and reds, which gave some life to the seemingly ordinary documentary. The transitions were slightly unordinary as each scene would zoom in and out through the film. But what really brought this doc to life was a very special addition to the film. There were scenes with examples straight out of the old comic books and as they were narrated, they would light up and move along as the scenes unfolded- this was the highlight of the entire DVD- I could watch hours of this.

My only gripe with this entertaining doc was that they spend 50 minutes going through the history of the comic and its evolution only to basically say- “then Joel Silver made a TV series based on the comic.” No mention of the movies, no detail into the show- nothing. The DVD IS called ‘From Comic Books to Television,’ is it not? Sure it would take another hour to assemble, but they could have at least took a little time and gave us something more than a “and then the world exploded” ending. Another thing that I got a kick out of were the guest speakers throughout the doc who were labeled as “comic book historians,” otherwise known to us as freakin’ losers who still live their mom (at the ripe old age of 45). Who are these people? And why do I care what they have to say?

Overall the DVD was great and it’s jammed packed with extra feature for people like me, who didn’t get everything they wanted in the hour long documentary. I really enjoyed it, but did feel like it could have been a touch more entertaining and time filled. But thumbs up for mentioning and crediting all the different artists- along with giving us those amazing ‘comics to life’ scenes. This is a MUST for ‘Tales from the Crypt’ fans- no exceptions.

Official Score