BluRay/DVD Reviews

TALES FROM THE CRYPT: FROM COMIC BOOKS TO TELEVISION

By • Aug 17th, 2008 •

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On the surface, 1950’s pop culture consisted of ‘Father Knows Best,’ ‘Superman’ THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and Wheaties. Dare to dig underneath that family-friendly surface and you’ll find EC Comics, the home of shocking and entertaining comic book series like ‘Tales From the Crypt’ and ‘Shock Suspense Stories.’ Chip Selby’s documentary TALES FROM THE CRYPT – FROM COMIC BOOKS TO TELEVISION gives us a fascinating and fact-crammed history of EC Comics. You will see how publisher William Gaines reluctantly inherited his father’s failing comic book business and raised it to amazing artistic and financial heights. Just when Chris Selby gets you cheering and rooting for Gaines’ successful gore-splattered yet sarcastic approach to horror stories, you’ll gasp when the McCarthy-era Senate tore down the comic book industry and squeaky-cleaned the grisly thrills into well-mannered and censored “spook-tales”. But, fear not, EC and the comic book genre’s rebirth is depicted here with clips from Amicus Studios funky 1972 tribute film: TALES FROM THE CRYPT. That film, co-starring Joan Collins and Peter Cushing, helped to bring about a rebirth in shock-comics. Selby’s film ends with a triumphant note, highlighting the George Romero/Stephen King EC salute, CREEPSHOW and the Cable Television series ‘Tales From the Crypt.’ Selby’s constant visual motifs of comic-book-like primary colors and jolting shock cuts (like comic book panels), even during the interviews, keeps things rocketing ahead.

The extras here on this two-disc set are a package of fun for comic fans and outsiders with little knowledge of comic lore. Entertainment industry icons such as Romero and John Carpenter are interviewed on how comic books shaped their teenaged years and their lives. They also talk about the comic book witch-hunt.

When mentioning Dr. Frederick Wertham, author of the comic book damning ‘Seduction of the Innocent,’ which claimed that reading comic books leads to juvenile delinquency, John Carpenter retorts: “Well, I didn’t become a juvenile delinquent, I became a film director. So, Dr. Wertham is wrong. Dead Wrong!”

One of EC Comics’ and Gaines’ brainchildren was the deliciously satirical Mad Magazine. Somewhere around 1978, as a teenaged Mad Magazine junkie, I decided to visit Mad Magazine’s Madison Avenue office. I was invited to William Gaines’ office. By now, the friendly and funny Bill Gaines let his hair and beard wildly grow, and he looked like a yogi. His office had dozens of toy zeppelins dangling from his ceiling. This documentary perfectly captures Gaines’ imagination, and eccentricity. TALES FROM THE CRYPT – FROM COMIC BOOKS TO TELEVISION is available for sale at www.tapeworm.com

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