Tales from the Crypt (1996)

The Man Who Was Death

Season 1, Ep 1, Aired 6/10/89
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  • Episode Description
  • After the death penalty is abolished in his state, an executioner is left jobless and decides to take the law into his own hands.

  • Cast & Crew
  • William Sadler

    Niles Talbot

  • Roy Brocksmith


  • David Wohl

    Warden Havers

  • Gerrit Graham

    Theodore Carne

  • Dani Minnick

    Cynthia Baldwin

  • Fan Reviews (11)
  • This had a really cool story and I really liked how it was told. However the acting and music were awful.

    By Realjad, Sep 05, 2010

  • Buen Comienzo De La Serie

    By franseries, Apr 17, 2011

  • This is one of the best performance's of William Sadler's Career.

    By ECCrypt, Jan 26, 2007

  • A man is out of the job when the death penalty is abolished. He decides, however, that justice must be served...

    By CryptMistress, May 03, 2010

  • A man out of a job goes on his own killing spree and punishes those who break the law and get off free

    By GameraTrekkie, Jul 15, 2009

  • Trivia & Quotes
  • Quotes (21)

    • [Opening wraparound segment with the Crypt Keeper watching flies getting killed by a bug zapper.] The Crypt Keeper: [slightly laughing] Ahhhh, poor little fellows. When I think of their childhood, all those cute little maggots. [laughs] 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! [laughs] So, hang onto your hats kiddies, this one's a real shocker. [Closing wraparound segment with the Crypt Keeper in an electric chair.] The Crypt Keeper: [laughs] Gawd! What a revolting development. And what a switch for poor Talbot. It just goes to show you what happens when you get too caught up in your work. [pulls switch for electric chair, gets shocked and laughs] Don't worry though, I'm sure he never knew "watt" hit him. [laughs] So, remember boys and girls, safety first. [pulls switch for electric chair, gets shocked, laughs and coughs] Phew!

    • Niles Talbot: [Narrating] This here is Charlie Ledbetter, sitting in his cell out at the state penitentiary. It's long about midnight, Charlie's gonna die in a few minutes. One thing Mr. Ledbetter ain't thinking about is Joe Saylor, his old boss. You see, one day, Charlie had a half pint of vodka for lunch, he got to thinking about how they turned him down when he wanted that raise. Now he felt real bad about that, Old Charlie did. He'd been working there for about seven years, and he didn't have too much to show for it. So he went down and got his cold blue .44 out of the glove box of his chevy, took it up to Mr. Saylor's office. Two slugs went into Saylor, three went wild, last one went right through a glass wall into a secretary who was passing by. Got her right behind the ear. Killed her big as hell. Kind of a lucky shot, really. About the only kind of luck Charlie Ledbetter ever had. Niles Talbot:[Breaking the fourth wall] I guess right about now, Charlie Ledbetter's starting to think pretty serious about that Valley Of Death. He's thinking about that rubber diaper they give him to wear. Wondering if he'll crap all over himself when I juice him in a couple of minutes. Charles Ledbetter: It ain't right! Niles Talbot:[Breaking the fourth wall] He will.

    • Niles Talbot: [Narrating] First thing you got to understand is when it's their time, all these big tough guys go yellow. Crying and hollering and screaming, blubbering "The Governor is gonna call", and all that. Well, I've been here twelve years, and the Governor ain't called yet. People say the damnedest things about electrocutions. They say your eyeballs pop out, they say black blood comes out your mouth. They say you get all foamy like a rapid dog. All that's bullsh*t. It ain't true at all. Nice thing about electrocution is it's clean. Of course, I have seen a few heads smoke after it's all over. A smoking head ain't very pretty.

    • Charles Ledbetter: Wait a minute! Just wait a minute! He's gonna call! The Governor's gonna call! He's gonna give me a stay! Yes he will. No! The Governor's gonna call! [Gets strapped in electric chair] He's got to! He's got to! Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] Oh, knock it off, Charlie. Quit being so damn chickensh*t. You killed somebody now you're gonna do the hot squat. It all evens out, don't it baby? Charles Ledbetter: Why are you doing this? Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] You know, people tell me most executioners never look the prisoners in the eye, afraid they're gonna get spooked or something. Not me, I always look.

    • Niles Talbot: [Narrating] Ok, Mr. Ledbetter, now you're all ready for your regulation two jolts the state requires.

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    Notes (6)

    • Cast Connection: William Sadler appears in the 1995 feature film, "Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight" as the main character, Brayker. He also appears in the 1996 feature film, "Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello Of Blood" as the mummy in the wraparound segments with the Crypt Keeper. He also plays the Grim Reaper in the season six episode, "The Assassin".

    • EC Comic Connection: Story adapted from Crypt of Terror #17, April-May 1950. Story by Gardner Fox and art by Bill Fraccio. The Crypt of Terror series was re-titled Tales From the Crypt at issue 20. This is one of only two stories adapted from the Crypt Of Terror comic book series, the other story is "Mute Witness To Murder", however, the stories "Cave Man" and "Ghost Ship" from that series were loosely adapted for the Tales From The Crypt Keeper animated series. [Spoiler Warning] There are a few notable changes from the original comic story that appears in "The Crypt Of Terror" #17 and the filmed version. In the filmed version, the executioner's name is Niles Talbot and is depicted as a slightly normal looking man with hair, in the comic story his name is Edgar Bowman, and is depicted as a bald bloodshot-eyed creepy looking man of the typical golden age comic book mad scientist variety. In the filmed version, the executioner is dismissed from his job because a law is passed abolishing the death penalty in his state, in the comic version it is explained that he gets unemployed because people just started behaving themselves and were not commiting murder or getting caught doing so. In the filmed version, the people the executioner kills after he loses his job are or seem guilty of the crimes they were on trial for but were pronounced innocent, in the comic story they appear somewhat innocent and their names are changed for the filmed version, although in the comic version there is a character named George Flood, in the filmed version there is a Jimmy Flood. The methods the executioner kills his victims differ somewhat as well, in the film version there is an electric gate, hot tub and attempted electric gogo dancer cage murders, in the comic story there are more deaths shown including a cut power line in the rain death, a guy getting electrocuted while taking a shower, an electric gate death and a botched water trough attempt. Although in both versions he does put electricity through a gate causing instant death. In the film version, there is no explanation of how the police caught on to the executioner's crimes, it is just applied, in the comic story a police officer puts the clues together and ironically, a lightning bolt lights up the area allowing the officer to see the executioner before he kills his last victim, which leads to his capture . The first person break the fourth wall narrative that appears in the filmed version does not appear in the comic story, however both stories do not give the location of the state that the executioner lives in.

    • When this episode first aired on Saturday June 10, 1989, it was shown with episodes 2 and 3. This was actually the second episode that was filmed.

    • Because he loved the technique in some films as a child, Walter Hill wanted the main character, Niles Talbot to talk to the camera/audience. (AKA Breaking the fourth wall.) When casting an actor to address the audience, Walter Hill had many problems because no one could get the feel of the technique until William Sadler auditioned and received the part as long as he could do the role exactly how he did in the audition. This technique is also used in the episodes, "Dig That Cat...He's Real Gone" when the main character, Ulric, talks to the audience when he's inside the casket and in "Deadline", which was also directed by Walter Hill.

    • Director Connection: Walter Hill also directed the episodes, "Cutting Cards" and "Deadline".

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    Trivia (8)

    • William Sadler is the only cast member listed in the opening credits. He is credited in this episode as Bill Sadler.

    • Running Time: [excluding opening title sequence] 26 minutes 17 seconds.

    • Crypt Keeper Wardrobe: In the opening wraparound segment, the Crypt Keeper is wearing his traditional robe with the hood down and is sitting next to a fly zapper. In the closing wraparound segment, the Crypt Keeper is wearing his traditional robe and is in an electric chair.

    • Product Placements In this episode, the following products and their logos can be seen: Rice Crispies: A box of the famous Kellog's cereal can be seen next to the TV set in the diner where Niles hears the news report on the vote to rescind the death penalty. MJB Coffee: An MJB coffee maker can be seen next to the TV set in the diner where Niles hears the news report on the vote to rescind the death penalty. Budweiser: Two neon signs of the popular American beer can be seen on the wall in Vic's bar, one, the basic logo and the other, a guitar shaped sign. Coors: Three hanging bar lights featuring the logo of the Molson Coors Brewing Company's popular beer can be seen in Vic's bar. Bud Light: A neon sign of the Anheuser-Busch Beer Company's popular beer featuring the famous former mascot, Spuds McKenzie can be seen on the wall in Vic's bar. Michelob: A hanging bar light featuring the well known Anheuser-Busch brewery beer logo can be seen in Vic's bar.

    • This episode, (going by air date and not production date) is the first appearance of the Crypt Keeper and he is more laid back, far more creepier and less comedic & excitable in his delivery than in later episodes. His puns, however, were there from the beginning.

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    Allusions (10)

    • ACLU The ACLU or The American Civil Liberties Union, are an organization founded in 1920, dedicated to defending people's civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU operates by educating, litigating and legislating to the public several issues that affect one's freedom. Some of the issues the ACLU are dedicated to are women's rights, disability rights, racial justice, gay rights and the abolition of the death penalty among others. In this episode, while talking to Niles Talbot in the bar, Vic the bartender remarks, "You know how on TV they get these experts? You know, the ACLU types. And they're always saying, "It's only the minorities that get the chair". Did you ever notice that"?

    • Mickey Mouse One of the most iconic animated characters of all time, Mickey Mouse was the brainchild of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in 1928, making his debut in the short, Plane Crazy. After the release of Steamboat Willie later in 1928, his success led to the birth of the Walt Disney corporation, one of the world's largest corporate entities and since has become the mascot for the Walt Disney corporation and is recognized all over the world. While Niles Talbot is talking to Vic the bartender, a picture of Mickey Mouse can be seen on the wall of the bar.

    • Closed-Circuit Television The closed transmission of signals from video cameras to specific monitors, often used as surveillance for shopping marts, banks, medical facilities, and casinos, among others. In this episode, while in a bar after losing his job, Niles tells Vic the bartender, "Ahh, TV people don't nothing. They want to do something good, what they really oughta do, is oughta put a lot of little TV's in all the cells of all the prisons, you know, closed-circuit, so that all the guys whose locked up can watch their buddy when he gets cooked".

    • Capital Punishment The sentence and punishment of death of a convicted criminal by a state for crimes such as murder and to lesser extents, treason. Although, it is mostly abolished by many countries, some like most of the United States still carry it. Some methods of Capital Punishment throughout the years and currently are gas chamber, hanging, lethal injection, and electrocution to name a few. Like most political issues, there are supporters of capital punishment and there are non-supporters. The central premise of this episode involves Capital Punishment in the form of electrocution as the death penalty.

    • Easy Peasy, Japanesey Slang for saying something is very easy and not too difficult. There are a few different ways to say the line, such as "Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy", the last words of the saying really have no meaning, they're just used because they rhyme. The saying has been used few times in movies and TV but it is not as popular as it once was possibly back in the 1950's. In this episode, Niles Talbot in his smart-alecky manner on how good he is at getting women, remarks, "I never had no problem with women. If I wanted one, I just went out and got her. Easy Peasy, Japanesey".

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