Tales from the Crypt (1996)

Season 1 Episode 1

The Man Who Was Death

Aired Unknown Jun 10, 1989 on HBO



  • Trivia

    • 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.

    • Although the name of the state that appears in this episode is not formally given, in two scenes there is a phone present that contains the area code 501 which at the time of this episode was the area code for Arkansas which is a state that does have the death penalty.

    • [Spoiler Warning]
      When Jimmy Flood is found innocent, he screams out, "Yeah !" in the courtroom. Later on this same audio is heard again as a voiceover when Niles is caught and told the death penalty is back on.

    • In the opening wraparound segment, The Crypt Keeper does not say the title of the story.

  • Quotes

    • [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.

    • Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] They say electric current's so fast the brain gets cooked just as soon as the switch is throwed. The prisoner never feels a thing. Boy, I'd hate to think that was true. [Pulls switch for electric chair]

    • Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] I'm a country boy, but I like the city. You know, it's big. It's dirty. Let's you know what it really is. But at night, there's all those lights. It's real purty isn't it? My name's Niles Talbot. I've been the executioner in this state for the last twelve years. When I got here from Oklahoma, I caught on as an electrician, then, after a while I got a job out to the prison, taking care of the generators. I like electricity. It's dependable, you can trust it. A lot of states do it with gas or with some lethal injection. I don't take to that. That's how you kill a dog or cat or something, not a man. It's gotta be the old electric chair for me.

    • Newscaster: Elsewhere today, the legislature is prepared to vote whether or not to rescind the death penalty in this state, only a few hours after the execution of Charles Ledbetter. Opponents of the bill claim the death penalty is proven an effective deterrent against violent crimes, and it's abolition will only push the crime rate higher, and produce more overcrowding in our prisons. Many also claim that execution is still murder in the eyes of God.

    • Niles Talbot: I guess this ain't the kind of work they give you a gold watch for, is it?

    • Niles Talbot: [Narrating] One thing a man needs is a friend, someone to talk to when you're feeling down and out. I suppose that's why they invented bars, you know. You can nurse a drink, think things over, have a little chat. All of a sudden things ain't quite as bad as they seem. Most barroom conversations is either about baseball, football, boxing, or p*ssy. But with me it's different. People usually want to talk to me about my job. I guess I oughta say my ex-job.

    • Vic: This one's on me Mr. Talbot. [Pours drink] It's goddamn criminal. [Sighs] I can't believe those chickensh*t politicians really did it. [Sighs] After all those years of service, and they...they canned ya like you're some f*cking guinea off the boat, y'know. [Sighs] I hate to see talent go to waste. [Sighs] It's a f*cking shame.
      Niles Talbot: Thank you Vic, you're a real buddy.
      Vic: They're doing lots of shows on TV about the whole thing.
      Niles Talbot: 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.
      Vic: [Laughs]
      Niles Talbot: Now that might be a real education.
      Vic: Hell, I'd watch it.
      Niles Talbot: There was this editorial on TV and the commentator was saying how if they televised executions the whole country'd just stop the death penalty. They'd all be too sick from it, they wouldn't let it happen again.
      Vic: F*cking guys on TV, what do they know?
      Niles Talbot: Let me tell you something. They put executions on TV, be the f*cking highest-rated show of all time. Be Nielsens through the roof. Other networks would start killing people just to compete. Pretty soon, Geraldo Rivera be pulling that switch.
      Vic: [Laughs]

    • Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] It's all a big food chain. We eat sh*t, and sh*t eats us. They canned me from my job because they're afraid of me. They're afraid of death. They don't see it's all around them. It's a disease. You eat it, you drink it, you breathe it, you f*ck it. We're all pregnant with it. It's growing inside all of us. Like them, over there, you see those two junkies? Pitiful bastards, ain't they? I'll tell you something though. In a way, I respect them. They're honest. They spend all the money they can get just to shoot a little death into their arms. Just for a thrill. Just get a little taste of the grave. See, they know death is coming. They tease it. I like that. Of course, at the same time, junkies are sh*t. Two-bit criminals

    • Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] I got nothing special against bikers. Hell, I used to own a hog myself, once upon a time. Bikers believe in freedom. Don't want nobody lean on 'em and they don't give a good goddamn what polite society thinks of 'em. See, they figure they're throwbacks to real Americans. You know, what the country was all about before it went to hell with big-city lawyers and computers, corporations and time clocks and what all. There's a lot to be said for that. Those ain't bad ideas. But this biker, Jimmy Flood, now he went way out of line and he ought to pay. [Touches two wires together creating electrical current]

    • Vic: [After watching news report on death of Jimmy Flood] Can you believe that? And some people say there's no God.
      Niles Talbot: Sure, there's a God. No doubt about it. Problem is he spends too much time making a**holes like that biker.
      Vic: I know what you mean, he looks like a real creep to me. 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?
      Niles Talbot: They're all pretty dark when I'm done with them, Vic.
      Vic: [Laughs] Yeah.

    • Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] This fellow, Carne, decides to unload his wife in favor of this little hotski that he had on the side, but his old lady had all the loot in her name, so he figured that divorce wasn't quite good enough. I know where his head is at. We all do. Right down there between his legs.

    • Niles Talbot: [Narrating] You know, I gotta say this for old Carne. If you're gonna do it, make sure she's worth doing it for. And this girl of his is awful pretty. Of course, everybody knows beauty's only skin deep. Looks just don't last.

    • Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] I never had no problem with women. If I wanted one, I just went out and got her. Easy Peasy, Japanesey.
      Niles Talbot: [Addressing a bartender] Give me a beer, honey.
      Niles Talbot: [Breaking the fourth wall] They just want you to love them, is all. That's all they ever want. They get that from their mamas, from all the trashy magazines they read. It's easy to be successful with dames. Just don't fall in love and you're okay. You give them what they want, you fall in love, they'll kill ya. They can't stand you no more, they either dump you and move on or if they let you hang around, they'll cut your b*lls off. Weird, ain't it? Now, as far as strategies for getting into their panties, that's easy too. The old rule, you treat wh*res like queens and queens like wh*res, you got no problem. They're on their backs faster than you can say, "Son Of Sam". Aah, look at those honeys. And up there, we got the queen b*tch herself. [Looks at the go-go dancer in the cage] Yes sir, I got just what the doctor ordered for you. You might have fooled that jury, but you didn't fool me none. I wonder how you're gonna dance when i put 10,000 volts through your a**.

    • Detective: I've got some good news for you, Mr. Talbot. Since, you're such a staunch supporter of Capital Punishment, you'll be glad to know that the state legislature has just reinstated the death penalty, and guess who's not pulling the switch this time?

    • Niles Talbot: [Being led to electric chair by prison guards] Did he call? Did the Governor call yet? Listen, if you just delay this thing, just a couple of minutes, that's all I'm asking for, just...just a few damn minutes. Come on now, I'm not like the other ones. You know me. You all know me! I used to work here, for Christ's sakes. I'm...Come on, I'm telling you! The Governor's gonna call. He knows what I did for him. He knows about all the rats and all the f*cking crumbs that I took care of! All the sh*t that they want me to get rid of!

    • Niles Talbot: [Being led to electric chair] You've gotta let me go, you sons of b*tches! That phone is gonna ring! [Gets put in chair] I'm telling you, he's gonna call. He's gonna call. He knows. And when he does, if you juice me before he f*cking calls, you're all gonna get canned! You hear me? You sh*theels! I didn't do nothing that you didn't want! I didn't do nothing you didn't go along with! All's I did was something you was too chickensh*t to do yourselves! You miserable chickensh*t b*stards! Chickensh*t f*ckers! You can't do this to me! Let me out of here!
      [Executioner puts headpiece on Niles and looks him directly in the eyes]
      Warden Havers: Niles, I'm terribly sorry it's come to this.
      Niles Talbot: It's my job. That's why I did it, 'cause it's my job. If a man ain't good at his job, then what the hell's he good for? What's anything good for? [Warden nods, giving the go ahead for the executioner to pull the switch, giving Niles the regulation two jolts the state required]

    • Niles Talbot: [Narrating] I didn't want no haircut. They said that was a mistake 'cause my head might catch on fire from the electricity when they juice me. I told them, don't worry, the Governor gonna call.

  • Notes

    • 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.

  • Allusions

    • 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.

    • 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".

    • Son Of Sam

      The nickname of late 70's serial killer, David Berkowitz who killed or injured several victims with a .44 caliber gun. His reign of terror lasted a year and his effect on pop culture has carried on since in all forms of media. Although Berkowitz was caught and convicted, the case remained open as of 2004 because of unresolved facts from the crimes.

      In this episode, when Niles Talbot is about to 'execute' the go-go dancer he gives his take on not having a problem getting women and he mentions "They'll be on their backs faster than you can say, 'Son Of Sam'.

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