2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the cult phenomenon, TALES FROM THE CRYPT. This show was inspired by the EC Comics of the 1950’s, which were eventually banned for their depictions of horror. The very first episode of the show aired on HBO in 1989 and spawned 7 seasons, 93 episodes, films, and even a cartoon show for kids.
To celebrate this momentous anniversary, Midsummer Scream invited people who worked on the show and the films to participate in a panel. Associate producer of the show, Robert Parigi, moderated the panel, which included production designer Gregory S. Melton, special effects supervisor Richard Edlund, director William Malone, Demon Knight director Ernest R. Dickerson, and of course the Crypt Keeper himself John Kassir. Naturally, fans cheered with glee every time Kassir spoke or laughed in the Crypt Keeper voice. With such a huge anniversary and the star-studded panel, it was a packed house. The room was filled with fans eager to hear behind the scenes stories and learn more about one of their favorite shows.
The different stories told were a treasure trove of trivia and history. Some of these stories were ones fans would recognize, while others were entirely new. One bit of trivia that is fairly well known by those who love the Crypt Keeper is the origin of the puppet. If you’ve ever looked into those big blue eyes and felt there was something familiar about them, you’re right. They are also Chucky’s eyes from the first Child’s Play film. After that film wrapped the puppet was repurposed as the beloved Crypt Keeper.
An unexpected bit of TALES FROM THE CRYPT knowledge the audience learned was about the making of the infamous opening credits scene. Fans will likely recall as the music began to play and the iron gates opened, the camera would follow a path up to the front of an eerie and decrepit old mansion. The mansion doors open to reveal a cobweb-covered foyer, then the camera weaves over and down a spiral staircase, finally entering the basement crypt where the Crypt Keeper is found cackling with glee. What may come as a surprise to some fans is that most of that intro, including the exterior of the mansion and the spiral staircase, were actually small models instead of a life-size set. Edlund and his team, creating what is arguably the most memorable part of the show, made these miniatures. The audience was even lucky enough to see pictures from the making of the miniatures brought by Edlund.
While I love the show, for me, my love of TALES FROM THE CRYPT has always been centered on Demon Knight. Getting to see Dickerson up on that panel telling stories from the set was amazing and it made me love him and the film even more. Dickerson told the audience about working with Jada Pinkett Smith (back when she was Jada Pinkett) and Billy Zane as well as the amazing practical effects used to create the frightening demons. What many fans may have already noticed, but it somehow eluded me, is that the Crypt Keeper isn’t the only connection Demon Knight has to the original TV show. One of the stars of the film was William Sadler, who also starred in the very first episode of the show. While this was supposedly a coincidence, it’s still pretty amazing that Sadler played two very iconic roles in TALES FROM THE CRYPT history.
It’s amazing to think this show and the legacy it birthed has been around for 30 years. It’s a legacy that is still growing as new fans and new people discover the show and the films. The fact that this talented group of men who worked behind and in front of the camera were able to come together on that stage in the most crowded room of any panel I went to at Midsummer Scream is a testament to how loved TALES FROM THE CRYPT truly is. If you weren’t able to attend this celebration, there’s always the 40-year anniversary.