The JoBlo Original covering Tales from the Crypt‘s physical media releases was Written by Paul Bookstaber, Edited by Lance Vlcek, and Narrated by Kier Gomes.
Back in 1989 a horror anthology series hit HBO network and took the horror world by storm. Maybe you heard of it? Doesn’t ring a bell? Its intro is made of nightmare fuel as the camera treks through its main gate, which ascends to a broken-down, deteriorated mansion as lightning cackles through the night sky. We enter this amusement park of horrors, cobwebs draped alongside the walls, creeks and strange noises echoing about, eerie atmosphere soaking up the screen, and we enter a false trap door. Now when I was younger, I think I was close to shitting my pants because here or there as we descend down these stairs into this abyss, and we go through a room here and there. And then right then and there, the Crypt Keeper popping out of that damn coffin, with that devilish laugh. That cackle sent chills and shivers right down my spine cueing that main title card dripping that green ooze which looked like it was right out of a Ghostbusters movie. Because of that damn Crypt Keeper, I spent many sleepless nights, unwilling to shut my eyes cause of that face, which gets us to the topic for today folks: Why in the hell is there not a Blu-ray remaster of this amazing series and when will we expect one? It’s not as easy as you think and here’s why.
The rights of Tales from the Crypt is an incredibly murky one, which dates back to the early 90’s when the show reached its peak. Tales from the Crypt was originally created in the 1950’s under EC Comics or notably Entertaining Comics. EC Comics was created and founded in 1944 by Max Gaines. EC Comics dived into multiple genres such as romance, crimes, war, westerns, and its bread and butter: the horror genre. When Max Gaines passed away during a boating accident, his son William Gaines took over and decided to expand into politics, racial equality, and other hot topics of the times that were incorporated as underlying themes within EC’s stories. They eventually became ostracized from the public due to the nature aimed at its readers: particularly children. However, EC was known for their main horror IPs: Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Vault of Fear.
Tales from the Crypt was later picked up by HBO and since HBO Network didn’t have to abide by regular cable roles they were able to have carte blanche with how graphic they wanted their show to be, and boy they delivered on that carnage candy. Gratuitous in its nature, Tales from the Crypt showcased many Hollywood stars from the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith, Joe Pesci, Brad Pitt, Bill Paxton, Billy Zane and many more in each of their episodes and subsequent films. And this is what made Tales from the Crypt so great, you always got something fresh, unique, and terrifying on every episode. I will never forget my favorite episode, which the Christmas tale of terror that involved a murdering wife, and an escaped mental patient dressed as Santa Claus titled And All Through the House. Hell, who could forget Billy Zane as The Collector in the Tales from the Crypt film, Demon Knight? It was pure lunacy in all the best ways and probably still to this day, Billy Zane’s best film. The gore was also top notch, it was pure shenanigans and a treat for horror fans.
Funny enough, HBO let multiple networks use their episodes as reruns, however they were edited and cut down drastically to fit within the protocols of basic cable. These reruns spanned from network to network, Fox to CBS, then to SYFY and Chiller. But considering HBO was the original show creators they were not able to stream the uncut versions of their original episodes on their streaming platform HBO Max. Tales from the Crypt was executive produced by a couple of big names back in the day. Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver, Richard Donner, Walter Hill, David Giler and Gilbert Adler who all created the look of the tv series crypt keeper. In EC’s Tales from the Crypt, their cryptkeer was an actual human being, a far cry from that monstrous ghoul we’re so used to seeing in our nightmares. When William Gaines, the son of Max Gaines passed away the rights reverted from HBO back to the family estate which is most likely under a lawyer’s bargaining chip due to the popularity of networks trying to get it back out in the media. Again, it’s a real murky situation for those networks looking to revive a once great IP to us horror hounds who want to see the Crypt Keeper’s triumphant return.
The trickiest thing however is the Crypt Keeper, which is voiced by John Kassir who stated that the IP of the Crypt Keeper is under the rights of those that created the series crypt keeper’s look, which means this conundrum just keeps getting worse and worse. This potentially solved my question at the beginning as to why can’t we get that bluray or 4k remaster of the anthology series. John Kassir said at a panel interview from Terror Con, “This happens in our business all the time with popular franchises from the past that people want to revive. It’s a hard thing to get done. It hasn’t happened in many years. Some people who were involved at the top don’t believe that it will ever happen, but who knows? Nobody would be happier than me,” Kassir added. “Because I’m both a fan and an actor — not that I ever got paid that much from Tales from the Crypt. It was an expensive show to produce. I don’t even know if they could afford to make that show nowadays. It took five puppeteers to make the Crypt Keeper work. They always complained about what they had to pay them, and I was like, ‘Dude, it’s the character! What do you want?'”
It’s a shame to know that there is a spider’s web of legalities involved because as it stands, the only way to retrieve Tales from the Crypt in its entirely is to buy the very old, very dated, DVD boxset online. There is no other remaster besides the DVD boxset, and there are no plans to have a remaster until these legalities are solved. DVDs aren’t bad it’s just in truth, they’re obsolete and why not get more bang for your buck then to have the crypt keeper’s original, uncut episodes in a better quality down the road? And are there even anymore DVD players you can buy at retail value? Who would even want to play a DVD these days when everyone wants to watch the best definition possible? That’s like going from an 8k Sony flat screen to one of those Zenith Box TVs of the early 90s, it makes no damn sense! We’re always looking for the next best thing, so give the people what they want. If it were only that simple.
There have been networks in the recent years looking to get Tales from the Crypt back in the fold, but every time there is news that comes across as positive and looking up, an article a few weeks later tears it down saying an agreement has stalled, or no progress has been reached. Even Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan has been pushing to get Tales back into the fold with TNT, creating a brand-new anthology going over the old Tales EC comics run, but those talks died on the spot with the rights holders’ complexities and probably their demands not being met. TNT has been looking to get this series back up for more than a year’s time. If we can only hope, however this seems to be another Friday the 13th calamity. It was way easier for the Twilight Zone revival that’s for damn sure.
For what remains to be seen is this, we all eventually want Crypt Keeper back, and the dead never stay dead, especially in horror. Money talks in the entertainment world, and networks need to keep things fresh and innovative. I can confidently say that we will see the Keeper back in his glory with some new, fantastic tales down the road, but also most importantly getting an updated Blu-ray or 4k remaster for us collectors to have and to hold, forever and ever. It’s either that or go back to old habits die hard and buying yourself a new DVD player and binging the old and dusty boxset with that amazing DVD quality (sarcasm). Sounds like a plan. In the meantime stalk those interwebs and just wait for that new piece of news to arrive, because fans have money and they will throw it at the franchise once it’s back in the domain.