Tales from the Crypt: The Man Who was Death


Tonight we take a look at The Man Who Was Death, the premier episode of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt!


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we’re taking a look at The Man Who Was Death, the premier episode of HBO’s
classic Tales from the Crypt, which itself was an adaptation of various stories published in the pages of EC Comic’s popular horror line-up from the 1950s.

Originally published in the pages of Crypt of Terror #17, The Man Who Was Death aired on June 10, 1989 and was
directed by Walter Hill. In it, an electrician-turned-prison executioner (played here by William Sadler) is laid off from his job only to continue executing various violent criminals who slip through the cracks of the justice system.

As would become the show’s trademark, The Man Who Was Death is both darkly comedic and not at all afraid to make use of more adult visuals and language afforded by the show airing on HBO. Unfortunately, as with many of the shows 93 episodes, The Man Who Was Death often feels as if it makes use of things like nudity for no reason other than it can. While the premise of the episode revolves entirely around a homicidal vigilante, the on-screen violence is shockingly limited. But at the same time, there’s a scene set in a strip club for seemingly no reason whatsoever.

This might seem like a strange thing to bring up given how the show was not only on HBO but adapted from comics
known and loved for their graphic nature. But it’s more a matter of balance–namely that, despite the freedoms
afforded by HBO, Walter Hill failed to deliver on visuals that served the story. When the kills are this tame while a bit of needless T&A is seemingly offered up in its place, it comes across as an intentional disservice to the story and the
audience.

This minor nitpick aside, The Man Who Was Death is still one of best episodes in the show’s 7-season run, which says
a lot given how Tales from the Crypt was more often hit than miss. And like the Cryptkeeper himself, it’s one that has
aged surprisingly well, something that can’t be so easily said about the numerous other horror anthologies from the past 50 years.

Steve Arviso
A former professional hugger, Steve Arviso is now a semi-pro writer with a love for pop culture and a face made for radio. He often spends what money he does have on penny whistles and moonpies.

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