Horror and sci-fi anthology tv shows seem to have been around for as long as televisions themselves: Tales of Tomorrow in 1951; The Twilight Zone in 1959; The Outer Limits in 1963; Night Gallery in 1970; Ghost Story in 1972; The Hitchhiker in 1983; Tales from the Darkside in 1984; Monsters and Freddy’s Nightmares in 1988.
Until the last decade, most horror-themed television shows were watered down due to the ratings policies of general broadcast television. But there was one show, born from cable tv and found its way to late-night syndication with less editing than expected, that still claims the throne of the televised horror anthology: Tales from the Crypt.
Season 1 Episode 04: Only Sin Deep (first aired June 14th, 1989)
Source Story: Haunt of Fear #24
Director: Howard Deutch becomes the first director who wasn’t one of the executive producers of the Tales from the Crypt series. Considering his credits include Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and The Great Outdoors, it’s not too hard to understand that “Only Sin Deep” wasn’t very horror-heavy.
Plot: A “street solicitor” tries to buy her way into high society by pawning her beauty for $10K after holding up pimps doesn’t work out too well. Unfortunately, she doesn’t pay attention to the deadline or the witch doctor paraphernalia that the pawn store owner has displayed, who saps beauty from people using plaster casts to keep his dead wife looking beautiful, and ages faster than Betamax after getting what she wants, resulting in losing almost everything.
Murderous Moral of the Story: Don’t pawn what you can’t afford to lose.
Critique: One of the elements that makes a good Tales from the Crypt episode is a nice blending of comedy to go with the horror stories being showcased from the comic books. Comic lines like Tales from the Crypt, The Unexpected, and The Vault of Horror didn’t play with much comedy unless it was a pun or two from the omniscient storyteller, or it was just lost on me because I was young and it’s hard to pick up on tongue-in-cheek themes when reading. The Tales from the Crypt series was able to play with comedy because it could easily lean on visuals and audio.
“Only Sin Deep” balances its horror with Leah Thompson using a nice ’80s montage to showcase her shopping spree that she uses to get in the door of a private, high-rolling party and meet her sugar daddy. It’s a great scene, especially when following up a scene with a creepy pawn shop owner and his collection of plaster faces.
Unfortunately, that was the only ten minutes I can give credit to (I’m adding the pawn shop scene. A 10 minute montage would be a bit much.) The story is pretty boring, dragged along by some very solid acting performances that allow for a laugh here and there. It fits the theme of Tales from the Crypt characters getting their comeuppances in the end, but even that is a bit hollow, since this main character is alive in the end… even if she may rather not be.
Body Count: 2
2 by gunshots: 1 lame, 1 pretty over-the-top
Actors/Actresses of Note: This is a pretty bare cast. I guess the producers put the bulk of their casting budget into the premiere episodes, and the star of this episode. Lea Thompson stars as Sylvia Vane, coming from such films as All the Right Moves, Red Dawn, the Back to the Future franchise, Howard the Duck, and other non-horror roles. Britt Leach, playing the shady witch doctor pawn shop owner, was more well known as Michael Anthony Hall’s dad in Weird Science, the toy store owner in Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the guy who keeps getting struck by lightening in The Great Outdoors. Brett Cullen plays the rich male socialite, known for his roles as Eddie Martel in The Replacements, Thomas Wayne in Joker, a role in an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares, and a bunch of side parts that make you think, “I’ve seen that guy before.”
Quote: “What is this? Let’s Make a fuckin’ Deal? Gimme the watch, or don’t you see where I’m at?” – Sylvia Vane
Watchability: 2 out of 5. The episode has enough charm to be worth watching, but it doesn’t leave much need to watch again, unless you’re revisiting it after 25 years.