The 1950’s introduced us to Tales From the Crypt, a wry, sardonic E.C. Comics series that turned the saccharine theme of good versus evil on its head.
Like its comic predecessor and the HBO horror anthology it inspired, the 1990’s animated series Tales from the Cryptkeeper maintained a cool distance from the “nice” cartoons that littered Saturday mornings.
The ABC network and Nelvana studios made a deal to obtain the rights of the EC Comics’ character, Cryptkeeper, from his new owners, filmmakers Richard Donner, Walter Hill, Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver, and David Giler. The Cryptkeeper was then animated into a wisecracking skeleton who told tales of moral comeuppance, much like the original comic.
The crux of each episode was the “lesson” learned by the protagonist by having his victim turn the tables on him. For example, in one of the more risqué episodes, a brutal fisherman ended up being hooked by a family of fish and canned like a sardine. Most of the animated episodes were a lot more tame, however, as the “cruel joke” element of classic Cryptkeeper stories could be a bit harsh by Saturday morning standards. For this reason, the show had its own resident psychological advisor, who suggested that some episodes be previewed by parents.
The most unique element of Tales from the Cryptkeeper was its wisenheimer title character, who retained his perverse sense of humor and wonderful, dry cackle. His cheesy, wicked one-liners and silly puns such as introducing each episode as a “car-tomb” certainly lent a refreshing bit of darkness to the animated landscape.
The show lasted only two seasons, but it was brought back from the dead in 1999 on a new network, as CBS’ The New Tales From the Cryptkeeper