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'Tales from the Crypt' nostalgia recap: Dying (and dying) for money

Season 1 | Episode 3 | “Dig That Cat … He’s Real Gone” | Aired June 10, 1989

This week’s Tales from the Crypt episode is helmed by another one of the show’s producers and crazy-famous directors (à la last week’s Robert Zemeckis): Mr. Richard Donner (the Lethal Weapon franchise, Scrooged, Superman (’78)). Originating in Haunt of Fear #21, this is a fun little tail—I mean, tale about a man who acquires a remarkable, feline gift. Added bonus: social commentary and a twist ending.

After the Crypt Keeper’s intro, we open on present day—a carnival scene where we meet the master of ceremonies, Barker (Robert Wuhl, Arli$$). He promises an astonishing show featuring Ulric the Undying (Joe Pantoliano, The Sopranos)—the man who dies, only to resurrect again!

During the act, Ulric is buried alive in a coffin. It’s a death sentence (obviously), but when they unearth him the next day, he’ll breathe again. That’s the plan. But while Ulric waits for morning, so do we. Never fear: He looks directly into the camera and tells us his story.

It begins in a dark alley—and Ulric is a drunkard living on the streets. He’s approached by Dr. Emil Manfred (Gustav Vintas) who offers him the opportunity of a lifetime (or nine lifetimes, perhaps).

Tales from the Crypt - Dig That Cat

Manfred takes Ulric back to his lab and performs a lucrative medical experiment—transferring the magical nine-lives gland of a cat into Ulric’s brain. The poor kitty dies, but Ulric survives to live (and die) again. Of course, to prove his newly attained gift, the good doctor shoots Ulric in the head. He dies—and returns to life. Eight lives left.

Just as Ulric is about to get paid, Manfred suggests they work together to make a fortune. Hence, a sideshow act is formed! Ulric will be able to buy all the booze he wants, and Manfred can further his scientific research.

First Act: Drowning in a tank of water! Ulric is nervous. Just as he is submerged, showgirl Coralee (Kathleen York, The Client List) asks Ulric out for a dinner date (after he comes back to life, of course).

Tales from the Crypt - Dig That Cat

Time passes and Ulric is declared “deader than a opossum on an interstate.” Showman Barker is excited and declares Ulric’s resurrection—but he hasn’t come back just yet. The crowd begins to dwindle … then Ulric breathes life again! The act is a huge success.

Second Act: A hanging! Ulric dies and lives again—all while, ahem, furthering his relations with Coralee.
The money’s rolling in—but it’s not enough for Ulric. He plans a drive with Manfred on a dark and stormy night. And at just the right moment, he floors the gas and crashes the car. Both men die. Only one comes back.

Third Act: Electrocution! Ulric dedicates his act to the late Dr. Manfred as a little old lady from the audience is selected to flip the switch. Oh, and it’s a violent one. So much so, in fact, that Ulric is brought to the morgue to be embalmed. Thankfully, Coralee arrives just in time.

Fourth Act: Death by crossbow! The show’s hype is building, and people are eager to watch a man die—so, why not offer a regular Joe off the street the chance to do the deed? But it’ll cost you BIG bucks. After all, “What’s a thousand dollars when you get to kill a human being?”

After a couple failed attempts from patrons (one being Michael Bower, aka Donkeylips from Salute Your Shorts), an archery champ enters the game and wins. It may have cost him oodles of cash, but he does get to keep the bloody arrow as a souvenir.

After paying off a disbelieving cop to help her move Ulric’s dead body, Coralee gets greedy. Once Ulric revives, she stabs him (taking another life), steals his money, and bolts.

Let’s see—that leaves two lives left, correct? One for final death and one for a final show. And this time, Ulric wants all of the profits. Because he’s the main draw for the carnival, Barker agrees to the arrangement.

Fifth Act: Buried alive! And here we are, back at the beginning. Ulric’s entombed, waiting for his final death and resurrection. He reminisces about his adventures, the initial laboratory experiment, and the poor kitty that had to die for him to—wait a minute—that cat died! So, Ulric only had eight lives!

As Ulric screams from six feet under, a couple workers finish burying the coffin.

And as if honoring his fallen brother, a black cat jumps onto Ulric’s grave. Justice is served. Meow.

Tales from the Crypt - Dig That Cat

Crypt Keeper Final Thoughts: “Alas, poor Ulric, missed a bet. Though Dying for Dollars could have been a popular game show. They could have put it between Wheel of Misfortune and The Newlydead Game. Unless they buried it in the wrong time slot!”

Fun Facts: Richard Donner had previously directed Joe Pantoliano in 1985’s The Goonies. Also, the cop that Coralee pays off plays the sheriff in The Goonies. So—cops and a Fratelli brother together again!

Notable Quote: “This whole dying thing is taking years off my life.” –Ulric

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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