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'Tales from the Crypt' nostalgia recap: Hooker with a heart of stone

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “Only Sin Deep” | Aired June 14, 1989

This week’s Tales from the Crypt welcomes Howard Deutch, of ’80s teen fame (Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful), to the director’s chair, as he guides us through a tale of narcissism, hookers, and murder.

Originating in Haunt of Fear issue #24 and penned by Fred Dekker (“And All Through the House,”), this story stars Lea Thompson (Back to the Future, also Some Kind of Wonderful) as our detestable lead: a self-absorbed hooker who wants nothing but riches and beauty.

Let’s see how that works out for her …

Tales from the Crypt - Only Sin Deep

After the Crypt Keeper gives us one hell of an opening (“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fearest of them all?”), we’re on scene in L.A. with lady of the night Sylvia Vane (Thompson). Along with Raven (Pamella D’Pella), a colleague, Sylvia ogles the wealthy as they exit their limousines to attend fancy parties at posh hotels.

Sylvia may be a freelance call girl, but she wants more—well, she wants money. So she feigns interest in Raven’s pimp and leads him down a dark alley. Though she only intended to rob him, Sylvia winds up killing the guy.

With handfuls of the pimp’s gold jewelry, Sylvia heads to the pawn store to make some quick cash. The shopkeep (character actor Britt Leach, The Great Outdoors) recognizes the items as being “hot” and refuses to buy them off of her. At this point, an elderly woman in a black veil comes into the shop and curses out the pawnbroker.

Overwhelmed with emotion, the lady leaves. Just as a disgruntled Sylvia is about to follow, the man makes a different kind of offer. He’ll give Sylvia $10,000 in cash if he allows her to make a mold of her beauty—not her face, mind you. The catch: She has four months to the day to “redeem her beauty.”

Tales from the Crypt - Only Sin Deep

Obviously, Sylvia accepts this easy-peasy deal. The work is done, and she leaves with fistfuls of glorious money. Back in the shop, our pawnbroker does a bit of mysterious voodoo while speaking to a rotting corpse in a coffin. “Almost time, my love … Pretty soon you’ll be back with me.”

With her newfound riches, Sylvia goes on a spending spree, starting with a massage and ending with a delightful ’80s trying-on-clothes montage. All dolled up—but still kind of looking like a hooker—she heads back to the ritzy hotel from the opening.

Sylvia easily gets into the hotel party and catches the eye of rich guy Ronnie (Brett Cullen, Devious Maids). The two share a slightly awkward encounter. She slaps him, he chases after her, and they leave the party hot and heavy. You know, how every storybook fantasy starts.

Four months later, Sylvia is living it up with Ronnie. She’s got the guy—but more important, she’s got status with her money and fancy possessions. She’s on top of the materialistic world until, uh-oh, she looks in the mirror and begins to see faint wrinkles on her perfectly porcelain face. In truth, she’s looking less like Sylvia Vane and more like Lorraine McFly (circa 1985, of course).

Adorned in black, veiled funeral attire (mourning her decaying beauty, no doubt), Sylvia goes to see a doctor. No cancer. No internal issues. Her skin is just aging at an accelerated rate. Twenty-one-year-old Sylvia looks 50 (or 60). At this moment, Sylvia remembers what the shopkeep told her about redeeming her looks, and rushes to the pawnshop.

Alas, our pawnbroker tells Sylvia that she’s one day over the four-month limit—their contract is void. But Sylvia pulls a gun on him and demands a price. And $100,000 is the magic number to buy back her beauty. A cop walks in, and Sylvia scuttles away.

Back at her and Ronnie’s home, Sylvia scours every drawer and shelf for expensive items to sell—while at the same time breaking mirrors and destroying the place. Ronnie arrives on the scene and doesn’t recognize her. But the only love and affection Sylvia feels is for herself, not Ronnie. So she shoots him—many, many times. The poor rich guy didn’t see that one coming.

After murdering her boyfriend and swiping as much jewelry as she can find, Sylvia heads back to the pawnshop to make her trade. The place is closed, but she breaks in, adding another crime to her laundry list of lawbreaking.

Sylvia snoops around the shop and locates the mold of her perfect face. She also finds the body of the pawnbroker’s wife—appearing young and lovely in the coffin. The shopkeep appears and confesses that taking the beauty of other women is what keeps his dead wife looking beautiful.

Unbothered by this creepy news, Sylvia offers up the stolen swag in exchange for her physical restoration. But the shopkeep shows her the front page of the newspaper—Sylvia’s young face is wanted for murder!

It’s a tough decision for Sylvia—and to make matters worse, a police officer walks in and starts blabbing about Ronnie’s murder. The cop pokes fun at the killer’s stupidity (aka Sylvia’s stupidity)—leaving the gun and fingerprints all over the crime scene. But upon looking at the newspaper’s picture of Sylvia, the cop quips, “With a face like that, who needs brains?” Ouch!

Tales from the Crypt - Only Sin Deep

Confused and heartbroken in all the wrong ways, Sylvia leaves the shop clutching her beauty mold. She rushes through the city streets, and even bumps into her former friend (and prostitute) Raven, who snaps at old Sylvia and calls her ugly. Ouch, part two!

Sylvia drops the face mold and it breaks into tiny bits. Everything she once had—the looks, the money, the man—it’s all gone. If anyone is going to lose it all, it might as well be the girl with wonky priorities and zero remorse. Here’s to you, Sylvia Vane.

Crypt Keeper Final Thought: “If looks could kill … so she did! Just goes to show you, if you want to sell yourself, take a look in the mirror first!”

Fun Fact: Shortly after this episode’s airing, Lea Thompson married director Howard Deutch. The two actually met (and fell in love) while filming Some Kind of Wonderful.

Notable Quote: “Don’t you recognize me, lover? I’m the girl of your dreams.” —Sylvia (right before killing Ronnie)

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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