Tales from the Crypt, Season 2, Episode 8: "For Cryin' Out Loud"
As much as I have enjoyed this fiendishly frightful journey through Tales from the Crypt, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little tired of seeing episodes about murderous lovers who kill someone out of greed and then suffer deadly, frequently supernatural comeuppances. How often can you recycle that standby? If you’re early Tales from the Crypt, the answer is “An awful lot. A seemingly endless amount, even.”
So I am perhaps disproportionately grateful that “For Cryin' Out Loud”, our latest terror tale, offers a refreshing and, let’s face it, much needed change of pace. Instead of focussing on a lecherous pair of lovers who pay a deadly price for their infidelity, greed and murder, it centers on Marty Slash, a money-loving rock and roll sleaze bag played by weasel-faced character actor Lee Arenberg (as I have chronicled extensively, Tales from the Crypt might have been the best thing to happen to weird-looking journeyman actors skilled at projecting menace in decades) who ends up paying a deadly price for his greed and unfortunate penchant for murder combined with madness and fatal self-sabotage.
Because this is Tales from the Crypt there’s still some sex in the form of Katey Sagal’s ill-fated extortion-minded bean counter, who gets sexed up, rocker girl style as a way of getting the attention of her larcenous boss, who has decided to abscond with one million dollars ear-marked for a suffering tribe in the Amazon, and a shirtless, middle-aged but still sexy Iggy Pop writhing around onstage as himself.
True, “For Crying Out Loud” begins and ends with its anti-hero/villain getting a fatal jolt of justice in the electric chair like more than a few episodes we’ve discussed so far but sex and lust are not the catalyst for the story’s actions, as they have so often been so far. But greed, greed remains a constant and in “For Cryin' Out Loud” greed leads a sick twist of a rock and roll sleaze bag on a path to madness, public confession and execution but it’s not a dame that sets him on a beeline to eternal hellfire but rather a sinister inner voice that torments him until even death begins to seem like a form of mercy.
If Marty Slash’s cadences at the beginning of the episode, when he all but begs to be electrocuted, seem familiar, it’s for a very good reason. He’s mimicking the yell-shout-scream dynamic of legendary shock comic Sam Kinison, who voices his smart ass conscience in one of his best roles. Kinison is never seen but he most assuredly is heard and felt to the point that he completely dominates the episode.
At first Marty is merely annoyed by muffled sounds coming from somewhere within his tortured cerebellum but as his sins get more and more serious and redemption slides permanently out of reach the inner voice becomes a lion’s roar angrily demanding that the ethically challenged rock and roll lifer destroy what’s left of his career and tattered reputation by coming clean about his various criminal transgressions.
It’s Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart by way of David Cronenberg’s body horror and the demented dark comedy of Frank Henlotter as Marty’s conscience roars to life to try to trap him into unwise self-disclosure by convincing him that while he may be able to avoid the long arm of the law (which is itself a very big maybe), he’ll never be able to outrun the angry dictates of his own conscience.
Marty may be a bastard but his inner voice is an even bigger, even louder, even more obnoxious force. This is not your daddy’s conscience. No, your father doesn’t have a conscience. That’s what allowed him to kill all those students nurses without feeling even a shred of guilt. No, Kinison voices a conscience that can only be described as “in your face”, or, alternately, inside your face, since that’s where the tricky little bastard lives and does all of his damage.
The presence of Iggy Pop, backed by the Sales Brothers (best known for being Soupy Sales’ sons and also being in David Bowie’s Tin Machine) lends a certain sleazy, sunset strip authenticity to the proceedings, as does Sagal, who was a rocker before she was Peggy Bundy, and Kinison, who was a rock star of comedy and, for good measure, a sometimes rocker who scored a modest hit with a novelty cover of “Wild Thing.”
Unlike most episodes of Tales from the Crypt, “For Cryin’ Out Loud” was the product of writers associated with comedy rather than horror: Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, who earned a permanent place in the pop culture pantheon by writing Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Perhaps that's why the episode feels so fresh and inspired. Horror comedy is the anthology’s metier but it tends to lean heavily towards horror whereas this standout exploration of the nastiest side of rock and roll is more interested in laughs.
Kinison was so perfectly cast here as the demented conscience that the next year he was starred in the short-lived sitcom Charlie Hoover as the mocking inner voice of Tim Matheson. The show was short-lived. Casting Kinison as a demented inner voice may have been a killer idea for a kick-ass episode of a popular horror anthology but it unsurprisingly wasn't enough to base an entire television show on.
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