Cryptkeeper Bubbawheat back again with another mind numbing tale of terror from Tales From the Crypt this month of October. Today’s terror-ific writer is Austin Shinn, you may find him over at his Film podcast The Film Room and spin-off blog The Film Room Lobby or you can also find him blogging about things a little more personal like dealing with being Autistic at A Flickering Life. But today, on the 12th day of our little blogathon here, he is talking about the episode You, Murderer best known for being one of their special effects testing grounds in a way where the main character has the likeness of one Humphrey Bogart.
For my entry for this series, I selected a rather atypical episode of Tales From The Crypt: a riff on film noir that by and large stays true to the content you’d expect to see in the series aside from a few violence shots that could run on network TV even then. It’s language free, nudity free, and even the ending feels more like noir than the twists expected from the show.
So why choose it? Casablanca is my favorite film and this episode is an extended riff on the film with Humphrey Bogart digitally inserted into the episode whenever the protagonist looks at his reflection. Bogart even earns a credit on the ep, though his voice comes from professional impersonator Robert Sacchi. I couldn’t resist looking at this expermiment and I wasn’t disappointed.
The episode centers on Lou Spinelli, an ad exec who was once a criminal but received plastic surgery from his friend Oscar (John Lithgow). His past catches up with him when he gets a call from his wife Betty (Isabella Rossellini, daughter of Bogart’s Casablanca costar Ingrid Bergman) who reveals she knows he’s alive. Lou races home, learns he’s been double crossed by Oscar, and promptly gets murdered. This all happens well before the midpoint so there are more twists yet to come.
Honestly, the story of this episode is almost as pointless as a Seltzer/Friedberg plot. The script by TftC mainstays Gilbert Adler and A.L. Katz is perfectly perfunctory. It’s sort of there filled with some fun dialogue and so many Bogart references you almost get poisoned by them.
The acting is almost all great too. Rossellini sounds and acts so much like her mother it’s eerie but she also brings her usual skill and strength to the piece. Lithgow is as always a gloriously hammy figure who makes every line scream with energy. The weak link is Sacchi who despite his career, isn’t frankly that good. He sounds like what he is: a weak impersonator of a genuinely great actor.
But really the reason to discuss the episode is the experiment. Robert Zemeckis, fresh off playing with this technique in scenes in Forrest Gump (which gets homaged by the Cryptkeeper in his introduction), tries to do a longer form version. Admittedly, we don’t get too much of it as the ep uses first person, limiting Bogart to reflection shots, but we get a few good shots. The result is frankly unimpressive. Admittedly, Bogart was a fairly taciturn figure but most of the shots might as well be still photos poorly inserted in. At least one talking shot reminded me of A Talking Cat!?! Zemeckis has long loved playing with the limits of technology but here he pretty much confirms why dead actors should stay dead.
Despite the experiment falling flat, I actually still had a ton of fun with this episode. I’m a sucker for noir and while this wasn’t a groundbreaking entry in the genre, it was an entertaining homage.