Cryptkeeper Bubbawheat here for the midpoint of our 31 Days of Tales From the Crypt. It’s been a lot of fun so far reading everyone’s takes on some of the best and the not-so-good episodes, but we still have several of great episodes on their way. For today’s episode I’m continuing my way through the fifth season where I ended last year and am now up to the fourth episode as the first and third episodes have already been claimed by others. I remembered this one fondly and it was interesting watching it this time as I clearly remembered the twist that actually does change your perception of what’s going on in the episode which isn’t common in most of the Tales From the Crypt twists, how’s that for a little food for thought?
To kick things off, this is another one of those handful of episodes where the Cryptkeeper segment feels a little bit disconnected with the actual story of the episode. This has him playing the dentist with a live one strapped to the chair, but the episode itself revolves around another circus freakshow similar to another episode back in the second season which we looked at here earlier this month, Lower Berth. This is also another episode that has a bit of an out of time quality to it, there’s no obvious way to mark what time period it is supposed to be, but there’s an air of early 1900’s to the freakshow and circus though most of it takes place in just a couple tents and their trailer.
One of the best parts of this episode is Ernie Hudson playing the great Sambini who supposedly has the ability to project his thoughts to his assistant slash wife played by Joan Chen. He has an obsession with making their psychic connection go both ways, but as hard as they try, he’s unable to hear her thoughts. He’s also rather unhinged as he is always wearing his stage makeup and is obsessed with food. He’s always either cooking or eating, even as he psychically commands Chen to go down on him and give him his “dessert”. The episode also has some lighthearted moments, like when we get to see their actual stage show where Chen is blindfolded and Sambini projects thoughts to her like what someone in the audience has in their pocket, and when it’s a bible she reads the specific passage that the man points out to Sambini. There’s also a fun moment where one of the little people played by Phil Fondacaro sneak into the shower when the conjoined twins are bathing in order to win a bet.
Where the episode really gets interesting is when it gets into the twist and how the twist is actually hinted at throughout the episode, albeit very subtly. Chen begins to have thoughts of an affair with the fire eater who wants to take her away with him and leave the circus altogether. But as they’re together, that’s when Sambini is suddenly able to hear her adulterous thoughts and kills the fire eater in revenge. But what’s actually happening is that he’s hearing the thoughts of the giant female gorilla who is jealous of Chen honing in on her fire eater, as he is also either her trainer, or at least the only one in the circus who is kind to her. Chen leaves after the fire eater’s death and when Sambini is drunk and desperate, he gives her a psychic call to come to him and instead calls upon the gorilla who smashes in through the ceiling and ends the episode eating his brains while back in her cage. As I mentioned earlier, it’s one of the few twists that actually changes the way that you look at the episode, if only slightly as it’s also the gorilla who wants to run away with Johnny the fire eater. And each time we hear the voice calling out to Sambini, it cuts over to the gorilla in her cage. What really sells this episode is the overall look and feel to it, especially when it comes to Ernie Hudson’s half sweated off makeup that we see much more often than the single time we see it clean during the show.