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Tales from the Crypt Recap #21 “Mute Witness To Murder”

Tales from the Crypt: Season 2 – Episode 15
Mute Witness To Murder (First aired: July 10, 1990)


A woman (Patricia Clarkson) witnesses a murder from her balcony and it is such a traumatic sight that she ends up losing her voice. Once her husband (Reed Birney) calls the doctor to help her, she makes a shocking discovery that the doc (Richard Thomas) is none other than the murderer himself. Before she can act and warn her husband, she hits her husband with a golf club (for some reason) and finds herself committed to an insane asylum.


When I first started this whole review thing I was excited to review some of my favorite episodes of Tales From The Crypt. Ones I could go on and on about. Classic episodes like Three’s A Crowd, Collection Completed, and Top Billing (which is coming soon, don’t worry) were the episodes I was thinking about that were going to be so much fun to write about. But in between all the great episodes, I never knew just how many truly stink! Mute Witness To Murder is yet another example of just how boring Crypt can be. But what really fascinates me is that it is another episode I seem to be in the minority on as it gets praise by a lot of people.

My first problem with this episode is the fact that everyone is so paper thin. It likely has to do with the fact that the episode has to jump right into the plot so none of the characters are really developed enough for me to care about them. It’s painfully obvious who the good guys are and it’s painfully obvious who the bad guys are. Half the time, I don’t even think the doctor is even trying to hide his evil intentions. I also haven’t seen an episode with so many throw away characters. I’ve counted at least four who have no purpose at all and add nothing to the story other than fodder to get to the twenty minute mark.

Another problem with this one is just how many plot-holes there are. First, why weren’t the cops ever called? I don’t know, but if a doctor as suspicious as that guy put my wife into an insane asylum just because she can’t speak, I’d probably call someone for at the very least malpractice. Second, the doctor killed his wife, yet no one filed a missing persons report? A simple investigation would’ve solved everything. I guess none of that matters as long as you have a story to tell.

The worst crime this episode has though is just how bad the acting is. Once again, the doctor is the target. He plays the role very cold and emotionless and while it worked in Three’s A Crowd, here he just seems like he is bored and waiting for the scene to be over so he can collect his check and leave. The only time he sort of comes to life is during the anti-climatic ending, but even then it’s very short lived. The only person who really stands out in this is the mute wife Susan. She is terrific as a beaten mute put into a situation she has no control over. She says so much with just her eyes that it was the only bright spot in this dull mess (though the final shot was a bit much). If you want a better story about a person who witnesses a murder through a window, check out Disturbia or better yet Rear Window (the original, haven’t seen the remake so I can’t recommend it). Both are much better than this.



Cryptkeeper Segment

The Cryptkeeper starts out in a doctor’s outfit explaining that he was afraid that his heart would start beating again. His voice seems more out of it in this one than usual. He ends trying to escape a straightjacket, wondering where Houdini is and delivering a pun so bad I actually got chills from it. But it spoils the surprise at the end of the episode (even though you can see it coming a mile away), so instead you get…

Punny Goodness

Tonight’s twisted tale is a villainous voyage; A murderous medical madness that screams out the crypt-sequences of getting too nosy with your neighbors.

Blood and Gore

A lamp to the face that leads to the red stuff, but it’s at such a long shot that there is no impact. Apart from that, some needles in skin and that’s it. Despite there being murder in the title, this one is nothing.

Obligatory Nudity

Susan is in a shower with a towel wrapped around her. You can’t see anything, but given the situation, you likely don’t want to.

Scare Factor

Are you afraid of mental institutions? This one might get you. But to me, this one did nothing for me.

Other interesting tidbits

Look at ol’ John-Boy, all grown up and playing the creepiest doctor since Giggles. Yep, that’s Richard Thomas who was John-Boy Walton in the old television show The Waltons. Although horror fans likely remember him as the adult Bill (the kid with the stutter played by the late Jonathan Brandis) in Stephen King’s It. He is a pretty good actor so I don’t know what happened here, but it just didn’t work.

This was one of Patricia Clarkson’s first roles (number 8 to be exact) and she really shows her acting abilities here. But even before this one she had the honor of starring opposite of Clint Eastwood in The Dead Pool the final (or at least until Hollywood decides to revise it…UGH!) Dirty Harry movie. The movie put her name on the map and she became one of the more reliable female character actresses out there. Her work was finally recognized when she was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Golden Globe for her role in Pieces of April (she lost out on both occasions to Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain).

Reed Birney played the very boring husband character Paul in this episode. I don’t have much on him so I’ll just say that his Humphrey Bogart stinks. I don’t know whose idea it was for him to do that.

Jim Simpson was the man in the chair for this one and, all things considered, he didn’t do a bad job here. There were quite a few cool shots and you can tell he really tried to create a dark and sad atmosphere, too bad everyone else around him didn’t want to put the effort in. He only jumped in the director’s chair one other time in his career for a movie called The Guys. Unrelated to his career (or not depending on how you look at it), he happens to be the husband of Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver.


Last Words

After doing more research for this episode I have discovered that it is much more popular than I expected. I already knew people liked it, but I didn’t realize people actually rate it as one of the best episodes of both the season and series. I watched it a second time and while during the second viewing I got a better respect for the direction, it was still a boring episode filled with bad acting and plot holes larger than the Grand Canyon. I know I’m in the minority so check it out for yourself, but I really didn’t like it.
Next Writing: Television Terror

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