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Tales from the Crypt Recap #22 “Television Terror”

Tales from the Crypt: Season 2 – Episode 16
Television Terror (First aired: July 17, 1990)


A television host (Morton Downey Jr.) hosts a live broadcast where he explores a haunted house. What surprises await him in there? Will it be full of ghosts or will it be another Al Capone’s Vault? Giving this is Tales From The Crypt, what do you think is going to happen?


Now this is more like it! Television Terror is one of those episodes that completely hooks you in from the start and doesn’t let up. The show stars Morton Downey Jr. as television host/arrogant piece of shit Horton Rivers (A play on Morton Downey and famed real life television host/arrogant piece of shit Geraldo Rivera’s names) as he breaks into an alleged haunted house that has been condemned due to several murders. Even Horton isn’t sure what lies in the house, but knows what he is going to do is going to get him ratings and in the end, that’s all he cares about. Who gives a shit about the souls of the dead when you can get the scoop on mysteries?

Right off the bat you can tell the acting in this one is going to be terrific. Morton plays the cocky, self-centered talk show host perfectly and when he is walking through the house, you really feel like you are watching his show. His narration is stellar and really draws you into what is going on around him. The rest of the cast is all played very well and you can tell from the start that they don’t care about Horton at all and would like nothing better than to see this all blow up in his face. The highlight on this side is Peter Van Norden’s character Booth, who takes any chance he can to talk bad about his boss to anyone in the surrounding area. He adds the comedy to, what is at its core, a very dark episode.

The directing is also top notch here providing a very creepy and downright scary atmosphere to the whole thing. The director (Charlie Picerni) really goes all out towards the end as everything starts to go to hell, with some wicked shots that I don’t want to spoil and an ending that will leave chills down your spine. The score is also terrific adding to the already terrifying vibe the whole show gives.

Do I have any gripes about this one? Well, if I had to nitpick, it’s a very short episode. But even though it clocks in at about eighteen minutes not including the opening and Cryptkeeper segments, that still doesn’t stop it from being great and if anything, the short run-time helps it keep its pace. You don’t even notice that the time has gone by because you are so enthralled with the story. This is a terrific, scary, funny, and above all else, entertaining episode that anyone who is a fan of the series should check out.



Cryptkeeper Segment

The Keeper turns on his camera and says hi to his Mom before talking about how this episode involves the television. He doesn’t even really crack a pun at the beginning aside from using several words that start with the letter T. He finishes up by watching the ending of the episode we just saw and says the only pun in the episode.
Punny Goodness: …no wonder he is such a hit on live…or dead TV.

Blood and Gore

We have slit throats, knife wounds, a chainsaw to the gut, and some hangings. This one delivers the goods on all counts for blood.

Obligatory Nudity

We get an old man in a tub bleeding…are you horny yet?

Scare Factor

What words haven’t I used yet to describe this? This one wasn’t subtle with its scares like Three’s A Crowd and Collection Completed, but was as straight forward as you can and even as an adult, I was spooked. Granted, seasoned horror buffs likely won’t be as scared as I was, but for someone who doesn’t watch horror movies all that often, this was quite scary.
Other interesting tidbits

The reason Morton Downey Jr. was so good in this was likely due to the fact that he was playing a more in your face version of himself from his many talk show appearances. While he is remembered for his talk show work on The Morton Downey Jr. Show, to me he will always be the guy that Rowdy Roddy Piper sprayed with a fire extinguisher. Hey, when I was growing up, I didn’t watch talk shows, I watched wrestling. Cut me some slack. Morton Downey Jr. was a notorious chain-smoker which likely led to his lung cancer and his eventual death in 2001.

Dorothy Parke played Sam the producer of Horton Rivers Live, her performance was very ho hum, but she wasn’t there enough to drag down the show. She hasn’t starred in much and she hasn’t starred in anything since 1991 so I don’t have much on her and seeing as she shares her name with an Irish composer google did nothing to help.

Peter Van Norden plays the director of Horton Rivers Live. He was very funny with his smartass remarks about Horton at any chance he can get. He has bit parts in many television shows and starred in a few movies, namely Naked Gun 2 ½ and Police Academy 2, but he never really had a breakout role.

Charlie Picerni is primarily a stuntman working on hit movies such as Demolition Man, Se7en, and even the Die Hard movies. He has two sons as well, one of whom was a stuntman in this episode and the other as a cameo as a man on the stairs. He hasn’t directed much which is a shame since he did a great job here.


Last Words

What else is there to be said about this episode? This is one of those episodes I can (and likely will) talk about for days. It was tough enough not going over every little detail about it in this review. It’s that good. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to check it out.

Next Writing: My Brother’s Keeper

3 Responses to “Tales from the Crypt Recap #22 “Television Terror””

  • Cristiona:

    “Morton plays the cocky, self-centered talk show host perfectly…”

    Gee… who would’a guessed? I only have vague memories of his show, but wow… playing a cocky, self-centered asshole wouldn’t be much of a stretch. It might even be holding back a little.

    • Cecil:

      I used to watch his show all the time when I could. He was so over the top and like nothing else at the time. I’d gladly watch it again if it somehow was on TV land or something.

      • Cristiona:

        My dad would watch it and usually chase me out of the room because I was too young for it. About all I remember is that big mouth podium/icon thing, the chain smoking, and that he once had some dude on as a guest that he was so abusive to that the guy broke down into tears.

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