Tales from the Crypt “Dead Wait” (part 1 of 2)
For our second helping of murderous morsels, we go to the third season of Tales from the Crypt, with the Tobe “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Hooper-helmed entry “Dead Wait”. I think it’s safe to say that this is the last good thing Hooper’s name has appeared on. Not great, mind you, but pretty good. The plot is a bit of a mishmash, with a rather extraneous bit about rebels taking over a Caribbean island that seems shoehorned in just to complicate things, but I like this episode, at any rate.
After the opening sequence (God, I love this opening sequence!), we find our undead host the Cryptkeeper as a travel agent, with the requisite punny/jokey posters behind him. “Lose Your Heart in San Francisco”, “Transylvania Sucks”, you get the idea. The puppet looks even better in this season, though of course the puns are quite terrible, as they should be.
He intros the episode, and we begin on your standard generic island nation in the Caribbean, with post-colonial types lurking around, rebels, military in control, voodoo, the usual.
We meet Red (James Remar), your average sleazy thief, who’s playing chess with himself. I always find this is the only way to enjoy that particular game. No one around to bitch at you when you start jumping pieces or yelling “king me!”
As this goes on, the cast credits are shown, and I’m happy to say we’re getting a dose of John Rhys-Davies here, and also Vanity. Whoopi Goldberg is on hand too, which is okay. I mean, if I’m going to watch something with her, it might as well be this. If nothing else, it’s better than most of the films she did during… Well, most of her films.
Red is interrupted by the arrival of Charlie, his partner in crime. Charlie has tracked down a man named Emil Duval who owns a huge plantation on the island, and is in possession of a priceless black pearl.
The two men argue about how they plan to escape after they steal the pearl. Charlie wants to take a boat, but Red has another idea, though we never find out what that is. Charlie doesn’t want to hear it, because evidently Red’s not much of a planner, and Charlie is fond of deriding him for it.
But tonight he pushes Red too far, and Red suddenly shoots him dead.
Lesson #1 when dealing with a James Remar character: Don’t piss the guy off. Chances are he has a gun and is one can short of a six pack.
Cut to a dive bar, as Red drinks alone. The bartender points out Emil Duval, owner of the black pearl, played by one of my personal favorite actors, John Rhys-Davies. Rhys-Davies is terrific for several reasons. He’s always a solid and capable performer, and he can deliver something memorable regardless of the material. And like most UK actors, he has never said the words “There’s no way I’m signing onto this piece of crap! The script stinks like a bloody septic tank!”
To put it in perspective, the man not only did two movies for Cannon Films, but one of them was Firewalker, arguably Chuck Norris’ worst film. I have pretty low standards when it comes to Cannon, and even I can’t stand that goddamn movie.
And yes, John’s script choices are a very good thing when you have a taste in movies like mine. The man is sort of like that stiff drink that gets you through the family reunion, even when your distant cousin gets hammered and starts hitting on your wife. You’ll have a shitty time and end up pissed off, but at least that drink kept you from killing anybody.
Duval is a rather sickly looking fellow. In complexion, anyway. Rhys-Davies is not what you would call a small man. The cane helps the performance, as does the presence of Katrine, played by Vanity, escorting him to his table. And I know it’s tough to believe given her performances in movies like Action Jackson and Never Too Young to Die, but Vanity will be getting naked later on in the episode.
I’m guessing these two are a couple, given the way this story mirrors several noir films, but it’s never made clear. Given that Vanity is smoking hot, I can easily overlook any and all plot holes with no problems whatsoever.
Red goes to their table and introduces himself, saying he’s heard Duval is looking for help running his plantation. He offers a handshake, but gets rejected. Nevertheless, Red is invited to sit with them.
Katrine is fixated on Red. Well, as much as Vanity can portray fixation, anyway.
Fortunately, Duval is on hand to exposit that Red’s hair is quite unique to see on this island. Can’t say I’m surprised. James Remar is sporting the most over the top, hilarious dye job I’ve ever seen. Seriously, his hair is so red that it would freak the hell out of Ronald McDonald.
Red says he’s worked on a farm before, and some talk of an impending revolution on the island is bandied about. During this, Duval is shown to have some rather odd tracks running along his hands. And then it turns out Duval is just as much of a chess enthusiast as Red, and thanks to their mutual interests, our ginger thief is hired.
Later, they arrive at the plantation, which is situated in the mountains where the rebels sometimes operate, which explains all the gunfire in the distance as our three main characters walk to Duval’s house.
They’re greeted by Whoopi Goldberg, playing Peligre, one of Duval’s employees. She’s also fixated by Red’s hair. Duval exposits on her status as the story’s obligatory creepy voodoo chick.
Funnily enough, Peligre’s fixation on Red is so strong that her accent vanishes. I never knew voodoo priestesses on fictional islands in the Caribbean had New York accents. You learn something new every day, I guess.
Come to think of it, neither one of our main female cast members does an especially good accent. Vanity does better than Whoopi, providing a slightly French accent aided by the occasional French phrase. But Whoopi’s accent goes in and out randomly before finally sticking around. And remember, folks, she has an Oscar. If you ever needed evidence that the thing’s a popularity contest, all you have to do is watch this episode.
After more of Peligre staring her eyeballs out at Red’s hair, we cut to later, as she walks Red to his room. She exposits that the color red signifies life to the islanders. Red is curious about Duval and his physical condition, so Peligre jokingly tells him it’s the work of evil spirits.
But then Peligre gives the real scoop, which is that he has what is essentially a really bad case of worms, which eat away the liver and spleen and occasionally burrow up into the skin.
I did a bit of research, and there actually is a real condition similar to this, though I think it goes by a different name. Either way, it’s just gone into my top five list of things I hope I never get, right between the Ebola virus and the mental illness that caused people to actually pay money to see Pauly Shore movies in the early ‘90s.
On a related note, I’d like to say that watching this episode while eating a plate of spaghetti is not recommended. Just trust me on this one.
They get to Red’s quarters, and Red is understandably disturbed to find a dead ram’s head hanging on the wall. Peligre says it’s there to protect the hut, and also serve as a conversation piece, I would imagine. But Red is not really feeling it.
Peligre takes down the ram’s head and leaves with it, after scolding his general cultural insensitivity about it. Well, sort of. Whoopi is in her low key “Guinan” mode here.
But this really just sets the stage for the real blood and gore to come, and if you have a weak stomach or happen to be eating something right now, for the love of God do not keep reading! There, that oughta be enough of a warning.