MTV Geek LOVES Halloween — so we’ve decided to share our fave frightful movies, TV shows, comics, and books with you all month long!
Show me you love me!
– Winona Brackett (Tim Curry, “Death of Some Salesman”)
Tim Curry out-Klumps Eddie Murphy. Ed Begley Jr. sells the promise of a good death door to door. The “o” face you can’t unsee.
This Tales From the Crypt episode directed by series producer Gikber Adler isn’t the best episode of that show or even really my favorite. But with its healthy helping of dress up and darkly funny prankersterism, it feels just right for the Halloween season.
Like most episodes of Tales From the Crypt, this fifth season story involves a bad person getting their just desserts: in this case, con man Judd Campbell (Ed Begley Jr.). He goes door-to-door throughout the country’s backwoods, bilking little old ladies out of their cash at hand by promising them a piece of a $10,000 death benefit if they can just pony up the balance due that their dearly departed spouses put down.
It’s not a particularly efficient way to get rich, but it’s a very easy way to end up on collision course with crazies like the Brackett clan, a backwoods brood made up of Ma (Tim Curry), Pa (Tim Curry), and Winona (you get the gist). They’ve been burned by sly salesmen before and have taken to killing them and stories their bits around the house like bric-a-brac. When Judd runs afoul of Ma and Pa, he’ll have to woo their homely daughter if he wants to avoid a bullet to the head.
The IMDB, that bastion of film and TV facts (and sometimes “facts”) claims that Eddie Murphy turned down the role here. We can see that he wanted to save all of the good wearing a fat suit stuff for The Nutty Professor three years later, but “Death of Some Salesman” has its own charms. Specifically, the ending (involving a short con on the part of the Bracketts) might seem a little silly, but works in the context of a family that’s dedicated to testing out the merchandise before buying (and killing the seller if it doesn’t work out).
Curry and Begley are despicable and fantastic in their respective roles, Curry chewing the scenery through what had to have been 10 lbs of facial make-up. The It and Rocky Horror actor isn’t what you would called a restrained actor, so getting to play a family murderous hillbillies is really part of a natural trajectory when you think about it. Begley reverses a career of playing soft-spoken nice guys to take on the role of a serial womanizing sleaze bag who happens to also have just the worst luck. The episode also features a brief cameo by the original Lily Munster, actress Yvonne De Carlo in one of her final roles.
The episode also serves as a tiny time capsule for the early 90’s: do door-to-door salesmen even exist anymore? They and the relatively new (at the time) phenomenon of the Home Shopping Channel are like relics from another, more quaint age.
Of course, since the entire series is available on DVD, you can check it out at your leisure. Again, I don’t think this is a particularly scary episode, but it’s the right one for the Halloween season from the Tales mix.