Picks and Pans Review: Tales from the Crypt

updated 06/12/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/12/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sat., June 10, 9:30 P.M. ET)

C-

This limited series—based on the comic book of the same name—offers three half-hour tales by top movie directors in its first installment.

Walter (48 HRS.) Hill gives us The Man Who Was Death, about a man (Bill Sadler) who's angry at being fired from his job: pulling the switch on the electric chair. So he finds innovative ways to electrocute people he thinks have gotten away with murder. Actually it's Hill who's getting away with something unpleasant. His insistence on realism—you see everyone fry—is sickeningly excessive.

Robert (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) Zemeckis directs a Christmas tale about an ax-wielding Santa (Larry Drake) who terrorizes a housewife (Mary Ellen Trainor). As bloody as this tale is, it is cleverly written, fast and scary.

Last on the bill is Richard (Superman) Donner's Dig That Cat He's Real Gone. It's about a bum (Joe Pantoliano) who, after receiving a transplanted gland from a cat's brain, finds he has nine lives. To make money, he joins a freak show and lets people kill him. Where Hitchcock might have had fun with all of this, Donner makes it a grisly affair.

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