The introduction sequence that started every episode through the Cryptkeeper's home is actually the size of a miniature golf course green. Small "snorkel" cameras were used to film this portion. The descent into the crypt in the end of the intro is computer generated.
The show was originally only planned for three seasons, but it proved to be so popular, it lasted seven. Series Creator William M. Gaines only lived to see season three.
John Kassir, voice of the Cryptkeeper, often had to swallow lemon juice and honey to sooth his throat after doing his lines.
John Kassir came up with the trademark voice of the Cryptkeeper himself. When Kassir auditioned for the part, the producers loved it so much, they almost immediately chose him.
The series was originally envisioned as a trilogy story feature film. This was changed to a television program, because the producers feared it would bomb as a movie, as trilogy-style horror films rarely had success at the box-office.
It took six puppeteers to operate the Cryptkeeper during his scenes, four puppeteers alone just for his facial expressions.
While Animatronics Expert and Puppet Master Kevin Yagher was in the final stages of designing the Cryptkeeper, he tried on a few noses, to see which would look best for the character, who had already shed lips, hair and most of his teeth, but none looked quite right. Director and Producer Robert Zemeckis simply remarked, "You know, you don't necessarily have to have a nose."
The concept for the movie The Frighteners (1996) was originally going to be a Tales From the Crypt film, but Robert Zemeckis loved the script so much, that he had it spun-off with Peter Jackson directing.
Walter Hill cast William Sadler in the lead for "The Man Who Was Death" only if Sadler promised to perform exactly the way he did for the audition.
For the episodes they directed, Walter Hill ("Cutting Cards") and Joel Silver ("Split Personality") studied the comic book originals, on which they were based, and used them to plan out their shots.
Death Becomes Her (1992), which was directed by this show's producer, Robert Zemeckis, is often said to be "an extended episode" of Tales from the Crypt (1989).
Not all of the episodes were based specifically on the "Tales From The Crypt" comic book series of the 1950s EC Comics. Many episodes were also based on the "Vault of Horror", the "Haunt of Fear", "Crime SuspenStories", "Shock SuspenStories", and "Two-Fisted Tales" comic book series.
According to John Kassir, in the first season, he had to do his lines slowly because the show's production didn't have a big enough budget for the Cryptkeeper's mouth to move more quickly. Fans have often noted that the fact that the Cryptkeeper was speaking slowly and more discreetly in the first season, as opposed to his more hyper and energetic style of speech in the six seasons that followed, made him sound a bit more sinister and foreboding.
John Kassir would go on to voice the Cryptkeeper in the kid friendly animated version of this show called Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993).
The show has been known to allow writers, directors, and actors alike to experiment on various avenues and given free reign while still staying true to the spirit of the comic books. For example, actors like Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were given opportunities to direct episodes and have some fun.
William Sadler ("The Man Who Was Death") and Billy Zane ("Well Cooked Hams") both ended up starring in the first theatrical adaptation of this show, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995).
The Frighteners (1996) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) were originally supposed to be Tales from the Crypt (1989)-based films. However, due to differing interests and disagreements, each film became its own thing.
Tiny Toon Adventures (1990) parodied this series in the episode, "Toons From The Crypt", with Buster Bunny, voiced by Charlie Adler, portraying a Cryptkeeper-type character telling scary stories. Later in the series, John Kassir, who's the voice of the Cryptkeeper, would go on to voice Buster Bunny after Adler left the show.
The final episode, "The Third Pig", is the only episode in the series that's not only animated, it's also the only episode that isn't an adaptation of any of the stories from the original EC Comics books.
Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995) and Bordello of Blood (1996) were spin-off films of this show that were released in theaters. Ritual (2002) was the third film that was meant to be released theatrically. However, it released without any connection to Tales from the Crypt (1989), until 2006.
A Cryptkeeper-led Christmas album called "Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas" was released in 1994.
FOX had aired a pilot for "Two-Fisted Tales", which was intended to be a spin-off series to this show in 1991. The show was based off of the 1950s EC Comics of the same name. The episodes, "Yellow", "Showdown", and "King of the Road", were originally intended to be the first episodes of that show. When the network passed on the pilot however, the episodes were given to HBO, and the Cryptkeeper segments were added onto those episodes.
Though it was the first episode filmed, "And All Through The House" was placed as the second episode after "The Man Who Was Death" in the show's official episode line-up.
Tales from the Crypt (1972) was Robert Zemeckis' favorite film to watch on Halloween as a young man.
Two versions of every episode were filmed for broadcasting syndication. The toned down versions mainly consist of the removal of strong profanity, gore, and nudity.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) was originally supposed to be released as a Tales from the Crypt (1989)-related film. However, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez decided to release it as a stand alone film, after disagreements with the producers. Bordello of Blood (1996) was released in place of the film. Both films share some similarities, in terms of the plot dealing with vampires.
William Sadler (credited as Bill Sadler), who played an executioner and the title character in the first episode titled "The Man Who Was Death", played the Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991).
During the Cryptkeeper intro in season one, episode four, "Only Sin Deep", he looks into a mirror and chants the "Mirror, Mirror" rhyme, to which it breaks. He proclaims that he's brought seven years bad luck. In fact, the show lasted for seven years, from 1989 to 1996.
A year after this show had ended, HBO made a spin-off series called Perversions of Science (1997) which lasted ten episodes. The show was based off of the 1950s science fiction EC Comics such as "Weird Science" and "Weird Fantasy". Like this show, it had a host, only this time, the host was a female robot named Chrome.
The season six, episode fifteen, "You, Murderer", was the only episode that used computer graphics imagery. This was for "resurrecting" the long deceased Humphrey Bogart, by using old films to digitally insert his face on either a stand-in, or a dummy, in scenes where the main character's face is shown in mirrors and other reflective surfaces, since the whole episode is seen through his point of view. The effects were done by Industrial Light & Magic, which also previously worked on Robert Zemeckis' Oscar winning film, Forrest Gump (1994).
The series was released by HBO Home Video in seven DVD volumes in the U.S. and Canada.
Many of the covers shown as the Crypt Keeper introduces each story are based on actual artwork of the EC Comics, and retro-designed to feature the likenesses of the principal actors and actresses of each episode.
A compilation movie was made showing the first three episodes called, "Tales From The Crypt: Robert Zemeckis Collection" (1989).
In season one, episode two, "And All Through The House", the radio announcer states the name of the city where the story takes place as "Pleasantville, Gaines" in reference to EC Comics Editor and the show's Consultant, William M. Gaines. In another scene, when the main character gets a call from the police, the cop introduces himself as "Sergeant Feldstein" which is a reference to EC Comics co-Editor, Al Feldstein.
The EC Comics reprints released in the 1970s by publisher Russ Cochran inspired Richard Donner, Walter Hill, David Giler, Robert Zemeckis, and Joel Silver to eventually create this show.
Cryptkeeper Designer Kevin Yagher incorporated the eyes of Chucky from Child's Play (1988), another creation he designed, into the Cryptkeeper.
Wil Wheaton ("House of Horror") also starred in the Perversions of Science (1997) episode, "Snap Ending".
The episode, "Loved to Death", follows the same plotline as The Twilight Zone (1959) episode, "The Chaser".
N. Brock Winkless IV was one of the puppeteers for the Cryptkeeper in this show as well as Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995). He also helped bring to life Chucky from the Child's Play franchise which starred and was voiced by Brad Dourif, who starred in the show's season five episode, "People Who Live In Brass Hearses".
Freddie Francis, who directed season seven, episode two, "Last Respects", directed Tales from the Crypt (1972).
The series was released by HBO Home Video in twelve VHS volumes in the U.S. and Canada.
This show was briefly spun off into a radio series by Seeing Ear Theatre, an online subsidiary of the Syfy Channel, in 2000, with John Kassir once again voicing the Cryptkeeper. Only eight of the originally planned thirteen episodes were recorded. However, one of the eight episodes, "This Trick'll Kill You", was never released, nor included on the CD set, because it was deemed too gruesome.
Charles Fleischer, who voiced Roger Rabbit in Robert Zemeckis' Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), was in the running of providing the voice of the Cryptkeeper.
Miguel Ferrer appeared in three episodes. The episodes are: season two, episode six, "The Thing From the Grave", season five, episode two, "As Ye Sow", and season six, episode ten, "In the Groove".
The blood consumed by Malcolm McDowell in season three, episode seven, "The Reluctant Vampire", was V8 Juice.
Sometimes mistaken for another horror anthology show, Tales from the Darkside (1983), mainly due to the almost identical titles.
Clarence Williams III, who starred in season four, episode ten, "Maniac at Large", starred in the African-American film version of this show called Tales from the Hood (1995).
The character name "Judd Campbell" appeared in the season five opener, "Death of Some Salesmen", as well as season six, episode seven, "The Pit".
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick, both of whom had starred in Terminator 2 (1991) around the time of this show's increasing popularity, have appeared in the show. Schwarzenegger had directed season two, episode two, "The Switch", and did a cameo. Patrick starred in season four, episode seven, "The New Arrival".
Bobcat Goldthwait appeared in season two, episode ten, "The Ventriloquist's Dummy", and later, provided voice-overs in season seven, episode thirteen, "The Third Pig".
In the final season of Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993), the Cryptkeeper's appearance took on a more shaggy and gaunt appearance, with thinning hair similar to his appearance in this show. In the first two seasons, the Cryptkeeper's appearance was a bit more skeletal with stringy hair.
John Kassir (voice of the Cryptkeeper) used to read and collect the EC Comics when he was a child.
The name of The Ventriloquist, "Mr. Ingels", in season two, episode ten, "The Ventriloquest's Dummy", is a reference to legendary horror artist Graham Ingels. In fact, he illustrated the story "The Ventriloquest's Dummy!" from Tales From the Crypt #28, the story, on which the episode is based. Ingels is best known for his work of "The Old Witch" from The Haunt of Fear, the sister title of Tales From the Crypt published by EC. After horror comics were vilified and ceased to be published in the mid 1950s, Ingels relocated to Florida, and became a recluse. Although he taught art lessons, and was well regarded in his community, friends and former associates were clueless as to his whereabouts, or even if he was still alive.
The show was produced with uncredited association by The Geffen Film Company and Warner Brothers.
To build a marketing campaign for the show, HBO presented the show's steamy footage alongside other original programming shown on the channel at the time to an ad agency. After the presentation, someone commented, "It's not TV.". Another person responded, "No, it's HBO.". The statements became the iconic "It's not TV. It's HBO." slogan for the channel.
The average episode lasts about twenty-six to twenty-nine minutes. Sans the Cryptkeeper segments and depending on how long the segments are, the episodes about twenty-two to twenty-seven minutes long. The only episode that lasts a little more than half an hour is the episode, "Yellow", with forty-four minutes.
Though Bill Paxton and Brad Dourif play brothers in the season five episode, "People Who Live In Brass Hearses", Dourif is five years older than Paxton, despite portraying the younger brother.
The scene where Mary Ellen Trainor's character, Elizabeth, gets a phone call from the police in the episode, "And All Through The House", the police officer refers to her as "Mrs. Kamen". The name, "Kamen" is a nod to EC Comics Artist Jack Kamen.
Larry Drake appeared in two episodes: season one, episode two, "And All Through The House", and season two, episode eighteen, "The Secret".
Lance Henriksen appeared in two episodes: season two, episode three, "Cutting Cards", and season three, episode fourteen, "Yellow".
Michael Ironside appeared in two episodes: season two, episode seven, "The Sacrifice", and season six, episode thirteen, "Comes the Dawn".
John Kassir provided the voice the Cryptkeeper in this show and Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993) concurrently, totaling to one hundred thirty-two episodes. This show contains ninety-three episodes, and the cartoon show contains the reversal number of this show's amount, thirty-nine episodes.
Harry Anderson and Tim Curry, both of whom had previously co-starred in the It (1990) miniseries, had appeared in notable episodes in the show. Anderson starred in season two, episode thirteen, "Korman's Kalamity". And Curry starred in season five, episode one, "Death of Some Salesman".
Amanda Plummer and Anthony LaPaglia, both of whom had co-starred in So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), have appeared in the show. Plummer starred in season one, episode five, "Lover Come Hack to Me". And LaPaglia starred in season three, episode thirteen, "Spoiled".
While most of the guest star actors have appeared in at least one episode, there are several actors who have appeared in a few episodes throughout the show. Some of these actors include Troy Evans, William Sadler, Joe Pantoliano, Roy Brocksmith, Sherrie Rose, Cam Clarke, and Peter Van Norden.
In the sixth episode of season one, "Collection Completed", there's a scene that involves Jonas is watching television and changing the channels due to animal-themed shows including the intro from Lassie (1954).
During the end credits for the season one episode, "And All Through The House", Mary Ellen Trainor and Marshall Bell's characters are referred to as "Wife" and "Husband", respectively. However, in the episode, their names are actually stated. Trainor's character's name is Elizabeth. And Bell's character's name is Joseph. Trainor's character's name is said only once, whereas Bell's character's name is said seven times.
Secrets of the Cryptkeeper's Haunted House (1996) was a kids' game show semi-spin-off, with John Kassir returning as the voice of the Cryptkeeper.
On each of the last three DVD releases, there is a virtual comic book special feature of one of the episodes from that particular season read by John Kassir. The virtual episodes are stories from the original EC Comics, from which the show's episodes of the same name are adapted. They include of "Death of Some Salesman"(The Complete Fifth Season), "Whirlpool"(The Complete Sixth Season), and "Fatal Caper"(The Complete Seventh Season).
The Cryptkeeper made a cameo appearance in the movie, Casper (1995). The scene involves Dr. Harvey, portrayed by Bill Pullman, looking into a mirror while morphing into Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson, and finally, the Cryptkeeper, who was screaming and mimicking "The Scream" painting by Edvard Munch, after Casper's uncles possess him. John Kassir reprised his role.
The show was marketed as "Hollywood Nightmare" in Japan, mainly due to the cultural unfamiliarity of the EC Comics the show was based off of.