14th Apr2013

Tales from the Crypt 2×05 – “Three’s A Crowd” Review

by Nathan Smith

Original airdate – May 1st, 1990

I have memories of this episode from back before I re-watched it after I bought the DVD some years ago. It was on my local FOX affiliate and during the commercial breaks, I recall seeing advertisements for Demon Knight, and that satiated my thirst for something more, a film version of Tales from the Crypt?!? That made me a happy camper, and kept up my spirits, because frankly this episode is quite grim and bleak even by Tales from the Crypt standards. I remember not enjoying all that much then, but I was ten at that time and I was so used to the gore cocktail served up every Saturday night.

‘Three’s a Crowd’ isn’t a horror episode by traditional genre standards, it does have death (two to be exact) but isn’t by supernatural means, and that only happens at the end of the episode. It’s more like the “Tales” end of it just wandered in and decided to poison the proceedings. Instead for most of its runtime, it’s a drama (it is after all a ShockSuspense story) and a rather intense one about jealousy. It’s fairly simple in concept, only takes place in one location and is a fairly intimate affair (pun mostly intended). The story of the jealous husband is a well-mined plot in literature and cinema (and even years later on “Tales” in the great ‘Two for the Road’). And it’s acted largely by unknowns with a behind the scenes crew of unknowns.

Richard suspects his wife Della of sleeping with their mutual friend Alan and put together in a cabin for the couples anniversary, Richard sets to stew and eventually go off the deep end making a grave mistake. The couple’s marriage is made to be rather realistic and Richard’s jealousy is rather palpable, if another man was buying your wife stuff all the time and had previously been intimate with her, albeit before the marriage, you’d feel pangs of jealousy, no? The problem is that Richard garners some sympathy, yes, but when he becomes a vile prick as the episode draws to a close, he starts to slip away from the audience’s grasp. Because as he grows more and more isolated and hostile, it’s hard to see why he didn’t speak up and call Alan and Della on their infidelity. Or why they didn’t just say the hell with it, and ditch his plans for the party.

This isn’t to give short shrift to the actors (Gavan O’Herlihy with a flawless American accent, he’s Irish born) nor the script which really plays on the whole idea that all their dialogue and secret meetings have two meanings unbeknownst to Richard. However, it’s the worst plot conceit that drives me bananas in film or television and so on. It’s the whole not telling someone what’s going on, or letting them in on the jig. Because if Richard seems to be slipping towards unstable, I would’ve let the cat out of it’s bag. But, the twist like most episodes have, is what gives it the punch that it deserves, the thing of it being so damned sad that it had to end the episode exactly as it does. Richard kills Alan and then Della and drags her body to Alan’s hideaway cabin only to find that he was taken there for a surprise party, with the added bonus that Della’s with child. It’s such a tragic ending and brutal in a way Tales from the Crypt only leaves for it’s most evil of characters, but here the bad guy gets hit with the worst of it all, he lives. That burns badly, doesn’t it?

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