Main cast: Treat Williams (Howard Prince), Frances Sternhagen (Effie Gluckman), Henry Gibson (Stanhope), Clive Rosengren (Morty), Tom Hanks (Baxter), Sugar Ray Leonard (The Gravedigger), and John Kassir (The Crypt Keeper)
Director: Tom Hanks
Yes, you read that right in the credit listing – Tom Hanks directed this episode. With that and the title of the fourth season opener, Tales from the Crypt is proving to the naysayers that you can never say that this show is devoid of culture.
Oh wait. In the first few minutes of None But the Lonely Heart, hustler Howard Prince recites a few lines from Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress just before calmly watching his wife Matilda die from drinking poisoned wine. Forget culture, it’s business as usual here. And I hate to say this, but Treat Williams is absolutely hot here. Or maybe it’s just because he plays such a devilishly evil man that can switch easily from charming to homicidal in the blink of an eye, and I have a weakness for such guys.
As it turns out, Matilda is not the first elderly woman he married and then killed for her money; he had a string of dead wives in his wake, and his partner Morty helps to manage his finances. Unfortunately, the IRS is getting suspicious of Howard’s sizeable bank account, and they proceed to freeze the bank accounts of both men. Morty wants them to flee with what they can get their hands on and start anew somewhere else, but Howard feels that he has worked too hard to let the whole thing go just like that. He will score one more old lady before retiring his Howard Price persona. And that old lady is Effie Gluckman, a widow who seems to fall for him easily. Alas, even as he enjoys his new marriage, he starts receiving notes telling him that someone knows of his past misdeeds…
This episode is just fun, fun, fun thanks to the playful, debonair way that Mr Williams puts on to play his villainous character. Howard is such a charming sleazebag that a part of me actually wants him to win, although given that this is a Tales from the Crypt episode, he naturally gets his just desserts in the end. Frances Sternhagen displays the right amount of regal dignity and “OH MY GOD I WANNA RIDE THAT HOT STUD!” randiness as she practically flings herself at Howard and wears that man out with her. er, vivacious spirit once she’s decided that she’d like to get her hands on that man. Henry Gibson is also a hoot playing Effie’s loyal, suspicious, but ultimately pathetic butler Stanhope. Everyone involved in this episode seems to have had great fun playing his or her character, and I just love every second of the episode.
One can argue that the supernatural aspect of the twist comes out of nowhere and feels oddly out of place in an episode that had been entirely down to earth up to that point, and I won’t disagree. But the climactic scene is so deliciously nasty and evil that all is forgiven – it’s the perfect kind of ending for a Tales from the Crypt episode that is just absolutely lovely and creepy in all the right ways.